Thursday, September 21, 2006

Criticizing the Critics

OK, what, really, is the function of criticism, or, specifically, of most of the literary criticizing that goes on, from Poetry magazine to attack-mode blogs? To teach and enlighten the reader? To impose one's own aesthetic? To suppress what you personally dislike or consider inferior (to suppress through intimidation)? To protect your own turf? It seems like that's what it's all about. I love someone's take on a poem or a poet that gives a new angle, a thought I never had before, something that enlarges the work. I hate reading criticism driven by some form of envy or threat, or worse, that's meant mostly to make the reader think the critic is pretty damn smart. Hubris seems to be high on the list here of what characterizes literary critics.


Diane K. Martin said...

I do think that the function of criticism is the clarity it gives the critic. Though as C.Dale points out on his blog today:

"Sometimes, criticism alone is not enough. Sometimes, you have to stand up and do the work yourself. Change happens from work. It rarely happens from simple criticism."

As for the object of criticism, it can be effective PR, regardless of how negative it is.

That said, I have to admit that I enjoy clever criticism (though I wince whten it gets real mean). I just enjoy writing that reveals the working of a mind. I guess I'd change my tune if I were the object of that criticism.

Diane K. Martin said...

That is, I enjoy reading clever criticism. We all know I'm not to good about being on the receiving end.