Critical Generosity?

“The terms good and bad have no purchase here.” (Dolan 1988: xxxvii)

Jill Dolan, The Feminist Spectator, 1991, p. xxxvii

Recently, I have been discussing the concept of “critical generosity” with a number of colleagues in the humanities.

After 26 years in this wonderful and rather surprising (and sometimes, I admit, rather tedious) business of writing and reviewing, editing, supervising, and teaching, I wholeheartedly endorse this approach: as a scholarly practice, in teaching, in mentoring, in writing, but also in editing.

Jill Dolan wrote a widely circulated proposal for “critical generosity” in 2013 (revisiting a concept she introduced in her 1991 book The Feminist Spectator as Critic):

And more recently, in 2023, Cathy Hannabach gave a powerful keynote outlining some key principles of this scholarly practice – in relation to editing.

Rereading this speech now, I find myself wondering:

How do I, how do you, or how can we try to use some of these key principles of critical generosity in different and varied ways in scholarly work?

“Critical generosity means caring enough to think deeply, act intersectionally, and collaborate interdisciplinarily.” (Hannabach 2023)


Lesley Erin Bartlett (2018), “Performing Critical Generosity in the Feminist Classroom” Feminist Teacher Vol. 28, No. 2-3 (2018), pp. 91-104.

Jill Dolan (1991), The Feminist Spectator as Critic, University of Michigan Press.

Jill Dolan (2013), “Critical Generosity” Public. A Journal of Imagining America: “Linked Fates and Futures” Vol 1, Issue 1+2.

Cathy Hannabach (2023), “Editing as Worldmaking: Critical Generosity in Editorial Practice”, Keynote address, Editorial Freelancers Association conference, Alexandria, VA, August 18, 2023.

David Román (1998), Acts of Intervention. Performance, Gay Culture and AIDS,  Bloomington: Indiana University Press.