The intellectual trends Good discusses include what he calls the New Sectarianism, which rejects individuality in favour of collective identities based on race, gender, and sexual preference; Presentism, which rejects the notion of history as a continuous narrative in favour of seeing the past as interpretable in any way that suits the political interests of the present; and a "hermeneutic of suspicion," in which literary texts are seen as masks for discreditable political motives. Good demonstrates that these trends culminate in the prison-like "carceral" vision of Michel Foucault and his followers: the view that culture is ideology and that culture does not free humans but incarcerates them. Good contrasts this view with the liberal vision of culture and society represented by Northrop Frye, concluding with an analysis of the relationship between anti-humanist theory among academics and the managerial practices of university administrations, which, he argues, neglect or reject basic humanistic values such as free individuality, aesthetic greatness, and autonomous inquiry.
About the author
Graham Good resides in Vancouver and teaches English and Comparative Literature at the University of British Columbia. He has wide interests, ranging from European literature to Buddhist philosophy, and has published books on contemporary literary theory, Humanism Betrayed: Theory, Ideology and Culture in the Contemporary University (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2001), and on the essay as a literary form, The Observing Self: Rediscovering the Essay (London and New York: Routledge, 1988).
"An important, excellent work, refreshingly well written ... Good is able to avoid so many of the pitfalls on such a complex and controversial problem, producing an important analysis of a crucial, contemporary Subject. The ability to present this problem economically, to summarize its intellectual background concisely yet accurately, and to make the whole into an accessible study is admirable." David Williams, Department of English, McGill University "Graham Good brings together a historical awareness of changes within literary theory and some important insights into their philosophical and cultural significance at a time when our society needs this analysis. He develops new concepts using important contemporary documents and scholarship. Good offers important insights into the grounding of developments that others have touched on from different angles." Iain T. Benson, barrister and solicitor, executive director, Centre for Cultural Renewal, Ottawa