The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.0596  Thursday, 27 March 2003

From:           Charles Weinstein <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Monday, 24 Mar 2003 15:49:01 -0800
Subject:        Critical Encounters of the Negative Kind

"But what of 'destructive' criticism, which is far and wide alleged to
be bad?  The terms 'constructive' and 'destructive,' as applied to
criticism, have no meaning whatever.  There is only good and bad
criticism.  What indeed might 'constructive' mean in reference to a
critique?  From the author in question, 'Like me, don't knock me!' which
is an absurd request.  From the pedagogue, 'Show him or her where and
how the thing could be improved!'  But any genuine artist would resent
the critic's offering to remake his work; only school compositions can
so be treated by teachers, and it may be that even they should not.  I
cannot write someone else's book, play or scenario for him; I can only
point out where and why he lost me--and that, I suppose, would already
be considered 'destructive' criticism.  To the casual layman,
'constructive' criticism would be, 'Go easy on him, he is doing his
best.'  But this is the worst fallacy of all: it assumes that art does
not really matter.  If a surgeon's patients die on him, one after the
other, does one excuse him by saying he did his best?  Can a
statesman's, a military commander's, an educator's errors be excused so
cheaply?  No; because those things matter.  Whereas art, it would seem,
does not.

But to the critic to whom art is important, sacred, and, ultimately,
coextensive with life itself, to produce bad art and to condone it--and
thereby give rise to further bad art and finally drive out the good--are
the two most heinously dangerous sins imaginable.  And the most

--John Simon, "A Critical Credo" (1967).

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