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Discussion, suggestion, formulation, are fertilising when they are frank and sincere. Be generous and delicate and pursue the prize.
Discussion, suggestion, formulation, are fertilising when they are frank and sincere. Be generous and delicate and pursue the prize. Constable and Co. EUot and to Messrs. Faber and Faber Ltd. S, Eliot 1 1 and from Four Quartets; to Mrs. Frieda Lawrence and Messrs. WiUiam Heinemann Ltd. Lawrence passages, and to the same publishers for the extract from Swinburne's Collected Poetical Works', to Dr.
Leavis and Messrs. Lahey, S. Helen Thomas and Messrs. Yeats and Messrs. Macmillan and Co. In practice, of course, these two activities usually go together: a good critic, knowing that his account and evaluation of an author must depend on the actual words written by the author, supports his fundamental remarks and judg- ments with pieces however slight of examined text, the text out ofwhich his judgments rise.
When we come across a hazy account, in general terms, of an author or of a piece of writing, we may conclude that a mediocre critic is at work, and that he is probably approaching his author with some degree of predisposition, perhaps with some admixture of prejudice or favouritism. Very often such a critic would give himself away if forced to analyse his author in detail. The fact that his favouritism or prejudice may be unconscious does not excuse his lack of critical discipline.
A critic should be as fully conscious as possible of what he is doing. The vaHdity of this little book depends upon the belief that the character ofa writer's whole achievement can only be felt and assessed by responding sensitively to the way in which he uses words, and that the capacity to make such a response can be formed or greatly enhanced by a training in literary criticism.
Lawrence says some excellent things about j critics and criticism: j 'Literary criticism can be no more than a reasoned account of the feeling produced upon the critic by the book he is criticising. Criticism can never be a science: it is, in the first place, much too personal, and in the second, it is concerned with values that science ignores. The touch-stone is emotion, not reason. We judge a work of art by its effect on our sincere and vital emotion, and nothing else.
All the critical twiddle-twaddle about style and form, all this pseudo-scientific classifying and analysing of books in an imitation-botanical fashion, is mere impertinence and mostly dull jargon. To do so, he must be a man offorce and complexity himself, which few critics are. A man with a paltry, impudent nature will never write anything but paltry, impudent criti- cism. And a man who is emotionally educated is rare as a phoenix. The more scholastically educated a man is generally, the more he is an emotional boor.
He must have the courage to admit what he feels, as well as the flexibility to know what he feels. So Sainte- Beuve remains, to me, a great critic. And a man like Macaulay, brilliant as he is, is unsatisfactory, because he is not honest. He is emotionally very alive, but he juggles his feelings. He prefers a fine effect to the sincere statement of his aesthetic and emotional re- action.
He is quite intellectually capable of giving us a true account of what he feels. But not morally. A critic must be emotionally alive in every fibre, in- tellectually capable and skilful in essential logic, and then morally very honest. But the passage will be found to bear much pon- dering, and it raises radical issues with the insight and strength and certitude that belong to a fine critic.
Side by side with it we may consider the following paragraph by F. The analysis and judg- ment of works of Hterary art belong to the Hterary critic, who is one in so far as he observes a discipHned relevance in response, comment and determination ofsignificance. He is concerned with the work in front of him as something that should contain within itself the reason why it is so and not otherwise. The more experienceexperience of Hfe and Hterature together he brings to bear on it the better, ofcourse; and it is true that extraneous information may make him more percipient.
But the business of critical intelHgence wiU remain what it was : to ensure relevance of re- sponse and to determine what is actuaUy there in the work of art.
The critic will be especially wary how he uses extraneous knowledge about the writer's intentions. Intentions are nothing in art except as reaHzed, and the tests ofreaHzation will remain what they were. These tests may very well reveal that the deep animating intention if that is the right word is something very different from the intention the author would declare.
Now Lawrence is a great creative writer with his own 'vision' of life and his own utterance; Leavis is 'only' a superb literary critic. The subject is too abstruse to be developed at length here. But it can at least be pointed out that Lawrence the creative artist was also a most sensitive and scrupulous literary critic, and that Leavis the literary critic is ultimately con- cerned with the vitality, the richness, the quality, of life and living.
It is significant that Leavis, so often attacked for so-called pedantic analysis, has been one of the strongest and most discriminating and strong because discriminating upholders of Lawrence's intense and abundantly-alive genius. And it still seems necessary to insist, after all the fine critical work of the past twenty or thirty years, that real literary analysis has no affinities with grammatical sentence-analysis.
Its accuracy is not that of classifica- tion. It is that of a delicate discernment and assessment of the experience, of the 'felt life' Henry James's phrase in and behind the words that are being exam- ined.
Those who misunderstand or fear literary analysis tend to attack it for being 'niggling', or for 'murdering to dissect', whereas the truth is that it helps to demon- strate the wholeness of meaning, the total effect and significance of the writing.
And in doing this it adds immeasurably to the pleasure as to the profit ofreading. If we take a characteristic passage from a work and find it to be muddled in thought, then it is no use abstracting and trusting to the ideas in that work; if a characteristic passage is emotionally false or feeble, then we know it will be no use going to the whole work to enhance our emotional experience.
These are very elementary considerations; but some people seem to think, in fact they will affirm that a book can be valu- able as literature even if its actual writing is weak or bad.
They will give contents and writing separate treatment. Comments like the followingthis one is taken from a newspaperare frequent in reviews: 'This is a book that is jfull of the wisdom of the EngHsh countryside, of humanity and humour, and of writing that could scarcely be bettered'.
