I've been enjoying the Camile Paglia book, and found a link to this interview on Bookslut.com on the Dumbfoundry site. I can just hear CP saying "explication de texte" in this nasal French accent, and it makes my head spin
Here's how it starts:
BS: I love these close readings -- they bring back memories of my classes at NYU with Denis Donoghue, one of the last giants of the New Critics. Paying attention to the meaning of every word in the poems, all the reverberations and etymology, it’s like reading 43 A+ papers from my students. Tell me more about your attraction to close readings.
CP: I was in college around the time when the New Criticism, which adores explication de texte and all this close reading, was in decline. I would say it was in its height in its founding in the 30s and 40s; but by the 50s, it had become very derivative. It was practiced by these sort of third-raters, people without the real talent and erudition and prose style of the ones who had founded it in North America. And so I was in revolt, I thought, against it in my college years. For example, I found Cleanth Brooks’s The Well Wrought Urn absolutely stifling. I found it Protestant. I came from an Italian immigrant family, I thought it was repressive in its exclusion of anything about sex or aggression; its whole idea about the creative process I found sentimental.