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c(stters in (anada• 0 I948 Edited by J. R. MAcGILLIVRAY T HE fourteenth annual survey of "Letters in Canada" follows the general plan of earlier years. Once more it has been found necessary to make a division and hold over the survey of French-Canadian and NewCanadian letters until the July issue. It is a ·matter of regret' that Professor J. C. Garrett who for several years has written a large part of the last section of the ·English survey has left the University and Canada. Some idea of how he is missed on the Quarterly may be gained from the fact that it has taken four of us to fill his place in this issue. Once more I would express thanks to publishers of Canadian books .for their friendly co-operation; to the University of Toronto Library for assistance; and to lv[iss Francess Halpenny, Assistant Editor of the University of Toronto Press, for preparing all the bibliographical lists except those for New-Canadian letters. PART I: ENGLISH-CANADIAN LETTERS I. POETRY E. K. BROWN. During the past two or three years the practising critics of Canadian poetry have been assailed by a few apologists for some of the younger poets. Two accusations have recurred. In one we are presented as so backward -looking that we have no awareness of the future. The future, it is said, will be scientific and collectivist. But the future will not be determined by science. Science does not make values. Values are in the custody of theologians, humanists, and artists. It is quite possible that the future will be collectivist in a degree that most of us on this continent find it difficult to conceive. Yet there is no reason for supposing that the arts as we have known them for millennia will perish or undergo such changes as would make them unrecognizable. They may be subject to persecution and distortion ; but the arts have met those ordeals before, and have not been ruined. Despite the powerlul impact on art of :the society in which it is created , the essential concern of art is wi1lh the humanity, not with the political and social framework of man. To suggest that collectivism will lead to a greater kind of art or an art essentially different from what we now have is mere dreaming. From the dreaming, as from dreaming about the restoration of Laval's Canada or Durham's, admirable poems may come, but it is no basis for a criticism. The apologists may not be aware of it, but what they are assailing in the practising critics is not a hostility to collectivism, or an unawareness of its nature, but a lack of enthusiastic belief in its necessity and beauty. 254 LETTERS IN CANADA: 1948 255 In the other accusation we are presented as applying an over-lenient, and therefore implicitly insulting standard, in our criticism of Canadian poets, one that we do not or would not apply in writing of English or American poets. Here a distinction iB needed for clarity. The criticism of poetry as of any art must first interpret. If in the exercise of his interpretative function a critic writes chiefly of what is genuine in a poem, what is notable, what is there, rather than of what is spurious, what is negligible, what is not there, his doing so need not mean that he is abandoning another of his functions, the making of judgments. Careful interpretation , conducted with insight and a measure of sympathy, must precede judgment, and in writing of recent or contemporary poets it is much wiser to make sure that one's interpretation is adequate than to press on to judgment. The history of criticism is strewn with examples of how the slighting of the critic's interpretative function has led to false and absurd judgments. The practising critics in Canada have been more concerned, in the exercise of judgment, to establish that poems are genuine than to declare that they are great. When an English critic writes of Walter de la Mare, he does not keep repeating that de la Mare's lyrics may be all very well in their way but will not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 254-263
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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