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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Mimetic Criticism

In my own field I often get irritated by a kind of mimetic criticism which consists in explaining the poet's work according to his or her own explicit poetics. Who wants to hear Wallace Stevens explicated in a kind of Stevensian idiolect? Or José Ángel Valente explained in terms of Valente's own theories? The author can essentially control his or her reception if sh/e develops a critical metalanguage and convinces critics to use it. The critical essay then will sound like a pastiche of the author's work. Boring.

This implies that criticism entails critical distance. You can be in sympathy with the author, but you can't be beholden to a scheme derived from the work itself. Otherwise, what good are you?

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