Tanya Agathocleous Responds

All three reviews of Forms of Empire are remarkably similar, which suggests the coherence and persuasiveness of Hensley’s project. Emphases differ, of course. Zach’s review summarizes two aspects of the book with terms that help me see their force anew. One of them is the way Hensley connects form to critique so that rather than revealing contradiction, literary analysis allows us to “examine the ways in which this contradiction was sustained.” Not only is “sustaining contradiction” a useful shorthand for what the texts Hensley analyzes are doing, but Zach also connects this to what he calls “the dynamic of disclosure and repression that makes the liberal paradox a persistent possibility,” thereby naming the dialectic of liberalism in a way that draws attention to its psychological dimensions. The other aspect of Zach’s review that stood out to me is his description of Hensley’s methodology as “surface-oriented close reading”: a nomenclature I found intriguing because I had been thinking of it as formalist paranoid reading. The fact that both characterizations work equally well speaks to the book’s success in modeling its dialectic vision of literature and criticism. Also, I wish more reviewers would use words like “spongy.”

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