25 sept. 2008

[Crossposted to Frío de límites]

Aesthetic quailty

The question "is it any good" often comes up in a discussion of someone's article of literary criticism. Is the text being analyzed good literature, poetry, whatever. This is a bothersome question in the sense that there may be good reasons for looking at texts that aren't "good" in the conventional sense; bothersome also for the implication that whole categories of works aren't very good, or are bad unless proven otherwise. Finally, it might be bothersome because premature judgment might get in the way of other useful perceptions.

And yet that question doesn't simply go away, bothersome though it might be. I would suggest that the perception of aesthetic quality can provide useful insight that can then be used. At the very least, the critic who confronts this question has had an aesthetic encounter with the text. (This cannot always be taken for granted.) Secondly, the reasons why a work is judged ill or well will reveal the implicit aesthetic horizon within which the critic is working, his or her idea of what a valid work of art is. Lastly, and most importantly, the reasons behind the judgment will bring out other, perhaps unforeseen implications--absent in a reading that simply brackets aesthetic quality as an irrelevant issue.

An example might be Gamoneda's Blues Castellano. If I find it ploddingly literal and a bit heavy in tone; over-repetitive, I might see that as a statement about my own aesthetic ideals more than about Gamoneda's quality. Or I might use those negative qualities to to better define Gamoneda's poetics during this period. If I don't have this experience with the work in the first place, can't perceive qualitatively, then I am lacking an important tool as a critic.

2 comentarios:

NigelBeale dijo...

Perhaps you could clarify what you mean by 'unforseen' implications... also not sure I get what you are saying in the last two sentences.

Jonathan dijo...

You're right; that was a bit vague. For example, political and ethical implications that become more palpable when the critic is focused on the aesthetic. The idea is that a focus on aesthetics heightens one's perception of the work in all its dimensions. A political reading that bracketed the aesthetic as irrelevant might miss the point--even on a political level.