Friday, September 07, 2007

Whither criticism ...

... Say It Loud (I’m an Innovator and I’m Proud). (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

I'm neutral on the question of literary innovation. Fine if necessary and if it works, but I don't really believe in progress in art. That said, a work has to be judged on its own terms, and there is much in this piece that I agree with.


  1. Perhaps I've quoted Edward Hoagland to you before? Here from the introduction to his collection of essays Tigers & Ice:

    'In the sciences, any humdrum practitioner now understands more of the sinews of physics than Isaac Newton did, whereas only a madman among writers would claim to know more about human nature than Tolstoy, Balzac, or Dickens. Genius in the arts is not eclipsed, as it is in science, because artists do not investigate fixed phenomena, but bear witness.'

    There are points to argue in this statement, but I think its essence stands.

  2. Yes, Lee, one may argue some points, but I think it is fundamentally correct. One of the problems I have with artistic "experimentation" is that it borrows the term from science, but then proceeds to act as if experimentation were an end in itself. It is not - either in science or in anything else. Most experiments fail. The scientist keeps experimenting over and over again - until he gets results. A work like Ulysses - which is not with out its faults - largely succeeds because of the precise thing Joyce was attempting to do (which I think has to do - in part at least - with Thomas Aquinas's notion of the knower and the known being one).