Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A second opinion ...

Daniel Green at The Reading Experience takes issue with Joseph Epstein's reassessment of Edmund Wilson that I linked to in this post. I actually do not see that Epstein's objections to Wilson as a critic are grounded in his perception of Wilson as a less than admirable human being. The passage I quoted in the post I just linked to seems to me the crux of Epstein's argument.
But I find this point of Green's interesting:

Insofar as the critic is first of all a reader, he/she does experience the same emotions in reading works of literature as any other reader, but the emotional effects are inevitably particular to, and not detachable from, the reading experience itself. How exactly is it possible to "develop in thought" an emotional suggestion? How could such a "thought" be anything but incomplete and lifeless in comparison to the actual emotion? And why would we need a critic to expatiate on his/her emotional reactions in this way?

As someone whose bias is phenomenological I would answer this by saying that you cannot accurately and precisely describe a work (which I think necessitates reference to its mechanics) without also engaging its emotional implications and reflecting one's own emotional response.

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