[ilds] Readings

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Tue May 6 10:53:02 PDT 2008


I don't think Harold Bloom will be remembered for his fiction, which I haven't read.  Lionel Trilling, another very great critic, also wrote a novel, but Trilling was also aware, as Alejandro Adams pointed last year, that he didn't have in him what Hemingway had in abundance, namely, the spark of creative genius.  I also don't think Edward Said's abilities as a musician came remotely close to abilities as a critic.  Criticism, performance, interpretation -- all these are one thing, probably related in some way, but they're quite different, astronomically different, from poets, writers, artists, and composers, who hold the much higher position and exist on another plane.  And, I think, the answer why that is so is simple.  The former depends on the latter.  Take away the latter and there's no former.  Is the reverse true?  No.  Bernard Berenson says somewhere that great art exists like Platonic forms.  I don't think I believe in Platonic forms, but I like the idea, and I don't think criticism qualifies as a Platonic form.

John Keats probably wrote some of the greatest letters in English, but much of that greatness depends on him explaining (naturally and unpretentiously) his own genius in writing poetry.  As with Keats, so with other writers who dabble in criticism.

Are emails creative?  No.  I quote Bill Godshalk, who, significantly, was quoting someone else, who was creative:  "Words, words, words."


-----Original Message-----
>From: James Gifford <odos.fanourios at gmail.com>
>Sent: May 6, 2008 9:22 AM
>To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
>Subject: Re: [ilds] Readings
>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?
>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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