239. (Matthew Arnold)

Matthew Arnold suggests how a thoroughgoing Platonism might help us think through art, criticism, and more: “the application of ideas to life” in his suggestive phrase, art becomes, if we take “ideas” as a surrogate for the “ideas” that are Platonic forms, the application itself. Whereas the study of philosophy is the study of forms themselves, such as Justice, Truth, Beauty, all at a level … Continue reading 239. (Matthew Arnold)

238. (Matthew Arnold)i

One of Matthew Arnold’s most famous, or infamous, phrases as a critic comes in “The Study of Poetry” where he mysteriously describes poetry as consisting in “the application of ideas to life.” Because of the frequency of “ideas” in our daily conversation, it is easy to overlook the peculiarity of that word, along with the word “application.” It is also easy to take “idea” to … Continue reading 238. (Matthew Arnold)i

237. (Irad Kimhi)

I was alerted to Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being before its publication by way of a note in Sebastian Rödl’s Self-Consciousness and Objectivity, and though there are other ways of reading Kimhi’s short work—not least as an ambition to meet Parmenides’ challenge of how it is possible to think what is not, by restoring our understanding of Aristotle, Plato, and Wittgenstein—I found myself appreciating it … Continue reading 237. (Irad Kimhi)

236. (Christopher Ricks)

What is the appeal of criticism, of reading or doing it? It must rest in beguilement at judgment itself, and at the purity of judgment, as a form of thought, which art and literature represents, and which the literature of modernity, in Flaubert, in Proust, in Kafka, has fetishized, over-determined, and ironized to a remarkable extent. The possibility of judgment itself has become the occasion … Continue reading 236. (Christopher Ricks)

235. (Franz Kafka)

The resemblance between Kafka’s The Castle and the Alice books is obvious. But the differences are more telling. In Kafka’s novel, there is neither madness nor absurdity. Absurdity follows from a lack of reasons (reasons in the Alice books are offered, but they are arbitrary, temporary, nonce); madness from a lack of rationality. In The Castle, K. encounters a surfeit of both reasons and rationality. Everyone he encounters … Continue reading 235. (Franz Kafka)

234. (William Empson)

William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity is an acknowledged classic of literary criticism, but it is also among the most difficult to approach and appreciate as a whole, as a coherent statement of intellectual intent, and not just as a bundle of brilliant analyses. The seven types of ambiguity, Empson tells us, are as follows: first, when words can have several possible meanings contributing to … Continue reading 234. (William Empson)

233. (Samuel Menashe)

  The poetry of Samuel Menashe is illuminated by the thought that, even the smallest lyric poem, when successful, will be like the focal point on an hour glass, through which so much experience and time passes, an entire future and entire past opening out on either side of it. It will also be a reminder that history might not come to a reader direct, … Continue reading 233. (Samuel Menashe)