chapter  8
Against “Ideology”
ByEdward Pechter
Pages 19

This chapter examines Robert Alter's argument in a recent book called The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age. Ivo Kamps organized his session around two concepts, ideology and Shakespeare criticism. The practitioners of abstract criticism are so given to 'ideological tendentiousness', Alter says, that they 'might be better off teaching sociology or history, psychology or political science'. Alter's argument is based on several unexamined and indefensible assumptions. Richard Levin's argument too seems to depend upon unscrutinized and highly problematic assumptions. In 'Ideological Criticism and Pluralism', he excludes ideological critics because their presence seems to disallow the possibility of negotiated settlement. Consider Francis Barker and Peter Hulme's argument about 'alternative criticism' in their essay on The Tempest. Pluralism allows for a limited and gradual change; it therefore serves the interests of those who want both to contain and to enlarge the area of legitimate exchange, to distribute the limited goods available more widely yet within definite boundaries.