27 sept. 2006

I was reading some criticism on Shelley recently. Don't ask why. I had picked up this Norton Critical edition with some critical studies in the back. Most are written from the 1940s to the 1960s, which is the apogee of the New Criticism, but what was striking was how New Critical positions were flouted. A constant invocation of Shelley's intentions (intentional fallacy), an urge to translate his poetry into conceptual terms (heresy of paraphrase). Little attention to language itself or to poetic form, as though Shelley had just been a social reformer who happened to write in verse rather than prose.

And this made me wonder: did the New Criticism ever filter down to the specialized study of authors? That is to say, didn't specialists on any particular author continue to do biographical, historical, textual, and ideological work beneath the radar of the official theories of the day? Or was it because Shelley was not in the New Critical mini-canon with Donne and Eliot, that specialists could ignore the critical orthodoxy?

I could say a similar thing about current studies of Lorca. Specialists in Lorca continue to do biographical, textual, and interpretive work. The more canonical the author, the more the positivist specialist model kicks in, for the normal course of criticism. There will be a small community of people interested in everything to do with their author, but relatively oblivious to theoretical considerations.

3 comentarios:

Dan Green dijo...

"Or was it because Shelley was not in the New Critical mini-canon"?

I think this is it. Most of the Romantic poets were anathema to the New Critics. (Although Cleanth Brooks's reading of Wordsworth in The Well-Wrought Urn is quite good.)

Jonathan dijo...

I thought it was Keats he discussed there? Maybe my memory is playing tricks on me. Or maybe both of them.

Daniel dijo...

There are essays on each of them. The essay on Wordsworth just seems to me a surprisingly tolerant reading of the "Intimations" Ode.