Fellow: Awarded 2010
Field of Study: Literary Criticism
Competition: US & Canada
Rita Felski is William R. Kenan., Jr., Professor of English at the University of Virginia and editor of New Literary History. She was educated at Cambridge University and pursued graduate work in Australia, earning an M.A and Ph.D at Monash University. She took up a position in the English and Comparative Literature Program at Murdoch University in Perth, where she taught for seven years before moving to the U.S.
Professor Felski’s research interests include literary theory, feminism, comparative literature, and cultural studies. She is the author of Beyond Feminist Aesthetics (Harvard UP, 1989), The Gender of Modernity (Harvard UP. 1995), Doing Time: Feminist Theory and Postmodern Culture (New York UP, 2000), Literature After Feminism (Chicago UP, 2003) and Uses of Literature (Blackwell’s 2008), as well as the editor of Rethinking Tragedy (Johns Hopkins UP, 2008). She has also published close to fifty articles in journals such as PMLA, New Literary History, Signs, Modernism/Modernity, Theory, Culture and Society, New Formations, and Cultural Critique. Her writing has frequently been reprinted and translated into Italian, Swedish, Portuguese, Spanish, Korean, German, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Croatian, and Turkish. Much of her work is interdisciplinary in scope and she has been invited to give lectures in departments of English, Philosophy, Sociology, and Women’s Studies in the U.S, U.K, Canada, Australia, Austria, Sweden, Turkey, and Belgium.
Rita Felski has held fellowships at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change at the University of Virginia, and the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (IWM) in Vienna, and was the recipient of an Australian Research Council Major Grant. In 2000, she was awarded the William Parker Riley Prize for the best essay in PMLA. She has served on the editorial boards of Modern Fiction Studies, Modernism/Modernity, Feminist Theory, The International Journal of Cultural Studies, Thesis Eleven, and Contemporary Women’s Writing. After serving as an associate editor of the prestigious journal New Literary History for a number of years, she assumed the position of editor in 2009. As well as planning special issues on such topics as “New Sociologies of Literature,” “What is an Avant-Garde?” and “Character,” she is advancing the international profile of the journal through translation and travel.
During her Guggenheim fellowship year, Felski will be working on a book entitled The Demon of Interpretation. The book is an assessment of what is often called “the hermeneutics of suspicion,” the technique of reading texts against the grain to recover their hidden or repressed meanings that is ubiquitous in literary studies and in the humanities generally. At a time when literary scholars are reassessing the recent history of their field, The Demon of Interpretation offers a systematic clarification of a methodology that is central to the discipline. The book seeks to do justice to an exceptionally influential style of interpretation while also indicating its limits as a critical method and advancing some different ways of thinking and writing about literary texts.