Prufrock's Page

Friday, July 08, 2005

Something To Make Rana Dasgupta Happy

Amherst College professor Ilan Stavans writes an appreciative review of Morris Dickstein's A Mirror In The Roadway, but differs with him on the function of literary criticism:

" 'Critics write about literature,' [Dickstein] argues, 'for the same reasons writers write about anything: for the pleasure of forming graceful sentences that sort out their own reactions to books, or simply to be part of a conversation about the human dilemma that goes back to the beginning of culture.' "

Stavans' point of view:

"It's a good answer, but I have another: One writes about literature because literature without criticism doesn't have a solid place in society. The critic is a map-maker, one in charge of surveying our intellectual landscape, of offering context, of offering judgment on what's beautiful. Unfortunately, 'beauty' is a word out of fashion. Still, the critic invites us to make aesthetic validations. This is true in any time and place, especially in an open-market democracy such as ours, in which ideas are showcased like merchandise."


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