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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?

  • Reminds me of Laurent Binet, though he's French, and it isn't clear whether he's still an academic. – CJ Sheu Jul 15 '18 at 3:41
  • @CJSheu I didn't know about Binet's academic career. Has he published anything about literary theory? – Christophe Strobbe Jul 16 '18 at 11:43
  • I'm going off the author bio at the back of "The Seventh Function of Language," which lists his occupation as a lecturer. No idea about his research output though! – CJ Sheu Jul 16 '18 at 16:05
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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:

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

  • Very interesting, but I'm also keen to know how you found this. I spent a while researching to answer your question, but it turned out to be very hard to find this guy by Googling for your description of his life. – Rand al'Thor Jul 19 '18 at 20:04
  • Not every question can be Googled (or DuckDuckGoed, in my case). I simply found back a 1997 of the Dutch-language literary magazine Nieuw Wereldtijdschrift, which contained a translation of Lentricchia's article. – Christophe Strobbe Jul 20 '18 at 8:23
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    A version of Lentricchia's "Last Will and Testament" is available in the Fall 1996 ALCS newsletter – verbose Mar 25 at 1:04
  • @verbose Thanks for the link! I have added this to my answer. – Christophe Strobbe Mar 25 at 16:20

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