New Subjectivism and New Objectivism

Today I was talking to a graduate student in English literature about the generations of criticism. She commented that a while ago New Criticism was established, and then New Historicism, but she did not know what would be next step of literary criticism.

She may not, but I do:

New Subjectivism

While New Criticism looks only at the text, and New Historicism looks only at the text and the history of the period when the text was written, New Subjectivism looks only at the text and the reader. Another way of saying this is that while New Criticism strives to read nothing into a text, and New Historicism tries to read only the history of the period into the text, New Subjectivism reads only the reader into the text.

Derisively called “14-year-old Girl Criticism,” The New Subjectivism is actually a rapturous breakthrough of burning brilliance.

For instance, imagine a tenured, middle aged professor wishes to examine Hamlet. Boring old methods of criticism would look at the words that make up the text, what is not said, history of Elizabethean England, etc. The New Subjectivist professor, however, is wiser. He will elegantly read himself into the text, discovering which correct represents him and proceeding accordingly.

For instance, compare the openings of two theoretical criticisms of Hamlet: one of the atrophied ancien regime which now controls the Literary Academy, the other our imaginary prof’s groundbreaking New Subjectivist interpretation

Old Way:

Hamlet is the story of a Danish prince. It was written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and is infused with the assumptions of that time. For instance, troublesome women were often labeled “melancholic” and we can see in Hamlet that…

The New Subjectivist Way

I am Hamlet. Recently, I took a sabbatical from my crushing, under-appreciated duties at the University to see my parents. God I hate my students, especially the whiny know-it-all grad students. I get so worried about what stunt they will approach next time that I often imagine things. Anyway, as I approached the ol’ homestead…

See the difference? Mathematically, we might say “Old Ways : New Subjectivism :: Poison : Food”

One method of New Subjectivism will be “Forensic New Subjectivism,” also known as “New Objectivism.” FNS/NO will do New Subjectivism backwards, taking a New Subjectivist work and trying to read the reader out of the story. Here is where the delicious fruits of New Subjectivism can be savored like the tasty oranges they are.

Foolish old-style critiques assume that first-person stories such as The Great Gatsby, I Am Charlotte Simmons, and The Rule of Four are texts in themselves. They are not! New Subjectivism teaches us that in every case, all “first person” literature is but a New Subjectivist criticism of a third-person Ur-text. The duty of the Forensic New Subjectivist / New Objectivist will be to derive as much of the tabula primaeval as possible. For instance, taking F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby the FNS/NO will be to write The Gatsby Story, for I Am Charlotte Simmons a book entitled She Is Charlotte Simmons, etc.

PS: After writing this I learned that The New Subjectivism already exists in economics and that the term New Objectivism has been seized by the Old Masterists. Bah!

3 thoughts on “New Subjectivism and New Objectivism”

  1. I see no reason to go any further with my work in literary criticism. TDAXP represents the be-all and end-all of 14-year-old girl criticism.

  2. “What can Shakespeare tell in any way but to the Shakespeare in us?”

    “The possibility of interpretation lies in the identity of the observer with the observed.”

    –Ralph Waldo Emerson,

  3. Curtis,

    Interesting. Perhaps the reason New Subjectivism is innate in the disparaged “14 year old girls” is that New Subjectivism is natural, and it must be buried under educated false-knowledge. Perhaps similar to the way that the war-peace continuum is buried under Western “peace is not war” / “decisive battle” centricity. If this is true, then the teenage girl's impulse to read herself into the story is merely a form of literary fingerspitzengefuhl.

    It may also be a form of Pre-Modern Literary Criticism, analogous to familial Pre-Modern Politics and Pre-Modern Warfare. Taking this route, we should expect to see synthesis of NS/PNLC with later generations of literary criticism, the same way we see Pre-Modern/4th Gen hybrids ( and

  4. FYI – I am Charlotte Simmons is not a “first person” novel. It is written in the third person (although the tone does seem to change based on the central character of each scene). Although, this is me stating an objective fact. If I were a New Subjectivist, I might think that it was a first person novel.

    PS – Are you a 14 year old girl? Wanna meet? I am a 32, um, er I mean, 15 year old boy. Just kidding here.

    PPS – I would wager a week's salary that Tom Wolfe sometimes stands naked in front of the mirror with his penis tucked between his legs and repeats over and over, “I am Charlotte Simmons.” So maybe you are onto somehting there. Maybe it is more “first person” than I had thought.

    Seacrest out.

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