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Kick it, it’ll wiggle

“It is no wonder that criticism is a more conservative, more academically elite, more racially exclusive club than fiction writing itself. To be a critic in the manner of Virginia Woolf—the default position of the Anglo-American critic, from F.R. Leavis to Lionel Trilling to John Updike to Helen Vendler—requires more than a simple lack of humility; it requires a self-assurance that one is speaking from the center of things, that one is qualified to pass judgment on any aesthetic object that comes along. This kind of criticism isn’t interested in discussion or debate, except in a very circumscribed sense; what it seeks, above all, is a universal validation of the writer’s own subjectivity.” – Jess Row, “The Novel Is Not Dead”

Published inLit & Crit

3 Comments

  1. “. . . it requires a self-assurance that one is speaking from the center of things . . .”

    Yes, and from my seat on the outskirts, I find that attitude obnoxious. I have never understood the public’s need for critics. I suppose on some level it’s helpful to listen to the people who make a study of whatever you’re looking to buy, but really when it comes to art or entertainment I think we can be left to our own puny opinions and manage just fine.

    • Critics can be entertaining. You can line up a batch of ’em and they’ll still point in all directions, like some kind of crazy flower.

      Seriously, I find critics useful. They can see things and see from perspectives I might not otherwise see. That part of their perspectives that comes from defending their theses can be annoying, but hey–nobody’s perfect.

  2. You’re right of course. I resist authority in all forms–it’s very childish of me.

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