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The Personal is the Critical

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Organizer: Shari Goldberg

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We’ve known for half a century that the personal is the political; our private experiences constitute engagement in a gendered power system. Building on this feminist assertion, queer and disability studies have demonstrated how the personal is also the theoretical and the poetical. Most recently, the personal has emerged as a gateway to the public intellectual, as academics publish life-writing in forums like the LA Review of Books and Medium.
But what of the relationship between the personal and the critical? What is the first person in the realm of literary scholarship? Who are the persons behind the monographs that line our library shelves?
This seminar seeks to consider how the realm of personal experience impresses itself on critical writing. We are interested in discussing the nature of the personal, and of the critical, as they emerge—and as we might wish them to emerge—together. We are motivated to correct a broad refusal to acknowledge the personal as an element of professional literary criticism. We hope, too, to open conversation on making critical writing more engaging—not necessarily to reach a wider audience, but to enliven and fortify the work of scholarly research.
We welcome contributions that creatively seek scholarly ends. Papers may: analyze examples of the personal as the critical (successful or unsuccessful); theorize the person at stake in critical writing; evaluate critical writing as a genre, especially as it has evolved over time; propose, demonstrate, or attempt new writing that is both personal and critical; polemicize on or historicize the relationship between persons and criticism; explore the personal as the pedagogically critical; or otherwise engage the interests above.

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