Critiquing Critique: Post-Critique, New Realisms, and Materialisms (ACLA 2021)

deadline for submissions: 
October 31, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
Athanassia Williamson and Nicole Grimaldi, New York University
contact email: 

We inhabit a post-critical moment. In literary and cultural studies, the post-critical turn has yielded new modes of reading, while galvanizing new efforts to think beyond—challenging or perhaps circumventing altogether—the limits of critique. These efforts are not limited, however, to the fields of literary and cultural studies; they track suggestively with new tendencies in contemporary philosophy, namely “New Realism” and its polemic antagonism towards the (loosely branded) legacy of critical theory, which has arguably held a theoretical monopoly in spheres of the humanities not taken with the scientific worldview. Thinkers placed under the banner of “New Realism” (with representatives such as Quentin Meillassoux, Graham Harman, Markus Gabriel, Maurizio Ferraris) share with the post-critical turn in literary and cultural studies a fatigue with the conceptual frameworks of critical theory, as well as a growing intolerance to what might be construed as critical theory’s negativist and, at worst, its politically inactive or corrosive legacy.

It is in this same climate that a profusion of so-called “New Materialist” writing has also materialized (a term attributed to authors such as Karen Barad, Rosi Braidotti, Jane Bennett, Manuel DeLanda). Despite divergent styles of approach, neo-materialist discourses generally share a desire to rethink the linguistic paradigm, and exhibit a skepticism about the prevailing modes of critique in philosophy and in literary studies. Similar to the proponents of post-critique and New Realism, neo-materialist writers negotiate their critical theory inheritances while indexing speculative and experimental alternatives to critique.

This seminar is interested in thinking carefully about these three distinct trends as signaling a broader shift away from deeply ingrained methods of philosophical and literary critique. How can we account for the multiple disciplinary origins of critique and post-critique, as well as their possible futures?

We welcome papers that consider, challenge, or corroborate the antagonism towards critique.

Possible topics may include:

– The speculative turn
– The relevance of critique, post-critique, New Realism, and New Materialism to critical race, queer, feminist, minoritarian, socialist thought
– Critiquing the critique of critique
– The inheritance of Nietzscheanism and the critical legacies of Marx and Freud
– Foucault/Kant (“Fou-Kant”)
– New formalisms (e.g. Levine, Kornbluh)
– The turn to ordinary language philosophy—especially after Wittgenstein, Cavell, Austin
– Corrosive versus affirmative styles of thought
– Modes of reading (reparative, surface, distant, descriptive, intensive, affective) in the context of post-critique
– “Paranoid reading” (Sedgwick) / “diagnostic revelation” (Jameson) / the “hermeneutics of suspicion” (Ricoeur) / “anarcho-vitalism” (Kornbluh)
– The alignment of critique or post-critique with radical and/or liberal (gradualist) reformism
– Experiments with genre / critical moods and modes
– Ecological, vitalist, and vibrant new materialisms
– “Concept-work”: conceptual convention and reinvention (Stoler)
– Transversalist, (trans-)individualist, post-humanist methods
– Forms of “mobile thought” (Foucault)
– The arguable apoliticism/ahistoricism of new realist and new materialist discourses
– Subject-decentering / anti-anthropocentric orientations

The annual meeting of the ACLA will take place virtually between April 8–11, 2021. Please submit your proposal (up to 300 words) via the online ACLA portal by October 31, 2020.

Please email the co-organizers Athanassia Williamson ( and Nicole Grimaldi ( with any queries.