The Practices of Hope

Literary Criticism in Disenchanted Times

240 pages

September, 2017

ISBN: 9781479803552



Add to Cart Available: 9/1/2017

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Christopher Castiglia is Distinguished Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at The Pennsylvania State University. He is the author of Bound and Determined: Captivity, Culture-Crossing, and White Womanhood from Mary Rowlandson to Patty Hearst; Interior States: Institutional Consciousness and the Inner Life of Democracy in the Antebellum United States; and, with Christopher Reed, If Memory Serves: Gay Men, AIDS, and the Promise of the Queer Past.  He is co-founder of C19: The Society of Nineteenth-Century Americanists and co-editor of its journal J19.

All books by Christopher Castiglia

Offers a positive approach to literary criticism 
At a moment when the “hermeneutics of suspicion” is under fire in literary studies, The Practices of Hope encourages an alternative approach that, rather than abandoning critique altogether, relinquishes its commitment to disenchantment. As an alternative, Castiglia offers hopeful reading, a combination of idealism and imagination that retains its analytic edge yet moves beyond nay-saying to articulate the values that shape our scholarship and creates the possible worlds that animate genuine social critique. Drawing on a variety of critics from the Great Depression to the Vietnam War, from Granville Hicks and Constance Rourke to Lewis Mumford, C.L.R. James, Charles Feidelson, and Richard Poirier, Castiglia demonstrates that their criticism simultaneously denounced the social conditions of the Cold War United States and proposed ideal worlds as more democratic alternatives.  
Organized around a series of terms that have become anathema to critics—nation, liberalism, humanism, symbolism—The Practices of Hope shows how they were employed in criticism’s “usable past” to generate an alternative critique, a practice of hope.


  • The Practices of Hope is a brilliant and bracing polemic that addresses the fraught conditions of literary criticism as practiced in the academy today. Both a diagnosis of our current situation and a timely and provocative recommendation about what we might be doing otherwise, Christopher Castiglia shows a way forward that combines pleasure and politics, exemplifying the very thing he advocates.”

    —Christopher Looby, series editor of Q19: The Queer American Nineteenth Century

  • The Practices of Hope is an exhilarating book. Astute, compelling, and lucidly written, the book argues that scholars no longer practice the open embrace of imaginative idealism that the founders of American Studies used as a method of ‘critical hope.’ Offering a canny study of the mid-century criticism that is the foundation of the discipline, Castiglia provides an important corrective to the way we currently approach our work as scholars and thinkers.”

    —Nancy Bentley, author of Frantic Panoramas: American Literature and Mass Culture, 1870-1920