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The Pleasures of Criticism

martes 22 de junio de 2010

The Pleasures of Criticism

(A commentary in Poe, "On the Usefulness of Literary Criticism"):

Reading literary criticism, I think, is not the best way to enjoy literature. Actually, the relationship between literature and literary criticism works the other way round. Literary criticism is not there to allow you to enjoy literature, but to understand it better. If that deeper understanding leads to enjoyment, so much the better, but it need not do so. Understanding will lead us to a deeper enjoyment of some works (arguably the greatest), but will dissipate the charm of others. Indeed, understanding may lead to distance, skepticism and disillusion, as does the philosophical or scientific understanding of any other aspect of life. Someone said the relationship between literature and criticism was exactly the contrary. One does not read literary criticism in order to enjoy literature: rather, one reads literature in order to be able to read, understand and enjoy literary criticism– which is, as Oscar Wilde said, a higher intellectual pleasure, fit for the gods—though perhaps it is not much of a pleasure for humans who try to enjoy stories, songs, and the illusions of art.

Benefit of Hindsight

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