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Fantasies of the New ClassIdeologies of Professionalism in Post-World War II American Fiction$
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Stephen Schryer

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157575

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157575.001.0001

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The Republic of Letters

The Republic of Letters

The New Criticism, Harvard Sociology, and the Idea of the University

(p.29) 1 The Republic of Letters
Fantasies of the New Class

Stephen Schryer

Columbia University Press

This chapter discusses two disciplinary paradigms that prefigured the institutional requirements of the post-World War II university and expanding new class: the New Criticism and the structural functionalism. The New Criticism emphasizes close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic object. Structural functionalism is a sociological theory that aims to explain why society functions by focusing on the relationships between the various social institutions that make up society. The separation of literary studies and sociology that took place under the aegis of these paradigms has masked underlying affinities between the attitude of the two disciplines toward the new class that critics and sociologists hoped to train within their classrooms. Moreover, both paradigms involve similar deformations of the social trustee ideology that had pervaded the professional stratum in the early twentieth century.

Keywords:   New Criticism, structural functionalism, literary studies, sociology, new class, social trustee ideology

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