Being Critical

What is the purpose of criticism?

It's often said that those who aren't keen on theory are like fish who don't realise that they're in water - they're using theory all the time, but because they stick to the same theory they don't notice it's there. Theory/criticism can help people appreciate poems they don't initially understand. The poems that "speak for themselves" only do so because of the particular aesthetic/cultural assumptions that readers grow up with. Some poems that once only spoke to others can speak to you too. But such poems aren't going to make the effort - you have to. Sometimes you might even see the water.

What does the critic need to know?

Academic Criticism

Theorists mix the above factors in different proportions. Some for instance deal purely with the text. Others focus on how readers engage with the piece. The theorists fall into many groupings

References


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Updated in February 2005
tpl@eng.cam.ac.uk