Speculative Formalism

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Publication Date
March 2017
Page Count
256 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Speculative Formalism

Literature, Theory, and the Critical Present
Tom Eyers

Speculative Formalism engages decisively in recent debates in the literary humanities around form and formalism, making the case for a new, nonmimetic and antihistoricist theory of literary reference. Where formalism has often been accused of sealing texts within themselves, Eyers demonstrates instead how a renewed, speculative formalism can illuminate the particular ways in which literature actively opens onto history, politics, and nature, in a connective movement that puts formal impasses to creative use.
Through a combination of philosophical reflection and close rhetorical readings, Eyers explores the possibilities and limits of deconstructive approaches to the literary, the impact of the “digital humanities” on theory, and the prospects for a formalist approach to “world literature.” The book includes sustained close readings of Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Yeats, and Wallace Stevens, as well as Alain Badiou, Paul de Man, and Fredric Jameson.
About the Author

TOM EYERS is an assistant professor of philosophy at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh.

"This thoughtful and ambitious book takes on a host of other critics and issues in contemporary critical debate, staking out a position of its own in a powerful and resourceful discussion. Eyers is an extremely smart and well-informed young critic.” —Jonathan Culler, author of Structuralist Poetics: Structuralism, Linguistics, and the Study of Literature

“Tom Eyers renews our understanding of what formalism can mean in this wide-ranging study, which engages 'the critical present' by situating an incisive critique of contemporary trends such as 'surface' or 'distant' reading within the long arc of critical and philosophical discussions of formalism and form. Threading his way through a rich archive of literary and critical texts by major figures (Ponge, Crane, Stevens; Althusser, Badiou, de Man, Jameson), Eyers recovers an understanding of form as a site of conflict, and shows us how literary self-referentiality, far from constituting a prison house of language, actually opens literature to the world.”   —Marc Redfield, professor of comparative literature and English at Brown University and author of The Rhetoric of Terror: Reflections on 9/11 and the War on Terror

“Tom Eyers’s brilliant Speculative Formalism . . . is one of the better theory books to have appeared in recent years. . . . The book draws an important line in the sand with respect to reclaiming a space for the interpretation of literature and culture, and makes a claim for the revival of the humanities generally, which have become impoverished of late in the absence of serious hermeneutical reflection and practice.” —Herman Rapaport, Wake Forest University