I’ll give it to you straight: 2014 was a weird year in literary criticism. There were a lot of “hybrid” pieces, the kind that I’m not altogether fond of. But there were, to be sure, a number of substantial essays and reviews that worked to open up possibilities in literary writing. Here, with mere hours remaining in the year, are the best pieces of literary criticism (that I can remember) from 2014. Did I miss something? Too bad. 2014 is over, and it doesn’t make sense to have two rage years in a row.
Chris Kraus, “The New Universal,” Sydney Review of Books
Chris Kraus, “Discuss Rules Beforehand,” The Believer
I would argue that “The New Universal” by Chris Kraus is the most important piece of literary criticism in 2014. It charts the emergence of autofictional narratives — the most important literary development in 2014 — from all the way back to 1990s queer and feminist literature. Then it surveys the work of important women writers and editors in contemporary NYC. Though the essay is brief, it signals a turning point in American letters, one that will become clearer, I think, in the next few years.
“Discuss Rules Beforehand” is another great piece of writing, this time on the writer Kathy Acker, whose work I admittedly just began to read in 2014.