Radical Parody: American Culture and Critical Agency After Foucault

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A persistent criticism of theory in general and of Foucault in particular is that no positive social or ethical consequences result from the practice of theory. Critics from all points on the political spectrum seem to agree on this point. Daniel O'Hara here demonstrates the social uses of interpretation by analyzing the later writings of Foucault and the careers of critics in relation to Foucault's work, including Derrida, Kristeva, Said, Rorty, Harold Bloom, and others. O'Hara's position is that "doing theory", specifically after Foucault, does have social and ethical consequences, and "radical parody" demonstrates why this is so. It also incorporates into this social context the later work of Kristeva on identification and identity formation. O'Hara shows that "culture is a collective archive of canonical and non-canonical practices of self, a treasure hoard of masks or personnae". For O'Hara, radical parody thus "defines the postmodern experience of the sublime play of discourses in the formation of critical identity". Throughout, O'Hara is interested in what it means to be an "oppositional intellectual", and in what interpretation is and can mean in a culture dominated by a "widespread commodification of intellectual life". The book concludes with a critical profile of Frank Lentricchia, a critic whose career as an oppositional American intellectual O'Hara finds exemplary.

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