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175 SCENARIO FOR A SCRIPT The name of the play Is "Criticism: 1880-1920." The theatre is Palmer House, Room 5. The date and time are December 29, 10:30 to 11:45 a. m. These are the only certainties, what might be called the "civens." Kuch of what follows will be improvisation. There is no script (only the sparsest scenario), there is no fixed cast of characters, there is no stacre and no curtain. The audience is an unknown quantity. It is only moments before curtain time. and hither am I come A prologue arm'd, but not in confidence Of author's pen or actor's voice. . . . All serious criticism has had two aims: to distinguish between art and non-art and to present evidence in support of the distinction . The more subtle the critic, the finer the distinction he attempts to make and the more meticulous he Is in presenting his evidence. The differences between critics have not on the whole been due to a significant difference of aims. The differences have been In methods and premises. 1. The critic comes to a work of art with a fixed set of expectations, principles, or rules not drawn from any example in art, but from religion, moral philosophy, perhaps from nature, or the particular critic's concept of nature. The work of art is ranked according to how nearly it fulfills the critic's expectations . Here the critic, as vatic voice of the community, legislates standards of excellence. 2. The critic comes to a work of art with a fixed set of expectations, principles or rules drawn from a tradition of artistic practice. It Is not always clear by what means the exemplary works that established the tradition and that provide the critic with his rules were crowned to begin with. Sometimes the reason seems to be that they had passed the test of time, sometimes that cultured minds have In the past regarded these works as exemplary, and sometimes that these works satisfied the principles of the critic described in the preceding paragraph. At any rate, our second critic begins with works of art. He Judges the work under his scrutiny by the fixed standards of an artistic traâition. Here the critic still legislates standards but he calls upon the collaboration of a "classical" artist, one about the quality of whose work there presumably is some general agreement. 3. The critic comes to a work of art with no fixed prescription . He comes only with the experience of his past confrontations with diverse works of art, his curiosity, and his desire to discover a great artist and a great work of art. He 176 tries to approach each work of art as a unique creation. He regards his task largely as discovering the principles of the particular work of art and passing Judgment on how successfully these principles are carried out. He does not come to a work with a notion fixed by an artistic or philosophical tradition of what constitues, for example, "poetic diction" or a "slcnlfleant action" or a "worthy subject," or an "appropriate form." He allows the artist to persuade him of the appropriateness of the diction, the action, the subject, and the form in the particular work. Here then is at least a dialogue between two Intellects, the artist's and the critic's. 4. The critic again comes to a work of art with no fixed prescription. Like the third critic he approaches each work as a unique creation. Unlike the third critic, however, he is not a more or less objective diagnostician; he is also concerned with the effect of the experience on himself. He regards the work intensively and he regards his own experience of the work intensively . He has an "affair" with the work of art. All these critical approaches and various combinations of them have always had some degree of currency. There has been no neat historical development from one to the other. Each has had its ascendancy at one time or another but all have co-existed over the centuries. In the late nineteenth century, however, it is the third and fourth kinds of critic who...


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pp. 175-178
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Will Be Archived 2021
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