A Priori Synthetic Dogma
There was a time, of course, before critical theory existed.
Wednesday, 2004-11-10 | Classic Gin, Language, Literature, On Writing Well
COME live with me and be my Love,
Ancient writers wrote criticism. Modern readers were able to deduce from the nature of their claims what sorts of ideas and systems influenced their critical practices. In this way, we can say that the ancients put theory before practice. We must say this with a sort of knowing look, however, because the ancient writers we are speaking about simply had theory before practice the way that everyone must whether or not he is aware that theory even exists and can be deduced from practice.
We, of course, live in an epoch contingent upon such an age and contingent upon the deductions that readers of ancient texts have made concerning the interpretive theory that informed the criticisms of that lost age.
It has become the fashion in recent times to cut out the middleman--to do away with criticism and read and write theory without considering that it exists and always has existed as the ground of criticism and can do nothing on its own. Criticism is the chariot and theory is the grass over which it rolls.
How, then, do we make sense of a world where, based on the acknowledgment of the fact that theory comes before criticism, it has become the mode to act as if the two could exist apart from one another?
We pretend that criticism doesn't exist--that readers have no agency and that criticism is not a tool, but an expression.
And so the grass grows--one thousand wanton flowers bloom.