Going with Literature’s Grain: Recovering a Literary Aesthetic

“Go with the grain of the wood”: My distinguished colleague recently invoked that adage to our visiting prospective graduate students in English to describe his approach to literary criticism. I was struck all over again by the wisdom of this metaphor and his desire to be an “eclectic critic,” responsive to the “grain” of the literary work he was analyzing in each case, never settling for one way of reading, but instead being responsive to each individual work’s distinctive pull and tug.1