Good Reading
Essays (37)

The Critical Wager:

Essays in Criticism and the Architecture of Ideology



Table of Contents

A Retrospective  8Literature & the Fight from Determinism 87
The Shibboleth of Reason, and RealityFreedom and friction
Science, Romanticism, and Return to PhenomenaFreedom vs Liberty
Goodness, Childhood, the Primitive An Existential Concept of Mind
The Birth of OppositesReflective and Pre-Reflective Thought
The RealistsThe Project
The Drive InwardThe Duality of the Negative
Impressionism vs. PositivismThe Absence of God
The Shifting LocusAnguish, Forlornness, Despair
Philology as Criticism  23Existence Precedes Essence
Logos & TruthOriginal Choice:The Connection Argument
Philology vs. LinguisticsThe Wish to be God
SynecdocheThe "Situation"
The MethodValues and Action
Stylistics and "Geistesgeschichte"The Existential "Self"
The CircleExistential "Psycho-analysis"
Leo Spitzer: Microlinguistics & MicrocosmThe Politics of  Prose
The Linearity of PositivismAction by Disclosure
The "Inner Click"The Reader
Identification/Artist's "Soul"-The Leap of FaithLiterature and the Idea of Progress
The "Zirkel im verstehen"The Structure of the Unknown   132
The Writer's InnovationUnification
The MethodLanguage: Meaning and Function 
Identification vs. ContemplationThe Substance
The Marxist Impasse  39Objectivity
The ConflictSign vs. Symbol
Art for Art's SakeThe Meaning of Systems
The DialecticThe Cliche'
Vulgar SociologyChooser, or Chosen
The Materials ChainThe Myth of Structure vs the Myth of Inspiration
The "Type"The Structuring Organ
ReificationLanguage Creates Parole
TotalityNarrative Sequences
CommitmentSystem, Syntagm, Value
Character and ConsciousnessPhenomenology as Criticism  156
The Disappearance of the Subject The Background
Rebel or RevolutionaryIntentionality
Freedom and FrictionReflective Mind, Pre-Reflective World
The Locus of RealityIdentification
The Problem of the Self  62Holistic Assumption & the Morality of Aesthetics
The Hidden and the ApparentMeaning given or Meaning Taken
Predecessors: Earlier Notions of Self & MindLogos and Being
The shadow of PessimismNew Criticism-The Paradox of Obscurity 176
Veracity of the UnprovableThe Tyranny of Causes
Immutable InstinctsObjectivism
Level of SpecificityImmanency and Intent
Desire and the LawMeaning and the Public Domain
The Inner StrugglePoetry as Higher Knowledge
The CensorIntent and the Unconscious-The Paradox of Obscurity
The WillForm, Content, Object
"The Psychology of excuse"Afterword  191
The Reversal of Motive 
Pleasure vs. Reality principles 
The Poet and Day-Dreaming 


* "William Gairdner has successfully achieved an original explanation of all the main critical systems which are alive today ... By comparing these various approaches according to their characteristic driving forces and the problems to which they are characteristically blind, The Critical Wager makes it possible for the average reader to understand the whole progression of critical thought since the Romantic period ... Gairdner writes with a rare first-hand immediacy, and an incisive and commonsensical enthusiasm which commands attention and respect."
~ Professor Ian Watt, Former Chairman, Department of English, Stanford University, and author of many landmark studies, including The Rise of the Novel.

* "While more complex and subtle than a manifesto, The Critical Wager has something of a manifesto's sense of historical moment. Gairdner feels all of the ideologies he examines to be equally interesting [and] to this extent The Critical Wager is an optimistic book. It is also an uncommonly attractive one, argued, as it is, with intelligence, verve, and grace."
~ David Halliburton, Chairman, Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University

* " it stands, his study is one of the most stimulating and intelligent reflections on the nature and function of criticism to have appeared in the last decade. It is lucid, honest, and has the intellectual strength to grasp the field as a whole and to relate the author's findings to clear philosophical positions. As the import of criticism in our society becomes a weightier matter, Mr. Gairdner seems to be among those few eminently suited to construe and to deconstruct for us its claims, its prejudices, and its fruitful imperfections."
~ Professor Virgil Nemoianu, Catholic University of America