A number of years ago, I read about an American academic who had been publishing about literary criticism and theory but then at some point (in the 1990s or the early 2000s) decided to move away from that and to start writing fiction (novels, as far as I can remember). He also explained his reasons for doing so in a journal article. Unfortunately, I can't remember the person's name, nor his reasons for moving his "career change". So who was this person and what were his arguments for moving away from literary criticism?
After some more searching, I found that the academic and author I was looking for is Frank Lentricchia.
In literary theory and criticism he wrote, among other ones, the following books:
- After the New Criticism (University of Chicago Press, 1980), in which he reviews and evaluates the "critical theory" (not just literary theory, since he also discusses the impact of a number of philosophers and Claude Lévi-Strauss) that came after the formalist New Criticism (see e.g. Nelson Hilton's review);
- Criticism and Social Change (University of Chicago Press, 1983/84);
- Ariel and the Police: Michel Foucault, William James, Wallace Stevens (University of Wisconsin Press, 1987);
- as co-editor, with Thomas McLaughlin: Critical Terms for Literary Study (second edition, University of Chicago Press, 1990);
- with Jody McAuliffe: Crimes of Art and Terror (University of Chicago Press, 2003).
Apparently he was once called "the Dirty Harry of contemporary literary theory".
He published The Edge of Night in 1994. This was followed in 1996 by the article "Last Will and Testament of an Ex-Literary Critic" in Lingua Franca (the same magazine in which the Sokal affair was revealed). This article is not publicly accessible in the magazine's archives but it is mentioned in several other places on the Web, e.g. in a review of Lentrichhia's novel Lucchesi and the Whale by Mark W. Hornburg (my emphasis):
Yet Lentricchia eventually left his department and, in 1996, in the pages of Lingua Franca, this giant of academic criticism denounced his field, calling for a return to the pure pleasures of reading. In the article, "Last Will and Testament of an Ex-literary Critic," the professor said he had been functioning within the academy as a divided soul, performing for his graduate students as "an historian and polemicist of literary theory, who could speak with passion, and without noticeable impediment, about literature as a political instrument." But the "secret me," wrote Lentricchia, was "me-the-reader"--who felt so filled up by the experience of reading that talking about it felt inauthentic. His personal encounters with literature were so pleasurable, he said, that they were like "erotic transport."
(The same review also mentions that, at Duke University's English Department, "Lentricchia was responsible for recruiting Stanley Fish as department head in 1985".)
A shortened version of "Last Will and Testament of an Ex-Literary Critic" was published in the ALSC Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 4 (Fall 1996).
In addition to Lucchesi and the Whale (2001), Lentricchia published a number of other novels, including