Print this page Share

A Future for Criticism

ISBN: 978-1-4443-9340-8
160 pages
December 2010, Wiley-Blackwell
A Future for Criticism (1444393405) cover image


A Future for Criticism considers why fiction gives so much pleasure, and the neglect of this issue in contemporary criticism. 
  • Offers a brief, lively, and accessible account of a new direction for critical practice, from one of Britain's most prominent literary theorists and critics
  • Proposes a new path for future criticism, more open to reflecting on the pleasures of fiction
  • Written in a clear, jargon-free style, and illustrated throughout with numerous examples
See More

Table of Contents


1 Pleasure: Have we neglected it?

Fiction for pleasure.

The case of tragedy.

The English curriculum.

Cries of joy.

‘Aesthetic’ pleasure.

The Pleasure of the Text.

Modernist unpleasure.


2 Piety: Haven’t we overdone it?

Criticism on the defensive.

Classic defences.

The advent of theory.


The superego.



Culture and Anarchy.

Artefacts and pleasure.

Critical writing.

3 Biography: Friend or foe?

Life and art.

Biography in theory.

What the authors say.

New Historicism.

Shakespeare’s life.

Fact or fiction?

Shakespeare’s memory.


The death of the reader.

4 Realism: Do we overrate it?

A disputed value.

The default genre.






The radical view.


A counter-example.

5 Culture: What do we mean by it?

Cultural criticism.

Twin perils.

Culture as meanings.

Meanwhile, in Paris …


Another culture.

Perils circumvented.

Work to do.

6 History: Do we do it justice?

Offi cial usage.

Cultural difference.

History and criticism.

Customary knowledge.


An example.

The old historicism.

Criticism as cultural history.

The uses of criticism.

Critical skills.

7 Desire: A force to reckon with.

Pleasure revisited.



The desire of the protagonist.


The desire of the reader.

The desire of the text.




Breaking the rules.

And so …




See More

Author Information

Catherine Belsey is a research professor in English at Swansea University, UK. Her principal publications include Shakespeare in Theory and Practice (2008), Why Shakespeare? (2007), Critical Practice (1980, 2002), Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction (2002) and Desire: Love Stories in Western Culture (1994).

See More


"The unbuttoned directness of this little book is invigorating." - Jean E. Howard (Shakespeare Studies, 2013)

"A Future for Criticism issues a challenge to critics that really amounts to having the courage of our convictions and sticking to what we're good at, resisting the encroachments of history and psychology, and having 'confidence in the independent capabilities of criticism' (76) ... Belsey's book is a positive pleasure to read." (Transnational Literature, November 2011)

"Laudably eschewing jargon, she draws up a very readable manifesto for change in critical practice which would require critics to be more reflective about the pleasure of reading fiction and attending plays . . . nevertheless, the front she has chosen on which to examine a new direction for literary and/or cultural criticism is timely and compelling, and her argument made with verve and originality." (Suite101.com, 4 April 2011)

"A pleasure to read from start to finish. This book will touch even sedated nerves, and bring energy and cheer to anyone who cares about reading, and about thinking about reading or anything else."
Michael Wood, Princeton University

"This is a hugely appealing book. It is at once glitteringly clear and intellectually adventurous, and the whole thing hums with a sociable impulse of delight."
Steven Connor, Birkbeck College, London

"A terrific book–incisive and challenging, accessible and lucid. It should make a stir."
Coppélia Kahn, Brown University

"Belsey is uniquely qualified both to reexamine the problems confronting a post-humanist cultural criticism and to reformulate the intellectual and political responsibilities they entail. This book does not disappoint expectations. It is a highly readable, utterly compelling polemic, and I cannot recommend it enough."
Matthew Beaumont, University College, London

See More
Back to Top