Cover image for The death of literature
The death of literature
Kernan, Alvin B.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven : Yale University Press, [1990]

Physical Description:
ix, 230 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN98.P67 K47 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this book, the author looks at some of the agents that have contributed to literature's demise and ponders whether its vitality can be restored in the changing circumstances of late 20th century culture.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

An odd mixture of polemic and sociology of literature. The polemic is at about the level of letters to the editor, although it is more than willing to contradict itself in its frenzy to beat the tar out of literature. Kernan will be a deconstructionist for a paragraph in order to lambaste the structuralists and then a structuralist in order to clobber the New Critics. A Marxist without portfolio is what he would be underneath it all--and a truly illuminating one--if he didn't disdain Marxism. When he puts literature in its infrastructure of the marketplace and courtroom, he's a delight to read. The analyses of celebrated censorship trials, of historical changes in the means of production and distribution of literature, and of print, literacy, and mass-produced art are worth the price of the book and leave the reader avid for more. For comprehensive collections. To be indexed. ~--Roland Wulbert

Library Journal Review

In this alarming, provocative, tendentious, and ultimately unsatisfying book, Kernan shows how the role of literature has been radically altered by the sweeping disorientation we call post-industrialism. Deconstruction, which has reduced literary works to ``texts'' and denuded them of determinate meaning, is seen as an extreme extension of the relativism that pervades 20th-century Western society. Kernan is lively but opinionated, especially relishing barbs against left-leaning critics, Marxists, feminists, and such ``red-lib causes'' as openness, toleration, and individualism. This is a very wide-ranging expose--covering politics, law, aesthetics, technology, commerce, and even lexicography--that raises profound questions but sadly fails to coalesce. It basically ends with a shrug, an amorphous hope that literature can find a useful role in human life.-- Jeffrey R. Luttrell, Youngs town State Univ., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.