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Criticism between scientificity and ideology : theoretical impasses in F.R. Leavis and P. Macherey Ezroura, Mohammed


While focussing on the metaphor of scientificity in Leavis's and Macherey's writings, this dissertation addresses other questions central to criticism, cultural theory, and the philosophy of science. Whereas Leavis opposes scientificity, Macherey proposes "scientific criticism" as imperative to theoretical practice. Between the two critics, scientificity reveals its major metamorphoses. This study is divided into four major parts. Part One situates the concept of scientificity in the modern debate between critics and philosophers of science. I compare their problematization of scientificity to the way this notion has been represented in literary criticism. The debate blurs the boundary between scientific and literary knowledge, and brings the question of ideology in scientific discourse to the fore. Scientificity is thus bound with ideology as an epistemological practice. Part two focusses on Leavis's rejection of scientificity. In three chapters here I investigate the significance of Leavis's definition of "organic culture," "civilization," "science," and "criticism." These are all rooted in Arnold's cultural paradigm, which privileges a traditional order. Leavis's opposition to "theory," "science," and "philosophy" problematizes his principles of "precision," "analysis," and "standards." His controversies with CP. Snow's scientism and with Marxism reveal his concern with theory and scientific epistemology. His defence of "ambiguity," and "impossibility of definition" also makes his framework confront a theoretical impasse that is revealed by a desire to theorize criticism—Leavis's duty towards society— and a fear of theory and science, perceived as destructive. Part Three, comprising three chapter, considers Macherey's scientific criticism. His notions of the "structure of absence" and "symptomatic reading" are central to his theorization of criticism, science, and ideology. These are formulated through Freud's categories of dream analysis, Saussure's notion of difference, and Althusser's conception of ideology. For Macherey, scientific criticism negates ideology. But his emphasis on "absence" as constitutive of scientificity brings his epistemology to a theoretical impasse that resembles Leavis's. Macherey's anchoring of meaning in economic structures, in ideology, and in Marxism as "science," problematizes his scientific project because it abandons "absence." Part Four concludes the dissertation by investigating ways in which Leavis and Macherey illustrate the importance of an epistemological phenomenon in literary studies: criticism's struggle with scientificity. Whether opposed or defended, scientificity has helped criticism to emulate the hegemonic discourse of science and to combat rival critical strategies. However, to dispel "scientific" delusions, criticism must scrutinize its affiliation with ideology both in scientific method and in theory.

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