Friday, June 17, 2005

On literary criticism

But it is fairly certain that 'interpretation'... is only legitimate when it is not interpretation at all, but merely putting the reader in possession of facts which he would otherwise have missed. ... I have found only two ways of leading any pupils to like anything with the right liking: to present them with a selection of the simpler kind of facts about a work – its conditions, its setting, its genesis – or else to spring the work on them in such a ways that they were not prepared to be predjudiced against it. ... Comparison and analysis... are the chief tools of the critic. It is obvious indeed that they are tools, to be handled with care, and not employed in an inquiry into the number of times giraffes are mentioned in the English novel. ... And any book, any essay, any note... which produces a fact even of lowest order about a work of art is a better piece of work than nine-tenths of the most pretentious critical journalism, in journals or in books.

— T. S. Eliot (1923) "The function of criticism," in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, p. 75, ed. F. Kermode, 1975, Harcourt Brace & Company: London. [emphasis in the original]