Cleanth Brooks, chief architect of America’s first real school of criticism, was an advocate of “close reading,” if nothing else. The New Criticism he developed along with his friends from Vanderbilt University may not rest on any more substantial tenets than might be suggested by New Criticism’s other name, aesthetic formalism. Hence its detractors’ criticisms: [...]
Book reviews are only about books. I want to write reading reviews. Could Twitter help? I shoot long shots because I want to photograph a river one day. Not the mouth without the source or the source alone but the whole meander and rush and sail. I can’t crop worth a crap. If Thomas Wolfe [...]
On Philosophy in fiction. Roland Barthes puts it this way (as only he could have): There are those who want a text (an art, a painting) without a shadow, without the “dominant ideology”; but this is to want a text without fecundity, without productivity, a sterile text (see the myth of the Woman without a [...]
An irate parent called the school office this week. In her most recent newsletter, his daughter’s teacher had ended a sentence with a preposition. He told the office he was going to take the matter up with the school board. The young teacher’s principal confirmed to her that she had erred. The teacher was pretty [...]
A return to the Bible’s, the Constitution’s, or any poem’s text, then, isn’t a call to humorless literalism or to a strict constructionism that can’t distinguish between letter and spirit. It’s the slow and repeated enjoyment of a text that won’t be squeezed for, and then discarded in favor of, some dogma or other envenoming essence. It’s an emphasis on story and language and oral expression that might have us, like the Lord, speaking not in theories but in parables, and grounding ourselves in the serious play of prosody.