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

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)

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)

231. (Erich Auerbach)

Not only can be it said that art happens in history, but that history happens within each work of art. Art is kindled when the possibilities for body in history are realized within a medium and form, situated within its own history; and history itself is change, ordered, conceptualized, projected forwards and backwards. To say that humans are historical creatures is no different from saying … Continue reading 231. (Erich Auerbach)

230. (William Empson)

In the blog posts lately, I’ve discussed literature as happening when an author gets a condition of judgment inside of a judgment about what is possible, given the contingencies of human bodily existence. That descriptions looks outwards: a judgment of what is possible is historically dependent, will depend, that is, on what meanings and understanding are available to an author, among which, centrally, will be … Continue reading 230. (William Empson)

229. (Erich Auerbach)

Is it possible to grow into a critic of literature? Immediately, the question ought to be revised: is it possible to grow into admiring another reader of literature? The answer is unequivocally yes, just as it is possible to grow into admiration for an author of imaginative literature. The difference lies in the means available for growth: we can learn to appreciate an author partly … Continue reading 229. (Erich Auerbach)