[ilds] Readings

James Gifford odos.fanourios at gmail.com
Tue May 6 09:22:29 PDT 2008


Bruce,

Why not read Bloom's novel?  It's got a Gnostic theme...  I leave the 
valuation to you as an individual reader.  It made me weep, but I think 
I was weeping for myself...

And (here you'll need to guess at my intentions to read with irony or 
not), surely the artist as critic is a grossly understudied topic, is it 
not?  After all, I can hardly think of any artists who were also fine 
critics, and vice versa.  Coleridge, Eliot, Woolf, Arnold, Shelley 
(though his novels sadly resemble Bloom's), the other Eliot, Wilde, or 
even Durrell for that matter -- surely these are exceptions to the rule. 
  As for contemporary critics who are lauded creative artists, Williams, 
Eagleton, Hart, Frye, and company are also surely exceptions.

Or, am I wrong.

 > the musician/critic comparison may not
 > hold -- the two professions being too
 > dissimilar in terms of abilities.

You know, even Edward Said was a highly accomplished musician, as were 
Adorno, Frye, and about a dozen members of the department in which I did 
my PhD.  I think this strict division between critic, artist, or even 
suggesting that musical ability and criticism cannot compare strike me 
as untenable.  As an active performer and critic, I'd have to say they 
strike me as akin when it comes to research and approaching ("reading") 
a work but distinct when it comes to performance.  The performer engages 
in an art of interpretation and also an art of performance, though the 
performance is much more like a craft or a task that requires trained 
skills and physical aptitude.

Pavarotti was known as a great artist for his trained vocal skills, 
which was astonishing -- as an interpretor, I can't imagine anyone 
giving him serious thought in comparison to the likes of 
Fischer-Dieskau.  Typically, the performer is trained while the 
interpretor is nudged along and encouraged to develop his/her artistry 
with a little guidance.  The critic strikes me as being much closer to 
the interpretor, the real art in music performance, though we celebrate 
the composer and the performer more than we celebrate the interpretation 
(then again, we want entertainment more than art now...).  Still, 
sometimes those rare gift emerge when one can interpret and perform 
beautifully, just as some critics have brilliant insights and can write 
of them beautifully and poetically.  Some performers compose too, as do 
some critics, and some do all of these things and see those creative 
energies as coming from one source.

But, to set aside your nudge about the abilities of critics, it seems 
far more plausible that life is short, death is long, and the needs of 
the world pull us all in all directions.  If being a poet doesn't pay 
the bills and being a critic does, most with talent and skill will 
dedicate their energies to feeding their young, satisfying themselves 
with being minor poets: those who could but didn't.  G.S. Fraser comes 
to mind.

But, I'm nearly done my coffee and had best get back to my work as a 
critic...  Are emails creative?

Best,
James

ps: not to skip Alejandro's comments, but I take this to mean he stands 
contra Kundera on reading Flaubert's letters.  But, in that 
disagreement, do the letters themselves change, or the readers?

Bruce Redwine wrote:
> Yes, a good point.  The trellis metaphor is particularly effective.  Good criticism is a genre unto itself and a kind of literature.  However, aside from Bloom, who is also one of my favorites, all of the "critics" listed below are writers/artists in their own right.  That is telling.  Another way to look at the problem is to ask, is Bloom with his pen the equivalent of Heifetz with his violin?  I don't know, but, sadly, I think not.  On the other hand, the musician/critic comparison may not hold -- the two professions being too dissimilar in terms of abilities.
> 
> Bruce
> 
> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Alejandro Adams <hungerist at hotmail.com>
>> Sent: May 5, 2008 8:26 PM
>> To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>> Subject: Re: [ilds] Readings
>>
>>> Musicians are considered artists but art critics are not.  I think this 
>>> disparity >has led literary critics to invent Deconstruction and even the 
>>> score.
>> Mencken held that the impulse to make art was essentially a critical 
>> one--or, rather, that the artistic impulse and critical impulse were the 
>> same.  His argument is convincing.  Various shades of caveat 
>> notwithstanding, I sense a lot of truth in that unpopular notion.
>>
>> And Harold Bloom: "Criticism is either part of literature or nothing at 
>> all."  Indeed.
>>
>> Hard to explain Auden's letter to the editors of The Nation which praised 
>> Agee's film criticism.  Auden disliked journalism and disliked cinema, yet 
>> he eagerly awaited each of Agee's reviews.
>>
>> Clearly there are cases in which "criticism," "journalism," "literature," 
>> etc., coalesce, and we are left with prose which moves or stimulates or 
>> merely pleases us.  Gide's "diaries"?  Flaubert's "letters"?  Ford Madox 
>> Ford's "travelogues"?  Ideally, form is not the soil in which writing is 
>> planted, but the trellis over which prose shapes itself until the frame is 
>> no longer discernible.
>>
> 
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