criticism gone awry

Nat Case hedberg at
Fri Aug 13 14:12:28 EDT 1999

>The Unique Lifestyles of Christ Figures in The Scarlet Letter


I  have a series of essays tucked in the to-do-sometime pile called "The
Experience of Fiction" and "Art is a Tool". A lot of why people read (or see
movies or bring themselves in front of art of any kind) has to do with what
happens to them during the experience. I think much of criticism and
analysis as taught today has more to do with justifying and distancing
oneself from that experience than with looking at it, appreciating the
importance of it, and seeing how it works. The fundamental problem I have
with how I was taught English lit when I didn't enjoy it, is that I wasn't
persuaded of the pleasure of the experience. Being shown how to enjoy it
FIRST would have been infinitely more useful than learning the tricks of how
it was made.

I still have a problem with criticism, when it happens "in front of" the
sheer experience of a work. Worrying about what you eat is probably
necessary, but it is such a wonder to simply sit back and enjoy a great
meal. The pleasure of food, and even more, the NEED for it, keeps us coming
back, and I wish more criticism would remind us of the fundamental premise
that we need what we read.
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