Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Critics on Criticism

Francesco De Sanctis, the great Italian critic of the nineteenth century, had this to say in his 1869 volume on Petrarca:

"La critica e' dirimpetto all'opera d'arte quello che la filosofia e' dirimpetto all'opera della natura."

Criticism before the work of art is what philosophy is before the work of nature.

If one subscribes, as I do, to a Tolkienesque account of man's exercise of his creative faculties, then the critic's task is less worthy than the poet's, but equally important. Fortunately for those of us in the former category who want jobs, a substantial number of poets are pretty dreadful readers (I'm looking at you, Coleridge).


  1. And what is the "Tolkienesque" account of man's exercise of his creative faculties? You didn't really think your lazy readers would go and look that up did you?

  2. no, I just assumed it would be generally known... doesn't everyone read LOTR criticism?

    The word I'm thinking of here is "sub-creation", which is idea that the exercise of our creative faculties is peculiarly in line with the character of God, whom we know first of all as a Creator. Under this view, the artistic vocation is to proclaim God's glory through a recapitulation of his character; not in whole, obviously, but in one fundamental aspect. Just as loving justice might entail, from one perspective, standing against oppression in our society, it might equally suggest composing symphonies or stories that in their very fictiveness recall the divine artifex.

    Not, of course, that either poems or pamphlets are the real point. But both have a peculiar virtue.