The task of literary criticism must be to make the pure epiphanies of a text as obvious as possible—to learn Auerbach’s art of simplicity.
Arabic poetics—the theories of criticism of poetry and eloquence in classical (mediaeval) Arabic scholarship—has a great deal to offer the contemporary reader and critic.
In my house live a literary critic and a historian. They do not always get along. Aside from differing views on paint colors, dinner choices, and departure times, a regular dispute erupts concerning verb tenses: present tense or past tense? When you write about a book, do you describe its action in the present tense (Hamlet whines) or in the past tense (Hamlet whined)?
In spite of the recent discussion of the topic in the New York Times, I realize there is something antiquarian about my urge to think aloud about the nature of literary criticism. The decline of that role in society probably matters only to a fairly small caste of humanistically inclined readers. The implications of the decline, however, should matter to everyone.
Lately I often find myself saying “I cut Lady Mary Wroth from my syllabus because the poems are terrible.”
While Beckett once advised another writer to stop "blazing away at the microcosmic moon," it's sometimes an irresisitible temptation to try to "flush the coverts of the microglot," as J.L. Austin put it (in "A Plea for Excuses"). And why resist it?
Since my last post I've been thinking about the validity of the idea and the practice of literary criticism in a culture that often looks elsewhere for interpretation—and even more, that values expression over interpretation.
People who cite Derrida often don’t know the work of James Wood and those who love Wood can’t stand Derrida. Why the divide?
Your sister texts you that her daughter’s theater class has been cancelled because of budgetary cutbacks. A colleague from King’s College London writes that his position in Italian Renaissance Literature will be “made redundant” due to low enrollments.
I've been working on a list of books that have influenced me in literary criticism. This is not a list of all books that have influenced me generally, just the ones in the genre of literary criticism and theory.