The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.0662. Friday, 13 June 1997.
Date: Thursday, 12 Jun 1997 15:48:20 +0000
Dear John McWilliams
I'm sorry if I've led us to an impasse because I think our differences
The question is whether new critics removed the politics from the
authors they studied. Case in point, Marvell's Horatian Ode, to which
you say Stephen Greenblatt restored the author's politics after the new
critics had removed them. I said that the degree to which politics
figured in an author's work determined whether or not the new critics
dealt with them. But Marvell is as political as can be, and, according
to Greenblatt, the nc's pay no attention to his politics; therefore my
thesis that they do politics when they are prominent is wrong.
I question the claim that the new critics ignored Marvell's politics. T
S Eliot's essay on Marvell devotes a page to Marvell's politics
(Selected Essays, 1950, p253) before going on to discuss his wit. As
for the Horatian Ode, Eliot simply discusses the quality of its wit,
having isolated and defined that commodity, as another might discuss a
poet's rhymeing technique.
Since Eliot is a founder of new criticism-the essay on Marvell was some
sort of a New Critical Manifesto -- one may say that new criticism does
NOT rule out politics. But it does focus on apolitical matters like
wit. The fact that I isolate someone's campaign strategy for analysis
does not mean I deny that person's political dimension. It's just not
So: If by "neutrality of the author" we mean that new critics
systematically ignore the presence of politics in an author's work, I
disagree. If it means that they don't really care very much about an
author's politics, I agree, and I hope this clears away the impasse.