Aimee Armande Wilson is Associate Professor in the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Kansas. A specialist in reproductive themes in modernism, Wilson is the author of Masculine Pregnancies: Modernist Conceptions of Creativity and Legitimacy, 1918-1939 (forthcoming from SUNY Press, 2023) and Conceived in Modernism: The Aesthetics and Politics of Birth Control (Bloomsbury, 2016).
Aimee Armande Wilson
We're all familiar with this scenario: a scholar spends years of her life dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge on a relatively narrow topic, and the reward for this dogged pursuit is the esteem of colleagues and mentions in specialist publications. Then, an event occurs that overlaps with the scholar’s area of expertise. This scholar’s topic now dominates the news cycle.
“What should we do with the art of terrible men?” asks Emily Nussbaum in I Like to Watch. Reading this book reignited my anger over #MeToo. Nussbaum asks a question that was inescapable in the fall of 2017. The question is difficult, in part because it frames a complex set of issues as resolvable with a single answer. To get an intellectual handle on the question, I had to lay out the nesting-doll questions hidden inside the big one. Two of them are the focus of my essay: what is the role of literary criticism in the era of #MeToo? Do modernist critics have distinctive responsibilities or knowledge pertaining to #MeToo? My answers to these questions emphasize praxis: what those of us working in the field of modernist literary studies can do to ensure the lessons of #MeToo aren’t forgotten. Modernist scholars assume many roles, of course. The essays in the cluster “Reading The Waste Land with the #MeToo Generation” address the implications of #MeToo for modernist pedagogy. This essay complements the cluster by directing our attention to a different (though sometimes overlapping) role, that of the literary critic. I outline in practical terms some of the implications of #MeToo for modernist criticism in the hopes that such concrete thinking will spur conversation about ways to embed the lessons of #MeToo in our critical practices.