For the last several decades, much of the study of literature has involved critical perspectives based on class, race, gender, and sexuality, as well as applications of theory in postcolonial studies, psychoanalysis, deconstruction, performance studies, and postmodernism. It is not uncommon for critics to use these and other tools to demonstrate how works of literature are ideologically flawed or conflicted. This presentation explores the normative underpinnings of the critical endeavor itself and postulates that criticism might have as its ultimate project karuna, or compassion: Through multiple critical lenses, we can come to understand the suffering of others who inhabit and interpret fictional worlds, and — by focusing on threads of compassion — transcend subject positions to help alleviate our own suffering and the suffering of others. The object here is not to criticize literature to death, but rather love it to life. Implications for the practice of metta as well as mindfulness techniques for enhancing appreciation of literature will also be examined.

Bradley Lint

Mansfield University