What have I learned from Literal Criticism so far

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What have I learned from Literal Criticism so far #0 What have I learned from Literal Criticism so far #1 What have I learned from Literal Criticism so far #2 What have I learned from Literal Criticism so far #3


Noor Sadiq (#027)BS-English VIEssay Project What have I learned from CriticismThe word criticism does not define a particular genre of thought but it envelops the reasoning of how one reads or ‘approaches’ a particular text or piece of writing. It is “A device with a purpose” (John Crowe Ransom)- that shapes ones ‘point-of-view’ into what is written in the text and not of the person writing it. I personally find it refreshing and am taught that it doesn’t necessarily mean ‘testing’ or just ‘appreciating’ something. It that state of mind where I don’t have to feel intimidated or intellectually inferior to the work in hand, but that the reading ‘in depth’ brings out the appreciation of the ordinary and the nouveau. It is the appreciation of one with the other and the knowledge gained from both. This highlights, what Eliot calls: “The Historical Sense” and the appreciation and knowledge of that with the presence of one’s Individual Talent. Criticism in English Literature showed me that a ‘good’ piece of poetry- or art, is not a venting of personal issues and medium for expressing one’s emotions and feelings. It is a ‘serious’ combination of ones ‘consciousness and deliberation’. Eliot remarks in his essay on ‘Traditional and Individual Talent’; that one “must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career.” Also defines this process of depersonalization as a deliberation in a “continual surrender of himself”, and “, a continual extinction of personality” from his/her work.From what I have learned, so far is that, be it from Plato’s ‘The Ion’, or Wordsworth’s ‘Preface to Lyrical Ballads’, or from Eliot’s essay on ‘Tradition And Individual Talent’, that though their reflection is mostly upon poetry- or art, in general, their criticism speaks for all genre’s and how to approach a subject objectively and methodologically- if one has to obtain the truth. By truth, I mean the textual truth within the piece of work and not the contextual structures behind it, which enabled its existence. Eliot has critically pointed out that fact and stressed on the ‘Objectivity’ of Text rather than the neo-classicists and most importantly the Romantic ritual of adding in letters and ‘prequels’ (of sorts) to their piece of work/ poetry- the personalization in text. Meaning of a text lies within the reader. What we interpret and what we attain from it is our job in criticism. Most importantly; separating the ordinary with the new and appreciating the ordinary for cushioning the novel and highlighting its importance. In criticism, art is scrutinized under a microscope and analyzed scientifically. It’s a judgement in comparison- not valued alone. One should look at what a piece of text is trying to tell us, of what does it convey? Through judgement of past knowledge and experiences and the awareness of the contemporariness during its time. With this, my critique over something is not only for the sake of critiquing but a more flexible and lenient in passing judgement. Critique is “inevitable as breathing” (T.S. Eliot), and we “dwell with the satisfaction upon the poet’s difference from his predecessors- especially the immediate”. This is a prejudice which is hard to shake off but when one learns more about the approach of how to rightly and justly criticize, we realize that “novelty is better than repetition” the appreciation of a work is also based on the critics own traditional sense and awareness of the present. Technically it’s the same as having a ‘clean slate’- of when criticizing, one must remove all expectations and all thoughts of ‘finding’ something but using past knowledge to ‘understand’ what the text itself is trying to infer and show- be it new or contemporary. All the while, on the state of judging something and focusing on the text rather than the person (or poet), there are certain rules to criticism one must understand and imply, to effectively do his/her job. “Art never improves- but the material of art is never quite the same”. A theme of the subject might be same as another poet’s piece of art, but the approach and the different sets of imagery and language used, is different and what I as a critic should appreciate and respect of “a mind that changes and develops”, in improvement of what is already known. For example, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold entails the conflict of the modern man with the world, through symbolism of ‘sea’ and ‘beaches. In another poem: ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, Eliot proposes this conflicted nature of the modern man through ‘empty deserted streets’ and lazy alley cats. Both use symbolism and both have the almost one and the same time of ‘helplessness’ and ‘listlessness’ in its description, but they differ from the ‘materials there use, that is their description, their characters, and approach on the subject. Hence, we see the beauty of these equal and at the same time different works. Although the end-thought or idea is the same, as a critic, we observe each’s own individual talent highlighted by the difference in the form of expression used. Eliot says: “the poet has, not a “personality” to express, but a particular medium”. This does not just teach us that objectivity is the goal. It is though, for the expert understanding and commitment to an art or text. It is the past that enables us to look in a way now. In criticism, I believe that though a writer’s own personal and subjective feelings should not down into the artists work, the Romantic notion of ‘subjectivity’ and use of personal emotions and thoughts provide a vantage point for a way to de-stress and find clarity of thought. Therefore writing personal essays, keeping journals and writing blogs balances our writing and performing our individual talent in a way Eliot puts as: “In fact, the bad poet is usually unconscious where he ought to be conscious, and conscious where he ought to be unconscious”. This also made me realize that where one is required to be conscious of his or her feelings or emotions, they ought to be mindful of the fact to put away past beliefs or experiences related to a subject, but when nit needs to be not as careful, and a particular piece demands a persons own thoughts and feelings on a subject, it is impossible to present something with a neutral expression.The expression of one’s emotions and explaining thoughts and feelings is now a common mode of writing poetry. One did value the romantics on their “emotion(s) recollected in tranquility” but that was then novelty in its own time- freedom for the appreciation of the “overflow of spontaneous emotions” was considered as a God-send among the rigid neo-classicists and the formality induced in their structured ornamental writing. In the sake of knowledge, criticism plays an important role in forming a conclusion and one’s general understanding. It heightens a sense of generating newer and wider scopes of expanding information and experience on not just one but more than one topic or genre. When the Cambridge critic, Ivor.A. Richards, gave poems to students without any information about who or when they were written, he expected them to ‘learn’ from what the text said and what could they be educated from. Criticism of the text brought on. This brought on psychological benefits for the students and achieved an ‘organized response’. Hence meaning of the poem and it’s own current of emotions embedded in it simplified their own emotions through the various thoughts inside the poem. In summation of this essay, I conclude that through Practical Criticism, text has a high value than anything other than it. The meaning underlining is very important and finding it is an adventure itself. Criticism demands objectivity in meaning of the text and it is acceptable that one’s invention is enhanced by the poet’s/writer’s past knowledge and instructions learned. It clarifies the whole meaning in depth and intelligibility. One c


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Philosophy, Literature.



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