It is plain that the critic who wrote this, isolating certain qualities that he claims for his author, separating them off from the actual writing, has an inadequate conception of literature ; his praise is in fact worthless, for if the writing were poor the wisdom and so on.
But from the way the whole sentence is worded it seems certain that he is claiming for his author the great and rare quaUty of wisdom along with the humanity and humour. Writers are all too often judged by their explicit con- tent.
For instance : a 'left-wing' critic champions Shelley for his revolutionary doctrines; a 'right-wing' critic champions Tennyson for his nationaUsm; another critic champions Milton for his explicit moral or re- ligious beliefs. Such critics are supporting their poets because they find in them support for their own beliefs or opinions though they might not be ready to admit this ; they are not sufficiently concerned with the 'sen- sibility' of the poets, their way of experiencing and expressing life, as revealed in the way they use words; they miss the reality of their authors.
Sincere analysis would reveal disconcerting flaws in their idols' supposed strengths ; it would cause a painful revision of opinions. Incidentally, it might also reveal excellences previously unrecognised. Leavis's paragraph about 'relevance of response' seems to me to state admirably the central point in Hterary criticism : it is in the words of the writer, in his choice and ordering and organisation of language, that his worth shews itself; as a literary artist expressing experiences worth our deepest attention, he matters there or not at all.
When Bernard Shaw, writing about Othello in , said 'To the brain it is ridiculous, to the ear it is sublime' and he was echoed in by Mr. Godfrey Tearle, playing the name-part , he was approaching literature in a manner characteristic of many rationalists: that is to say, he split the play into two elements, one of 'content' and one of 'poetry', in particular poetry as it appeals by its sound only.
Such a reading betrays failure to grasp what Shakespeare intended and what he achieved in the play. It is easy to collect a few words like 'sensibility', 'awareness', 'consciousness', and to make a show of adequacy with them.
And yet we must have some such terms for practical use, to make dis- cussion possible. The good critic will use them carefully and honestly. It will not be out of place to refer here to one or two of the current critical terms, especially as their meaning differs in some cases considerably from that which the same word bears in common use. The critic then, especially when he is being explicitly educative, has to have recourse to some set of terms; 'jargon' can't be avoided.
But he will see to it, when he uses one of the 'accepted' words, that he has before him the occasion for its use in the writing of the author whom he is helping to reveal; the 'critical' word matters only because it helps to reveal the author. It may be useful, valuable, to say that a 'sophisticated' mind is at work in Marvell's poetry; and in some circumstances of discussion the remark may not need enlarging upon.
A knowledge of the terms used in critical practice has in itself nothing to do with keenly and freshly respond- ing to a piece of writing. But, conversely, neither does a rigorous training in literary criticism inhibit a fresh and spontaneous response.
On the contrary, the better trained we are the more truly and swiftly and pleasur- ably shall we appreciate and spontaneously evaluate what our author is offering us. And the more we are aware of the particular thing the author is offering, the better it is for our own intellectual and emotional growth.
For the moment the claims of these statements must remain simply as claims ; it is hoped that adequate justification for them will be felt later in the book.
The method of this book was decided on for the pur- pose of making demonstration as clear as possible. A good piece of writing, in fact any piece of writing, can be said to be a fusion of elements, and to abstract one element, rhythm for example, or imagery, and to dis- cuss it in comparative isolation, can only be justified, on the grounds indicated in our previous sentence. However, a more comprehensive analysis of the pieces quoted in the 'sections' can be made if desired, as well as of the twenty or so passages given later.
Many of the examined passages are excerpts ; but I have tried to ensure in every case that the selection should be characteristic, in one way or another, of the author, and I have aimed at avoiding passages the criticism of which would depend to a considerable extent on its context.
Especially in the criticism of a passage from a play or a novel we must feel sure about the author's intention : for it may be very different from that which a superficial reading might suggest.
Although the selected passages are characteristic of some salient features of their author, no inclusive judg- ment of any author is intended unless it is actually stated. Section three is chiefly concerned with the aptness, the vividness, the suggestiveness of Imagery; again, an expressive use as against an ornamental device.
The Poetic Thought section endeavours to distinguish between the statement of 'thoughts' or ideas and the nature of the thought that we call 'poetic' ; the implications of 'poetic' are shewn to involve feeling and the senses. The gist of the next section is the distinction between emotion and emotion- ahsm, and there is discussion of 'implicit' feeling in language. The Diction section deals with the general 'superiority' of the concrete to the abstract word, and with 'poetic diction' and with the use in poetry of the language spoken in the poet's own day.
Teachers have their own ways of using text-books. With the present one, I myself cannot see a better course than to go through it page by page with the pupils.
If time doesn't allow of this, and pupils have to read some or much of it by themselves, there can still follow plentiful discussion in the classroom. That is the essential thing, wherever it is possible : discussion. Close and detailed discussion whether between two or twenty people cannot be anything but profitable. In the second of the epigraphs to this book, Henry James was address- ing young novelists ; biit his words are perfectly applic- able to reading.
I believe that most of what may be found valuable in this book derives from the work of F.
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Published July 2, by Penguin Non-Classics. Written in English. Literature Criticism Online is the largest, most extensive compilation of literary commentary ten Gale series that comprise Literature Criticism Online represent a range of modern and historical views on authors and their works in all areas of literature.
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Literature and Criticism is concerned above all with the bricks and mortar of writing - words. Both poetry and prose are discussed, and there is an appendix ofMoreLiterature and Criticism is concerned above all with the bricks and mortar of writing - words. Both poetry and prose are discussed, and there is an appendix of passages as exercises. The bare contents, however, give little idea of the excellence of this introduction to literary appreciation.