Back in 2015, the English scholar Lisa Ruddick wrote an article for The Point magazine that I’ve been thinking about ever since. In “When Nothing is Cool,” she attempted to understand the experience of certain graduate students who were struggling to adapt to the norms of their discipline. Observing those students, she saw “unaccountable feelings of confusion, inhibition, and loss.” They had identified something broken, dead, or mean in contemporary academic criticism, she wrote, but either they couldn’t articulate it or they feared that saying it out loud would damage their career prospects in academe.

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