The worlds of art and writing have always been close — friendly at some moments, suspicious and derisive at others. They have met and interacted for many years, mostly through the work of the stricken souls who travel in between, spending time in both places, trying to describe and explain one to the other. This is a difficult task, as bridging worlds usually is. They’ve been traveling for many years, since Samuel Richardson and Tristram Shandy, Baudelaire and Picasso, and yet, despite the years, the task remains just as difficult as it always was.
Perhaps we are in a revolution and perhaps we are not. It is sometimes hard to tell. Of course, that can’t always be the case, especially in revolutions that are full of violence or bloodshed, but there must be revolutions that we don’t see or don’t notice or don’t totally acknowledge. Or on the flip side, there are events that we are too quick to call by that name, when actually they aren’t really anything at all, except steps in a long and drawn out series of accidents.
“No Crisis” considers the state of critical thinking and writing — literary interpretation, art history, and cultural studies — in the 21st century. The last several years have been an era of crisis for the academic humanities, traditionally the home of the interpretive disciplines. Across the system of education in the United States there are, in fact, many crises. For our part, we see the crisis as the effect of economic and administrative decisions, not a failure of ideas. So, we asked a group of eminent critics to choose a recent critical text and to write about why it matters: not to coolly evaluate it but to stand and think with a critic whose writing they value. The essays produced are works of criticism in themselves; in them, and with “No Crisis,” we hope to show that the art of criticism is flourishing, rich with intellectual power and sustaining beauty, in hard times.