Wednesday, June 14, 2006

W.H. Auden on the Function of the Critic

There’s a wonderful post up at Booklad on W.H. Auden with a particular focus on his collection of essays The Dyer’s Hand. Given that I’ve been mulling over John Updike’s six rules of reviewing, the passage that Booklad quotes from Auden’s essay “on critics” immediately caught my attention:

What is the function of the critic? So far as I am concerned, he can do me one or more of the following services:

1) Introduce me to authors or works of art of which I was hitherto unaware
2) Convince me that I have undervalued an author or a work because I had not read them carefully enough.
3) Show me relations between works of different ages and cultures which I could never have seen for myself because I do not know enough and never shall.
4) Give a "reading" of a work which increases my understanding of it.
5) Throw light upon the process of artistic "Making"
6) Throw light upon the relation of art to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.

More to think about when contemplating one’s reviewing/book blogging practice… Now that Booklad has introduced me to The Dyer's Hand of which I was hitherto unaware, I will immediately set about tracking down a copy.

So long as I’m singing Booklad’s praises, I encourage you also to have a look at his post on how to buy books on the internet. It’s essentially an insider’s guide to getting value for your money when purchasing second-hand books online. Eye-opening, and very helpful. Thanks Booklad!


jenclair said...

It has been years since I read "The Dyer's Hand." Thanks for reminding me...

Dorothy W. said...

I went through an Auden phase, and I like his essays very much. That lists of the functions of the critic is very useful -- he just about sums it up, doesn't he?