25 may. 2006

I need your help. Give me a "critical problem" in the comment boxes below or by email if you aren't a blogger blogger. A critical problem is something that bothers you when you read, a discrepancy or contradiction, a paradox. Something that would be a good start for a critical essay. I have my own examples, but I'm afraid they might bear too strongly the marks of my own idiosyncracy. I want to impress on my students the necessity for starting with a critical problem when they write.

2 comentarios:

Ray Davis dijo...

I pretty much only write criticism to scratch an itch, which is why I can't review worth a damn.

My recent essays on genre have tended to start with "Why does what this critic say bother me when what this other critic said, which seems similar, didn't bother me?"

Latest long critical essay: "I don't find any of the existing stories about Dickinson's variants as satsifying as the variants themselves. Can I find another story?"

The one before that: "Why do intelligent humanists insist on so blatantly misapplying biological evolution?"

The one before that: "Why could I not stop reading Lou Andreas-Salome even though I was getting thoroughly sick of her?"

Before that: "Why did I not trust 'Toy Story' as much as 'The Steadfast Tin Soldier'?"

My two favorite long critical essays: "In what non-racist sense is Elvis Presley the King?" "Why do I find Ernst Lubitsch's last movie so moving?"

Hmm. Apparently, what incites me most often is not a puzzle in the singular work or idea, but a puzzle in the discourse surrounding a work or idea. No wonder I comment on blogs. But the foundational puzzle behind _all_ the writing I've tried, including fiction, is "Why can't my mind let go of this?"

Jonathan dijo...

That's exactly what I was talking about, "the puzzle in the discourse surrounding a work or idea." It takes a long time for grad students to get to that level of sophistication where they understand the traditions of thought behind the criticism.

The Dickinson example is perfect, thanks for that one.