Even A Critic Is A Person

Even a critic is a person.  No: especially a critic is a person, and the voice of a person must be heard in all his work. Conversely, all criticism in which a human voice is not heard is bad criticism.

Question: isn’t it possible that criticism might become too personal – in the sense that the person indulges himself, asks for overparticular attention, preens, poses for the cameras, overinsists that attention be paid to him?

Answer: Oh, what an unfair question! How could one answer it except in the affirmative?  But the affirmative answer is so uninteresting!

May I advocate for a style of criticism, however serious, that is not too far from the spoken word? An argument has been made for obscurity in modern literature.  But when this literature is discussed by an Edmund Wilson it becomes less obscure.  That is why he took pen to paper: to make the more unknown by the less unknown. The more grandiose and doctrinaire school of modern criticism explains the unknown by the more unknown. Proust is difficult, God knows, but criticism of Proust can be even more difficult! My argument is that this is a reason for not reading such criticism.

Good criticism results from no lazy or easy going process or mentality, but its purpose is to make life – the life of the student of the arts – easier.  If it fails, the student is justified in taking leave of the critic and having another go at Proust.

Eric Bentley
Thinking About The Playwright , p233