The new belletrism responds to yet a different need, and to a new historical conjuncture, of the massive decline of funding for public programs in general (the welfare state) and to universities in particular.
The new belletrism also provides a renewed teaching rationale that reinvokes the language of pleasure and appreciation suitable for undergraduate rather than graduate courses.
33] Now, however, the new belletrism represents the readoption of a belletristic manner and address to a general audience, fused with academic discourse, promising to repair the current public image of the academic critic by dispelling the image of expertise run amok to obscure overspecialization and professional self-interest.
The shift to the new belletrism, then, reconfigures the image of the academic literary critic from that of a specialist scholar emulating the social or hard sciences, and the literature faculty engaged in an intra-university competition with the social sciences, to a person of letters emulating highbrow journalism.
In other words, the new belletrism is not merely a midlife crisis but is here to stay, and the new critical inquirer of the turn of the century is a person who, as Kipnis puts it in another essay, surveys current cultural phenomena "with style.
To my knowledge, I am the first to label it as a "new belletrism," and organized an MLA panel in 1994 to account for the different strands I distinguish here.