Sunday, January 2, 2011

From "Why Criticism Matters"

"The age of evaluation... of the Olympian critic as cultural arbiter, is over...It's time to hear less of critics talking about themselves, spinning reviews out of their charming memories." - Stephen Burn

"The secret function of the critic today is to write beautifully, and in so doing protect beautiful writing." - Katie Roiphe

"The specific historical circumstances that confine the critical reception of literatures in Europe and America to a few specialists do not exist anywhere else." - Pankaj Mishra

"What this displacement takes from the critic in terms of confidence and authority, it perhaps restores to him in terms of integrity and freedom." - Adam Kirsch

"In the grand game of intertextuality - which is, after all, the dominant and defining game of the Internet era - critics are not just referees: they're equal players." - Sam Anderson

"The role of the critic is then less to exhaustively explain any single work than to identify, in a group of works, a reflection of some conditioned aspect of reality." - Elif Batuman


Few new problems, or solutions, recounted here. I would only add a single theory: new critics won't rise to great influence precisely because our youth - myself included, if you're generous - doesn't expect them to. At least, not as we usually understand it. Critics of the future might still steer the crowds, but they will either do so in disguise (as snide talk show hosts or impassioned bloggers) or with their "crowds" defined less by general interest and more by niche.

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