Monday, 15 March 2010

A Note on Criticism 1

Chris Baldick describes criticism as “the reasoned discussion of literary works.” Here though, we are applying the term to the reading of visual material: photography, digital imagery, multi media artefacts/artwork, web sites and so on. Criticism, Baldick goes on to state that is “an activity, which may include some or all of the following procedures: the defence of’ visual culture ‘against moralists and censors.” It may include the “classification of a work according to genre, interpretation of its meaning, analysis of its structure and style.” It could include ‘judgements of its worth by comparison with other works, estimation of its likely effect on readers, and the establishment of general principles by which’ designs, visual material and so on “(individually, in categories, or as a whole) can be evaluated and understood. Contrary to the everyday sense of criticism as ‘fault-finding’, much modern criticism (particularly of the academic kind) assumes that the works it discusses are valuable: the functions of judgement and analysis having to some extent divided between the market (where reviewers ask ‘Is this worth buying?) and the educational world (where academics ask ‘Why is this so good?). The various kinds of criticism fall into several overlapping categories: theoretical, practical, impressionistic, affective, prescriptive, or descriptive. Criticism concerned with revealing the author’s true motives or intention (sometimes called ‘expressive’) emerged from Romanticism to dominate much 19th - and 20th-century critical writing, but has tended to give way to ‘objective’ criticism, focusing on the work itself (as in New Criticism and structuralism), and to a shift of attention to the reader in reader-response criticism. Particular schools of criticism also seek to understand” human endeavours “in terms of its relation to history, politics, gender, social class, mythology, linguistic theory or psychology.”

A critique is a “considered assessment” of cultural artefacts “usually in the form of an essay or review. Also in philosophy, politics, and social sciences, a systematic inquiry into the nature of some principle, idea, institution, or ideology, usually devoted to revealing its limits or self-contradictions.”

From Baldick, C The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms Oxford University Press 1990 p.48.

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