To end the week of blog posts celebrating the launch of Macbeth, Macbeth, John Schad, Professor of English at Lancaster University, and one of the editors of Beyond Criticism introduces the series—its inspiration, and what we might expect from it. For future Beyond Criticism news keep an eye on the series website at http://thebee.buzz or follow the series on Twitter @BeeInquiries.
A man in a desert, the desert that is the university, a man called Matthew Arnold, once lectured sadly to himself. ‘Creative activity,’ he said, ‘is the promised land to which criticism can only beckon.’ The critic, you see, like Moses of old, is to die in the wilderness, the well-policed academy with its dry-as-dust dreams of cool argumentation, rational analysis, and objective investigation.
Many, though, have since protested, crying out in the wilderness, peddling rumours of a criticism-to-come, Arnold’s utopia. Chief among these crazy promised-landers is another man, also in trouble, a man called Oscar Wilde, he who said he could see or foresee what he called ‘the critic as artist.’
And now, right now, within the academy, there are many who, with the help of those without, are would-be desert deserters, quietly seeking to tunnel their way out, out toward the promised land. These are those for whom the act of reading is not to be confined to the laws of the desert, the so-called norms of scholarship. Instead, these tunnellers pursue a reading of books that does itself draw on the ways and means of books. They seek, that is, to read from within, if you will, rather than without. This, they say, will be a literary criticism that really is literary – criticism at the very limit of criticism, criticism beyond criticism.
Cue a new Bloomsbury series called precisely that, ‘Beyond Criticism’ – a wave of books written and yet-to-be-written that will see the act of reading take on a host of lawless forms: novel, poem, play, memoir, meditation, provocation, manifesto, jest, sigh, whisper, cry, prayer, etc. etc..
And as if all this were not enough, which it isn’t, there is, I see, a site, a website, to mirror the series, to ensure that it goes electric – like Dylan, I dream, in 1966. Cry Judas! This way lies forms of reading rich not only in word but other such hazards as sound and image, moving and still. And its name, this website, it is ‘the bee.’ Do not ask why.