Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Crictical method, a quote of Frank Lentriccia

I got an article online and printed it out, lost the link, when searching for "hermeneutics of trust and suspicion". The title of the paper was: "Salvation by Trust? Reading the Bible faithfully."

It contains a quote from Frank Lentriccia, "who teaches English at Duke University, who published a remarkable public recantation of his prior complicity with an approach to literary criticism that concentrates on theory and ignores literature."

This speaks more to criticism of English literature, yet the point made about attitude can go much further.

Over the last ten years, I've pretty much stopped reading literary criticism, because most of it isn't literary. But criticism it is of a sort--the sort that stems from the sense that one is morally superior to the writers that one is supposedly describing. This posture is assumed when those writers represent the major islands of Western literary tradition, the central cultural engine--so it goes--of racism, poverty, sexism, homophobia, and imperialism: a cesspool that literary critics would expose for mankind's benefit.... It is impossible, this much is clear, to exaggerate the heroic self-inflation of academic literary criticism... The fundamental, if only implied, message of much literary criticism is self-righteous, and it takes this form: "T.S. Eliot is a homophobe and I am not. Therefore, I am a better person than Eliot. Imitate me, not Eliot." To which the proper response is: "But T.S. Eliot could really write, and you can't. Tell us truly, is there no filth in your soul?"


Steve said...

That is a wonderful observation and I would dare say that there is a lot of truth in it.

Brigitte said...

I mean people should be able to think and criticize but the whole deconstructionist mind-set has its prideful side, also, while also indulging in "cliche thinking", as Uwe Siemon-Netto would say. (I would like to review his book "the fabricated Luther" when/if I get too it.)