Thursday, January 25, 2018

Indeed …

A body of attitudes has developed that seeks to neutralize the very directness to life that is nurtured by art, and to sever the private bond, the immortal intimacy, that has existed between reader and writer. The great writers do not write as if through intermediaries. The new phenomenon is notably one of explication rather than comprehension—the concept of art as a discipline to be contained within consistent laws, the seductive promise of a technology to be mastered by those who will then be equipped to dictate and regiment taste. All this turns on what W. H. Auden called the inability of certain critics to acknowledge that works of art can be more important than anything critics can say about them. As an ominous result we are getting, in literature, an increasing response not to poems and novels but to interpretations. Not to the thing but to the self. While the students of such interpreters can—and do—expound their mentors’ views by the hour, it has become very rare to hear them spontaneously quote a line of poetry.
— Shirley Hazzard, “We Need Silence to Find Out What We Think”

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