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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: February ::
Re: Reviews
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0412  Friday, 28 February 2003

[1]     From:   John W. Kennedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 11:13:32 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews

[2]     From:   Ted Dykstra <
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        Date:   Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 13:45:49 EST
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews

[3]     From:   Arthur Lindley <
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        Date:   Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:28:16 +0800 (SGT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John W. Kennedy <
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Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 11:13:32 -0500
Subject: 14.0395 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews

Terence Hawkes <
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 > writes,

>The harsh clanking of false distinctions is unmistakeable.  All
>'creative' writers are also critics, if only of their own material. In
>fact, one major poet and dramatist of the 19th century concluded that
>'Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all,
>worthy of the name'. He even went so far as to claim that '. . .
>criticism demands infinitely more cultivation than creation does.' How
>true.  If you want to wrestle, get a grip.

And yet....

       Can I say with certainty that any evaluative
    criticism has ever actually helped me to understand
    and appreciate any great work of literature or any
    part of one?
       When I inquire what helps I have had in this
    matter I seem to discover a somewhat unexpected
    result.  The evaluative critics come at the
    bottom of the list.
       At the top comes Dryasdust.  Obviously I have
    owed, and must continue to owe, far more to
    editors, textual critics, commentators, and
    lexicographers than to anyone else.  ...
       I must put second that despised class, the
    literary historians; ...
       Thirdly, I must in honesty place various
    emotive critics who, up to a certain age, did
    me very good service by infecting me with their
    own enthusiasms....  They did little for my
    intellect, but much for my 'corage'.  ...
       But when I consider those (I exclude the
    living) who have ranked as the great critics
    I come to a standstill.  Can I, honestly and
    strictly speaking, say with any confidence
    that my appreciation of any scene, chapter,
    stanza or line has been improved by my
    reading of Aristotle, Dryden, Johnson,
    Lessing, Coleridge, Arnold himself (as a
    practicing critic), Pater, or Bradley? I
    am not sure that I can.
          -- C. S. Lewis, "An Experiment in Criticism"

Graham Hall <
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 > writes,

>"Which do you choose? Why the hack, who will do the job reliably and
>competently and not give himself airs. I never knew a journeyman
>book-reviewer who couldn't give the reader a better idea of what a novel
>was about and whether one ought to read it than Professor Y of the
>University of North Staffordshire."

>He would not place the request with "a moonlighting academic looking to
>supplement his salary by a bit of up-market slumming."

Surely one must first ask what is the _raison_ _d'etre_ of the
"reviewer", as opposed to the "critic" proper.  If it is the business of
the reviewer to perform a task parallel to that of _Consumer_ _Reports_,
a position that certainly can be reasonably maintained, why then by all
means let the work be done by the efficient journalist.  But if
performance is an art (is there anyone here who denies it?), why then it
is also open to the same academic approach to criticism as any other
art.

Rarely, of course, one may encounter a Kerr, capable of encompassing
both.

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ted Dykstra <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 27 Feb 2003 13:45:49 EST
Subject: 14.0395 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews

T. Hawkes:

>Ted Dykstra, 'still trying to wrestle . . .  with the purpose of
>criticism' nevertheless feels able to represent it as entirely parasitic
>upon art.

I thought it apparent that I was referring to "reviews" specifically.  I
apologize for my lack of clarity. I love Harold Bloom's book on
Shakespeare, The Invention Of The Human. I do not consider it in any way
on par with someone who gleefully decimates another's efforts.

>All 'creative' writers are also critics, if only of their own material.

No kidding.

>one major poet and dramatist of the 19th century concluded that
>'Without the critical faculty, there is no artistic creation at all,
>worthy of the name'. He even went so far as to claim that '. . .
>criticism demands infinitely more cultivation than creation does.'

I think this "major poet" (who appears to be without a name) must have
been very unhappy with his own work. Criticism may indeed demand more
"cultivation" than creation. So does eating with the right fork, but
really, who cares? I'm now going to guess that the poet was class
conscious and English.

As for the notion that some in this string of posts have put forward,
that a critic makes an artist better, this is the hubris of the envious.
Shakespeare wrote good plays because he could. I doubt not that he would
have written good plays without the help of such talented individuals,
their generous efforts to make him better notwithstanding.

I am also very aware that I am being critical, but then again I am not
attacking a work of art, I am attacking people who attack others
uninvited.  As an artist I highly value the opinion of a small circle of
colleagues, not one of whom works for a major newspaper. I ask them
their opinion of my work at stages when I need feedback, because they
understand the creative process and because through the years we have
developed mutual trust. They do not feel it their right or duty to do so
uninvited.

When the reviews come out I am happy if they are good because it can
affect my financial well being, and I am sad when they are bad for the
same reason.  I am also sometimes hurt when they are unnecessarily
personal and/or catty to myself or a colleague. But beyond that I don't
look at them as being any different from the weather. Unpredictable and
beyond my control. Having, really, nothing to do with me. Sorry if that
hurts.

Ted
Ps: Really, folks, a play is not (as has been suggested here) a chair.

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Arthur Lindley <
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Date:           Friday, 28 Feb 2003 10:28:16 +0800 (SGT)
Subject: 14.0395 Re: Reviews
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.0395 Re: Reviews

Charles Weinstein writes:

>2. Look up Brustein's review of the Michael Elliott-Laurence Olivier
>Lear, collected in his Who Needs Theatre? (1987).  In three packed
>pages, Brustein says more of value (and says it better) than Leggatt,
>Lusardi-Schlueter and many others say at considerably greater length.  I
>will go further:  Brustein says all that needs to be said.  This sadly
>disastrous teleproduction is simply not a canonical masterpiece
>productive of endlessly interesting academic discourse.
>
>3. Professors of English Literature are not drama critics, or movie
>critics either, as much as they may want to be:  they lack the
>equipment.

Robert Brustein was an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at
Columbia when he taught me.  In fact, like a lot of us, he was trained
in both theatre and literature.

Arthur Lindley

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