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Times Literary Supplement


The Modernist Papers by Fredric Jameson

Close reading with Fredric Jameson

A review by Eric Bulson

Close reading. These are not words that usually come to mind when one hears the name Fredric Jameson. He has a reputation for being the kind of theorist who deals only in abstractions. The text, be it architectural, cinematic, literary, urban, so his critics claim, is more of an occasion, something that his master theory, Marxism, can gobble up and spit out.

The same critics who complain about Jameson's reading habits are usually the first to attack his complicated style. The term Jamesonian is, in some hands, the derisive shorthand for opaque academic prose (a happy coincidence perhaps that it sounds a lot like "Jamesian"), and it sounds better than the other options (Spivakian, Butlerian, or Bhabhaian). In 1996, Jameson won the third annual Bad Writing Contest (sponsored by the journal Philosophy and Literature) for "the most stylistically awful passage found in a scholarly book". When issuing their verdict, the judges explained that Jameson "finds it difficult to write...

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