Thursday, February 09, 2012
Literary Blog Hop
The Literary Blog Hop is sponsored by The Blue Bookcase . Here's the question this week:
In the epilogue for Fargo Rock City, Chuck Klosterman writes:
"It's always been my theory that criticism is really just veiled autobiography; whenever someone writes about a piece of art, they're really just writing about themselves."
Do you agree?
I disagree with Klosterman's claim that "criticism is really just veiled autobiography". When I review a book I try to make explicit any personal connections to the work or my reading experience. However, I also engage in formal Literary criticism. By this I mean the evaluation, analysis, description, or interpretation of a literary work. My short essays are thus a mix of both formal criticism and my personal reaction to the book. Sometimes the personal aspect is minimal or non-existent. I always try to make it clear. That there are other readings of a literary text is certainly true. As Robert Alter discusses in his lively book, The Pleasures of Reading in an Ideological Age, "There are many precise readings of a given text (even, paradoxically, conflicting ones), depending on what aspects of the text you are looking at, what questions you are asking, what issues beyond the text you mean to address." (p 208). This does not mean that the critics opinion is necessarily merely his autobiographical take on the work in question.
When I read professional critics I expect this approach and believe that good criticism is not merely "veiled autobiography". My favorite literary critics -- for example, Michael Dirda or James Wood -- are good examples of criticism that I respect and that exemplifies this sort of professionalism. I believe that Klosterman's comment about criticism tells us more about his philosophical outlook than it does about criticism. And his is a subjective view of the world that I reject.