Adapting the discontinuous and multitonal critical procedures of
works like Carlyle's "Sartor Resartus" and Laura Riding's
"Anarchism Is Not Enough", in this pamphlet Jerome McGann subjects
current literary studies to a patacritical investigation. The
investigation centers on the interpretation of a notorious modern
riddle: 'Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of
a dog, it's too dark to read'. Working by indirection and from
multiple points of view, the book argues that aesthetics is always
a science of exceptions, and that any given critical practice is
also always an exception from itself. The book works from two
assumptions: first, that the riddle of the dog conceals an allegory
about book culture and is addressed to the academic custodians of
book culture; and second, that any explanation of the riddle is
necessarily implicated in the problem posed by the riddle. It
therefore remains to be seen - it is the reader's part to decide -
whether the book is a friend to man or - perhaps like the riddle of
the dog - 'too dark to read'.
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