[ExI] Objective standards?/was Re: silly 'rules'

William Flynn Wallace foozler83 at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 16:43:42 UTC 2015

On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 9:08 PM, Dan TheBookMan <danust2012 at gmail.com>

> On Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 2:51 PM, William Flynn Wallace <
> foozler83 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> ​dan:  Which ones? Unless I'm wildly wrong, objective standards for
>> literature and the arts in general are debated in academia and it seems the
>> view that there might not be any is held by a significant number of
>> academic, it seems to me that departments of literature are not resting on
>> that view. I didn't do any surveys here, so I might be wrong, but I'm
>> wondering where you're getting this from.​
>> ​Oh yeah, the drive to equalize everything.  Probably started in the
>> sociology department (still clinging to total environmentalism).  Or
>> cultural anthropology.  You can't say that one culture is better than
>> another one because that's just provincialism (well, yes, you can and you
>> can prove it too).​
>> ​  It's all part of the political correctness that hasn't run its course
>> yet (soon, I hope).
>> ​How can one teach ANY course without some idea of what's better than
>> something else?
> But you do see how this flies in the face of your earlier claim about
> literature departments cleaving to objective standards.
> And do you realize since you tell us there are no objective standards,
> shouldn't you be more on the side of cultural relativism here? (Not
> completely, maybe. I don't think most relativists are all that consistent
> either. I think they are usually sneaking in some absolute standards
> somewhere.)
> Where, again, are you getting all this from?
>> ​Dan, the 'given; refers to a post by Giulio, I think.  He says we just
>> like what we like and that's it by the age of 5.  But studies have shown
>> that you can learn to like different sorts of music in later life, but that
>> might very well stop around age 35.
> Oh, my mistake. I thought you were referring to my earlier email. :)
>> Why read critics?
> To better understand a work and its value or place in the scheme of
> things. I often work the other way around: I might here a work is good, but
> I don't read any detailed criticism of it. Instead, I read the work, then
> afterward read the criticism. Can't always do this, of course, and I
> confess that many works I find out because someone else said something nice
> about the work. For instance, I read a couple of novels by Thomas Bernard
> because a critic compared him to someone else I liked. (By the way, given
> your views here, DO NOT read Thomas Bernard. I'm almost certain you won't
> like his novels. I'll be amazed if I'm wrong here. But please don't read
> him and then tell me how much you hate his work.:)
>> I read some on Amazon just to see if there is anything really killer
>> about the book I might buy.  But professional critics has historically been
>> wrong an enormous number of times, and in fact why should not enjoy a book
>> I enjoy just because it doesn't meet their standards?  There are a few
>> music critics over the years on American Record Guide that reliably like
>> the things I like and if they say it's not worth my time, it usually isn't.
> Wrong in what sense? In that you didn't like their recommendations? Or in
> that you didn't agree with their analysis? And which ones again? (You never
> really name names. And you don't seem to admit what applies to one critic
> might not apply to all critics or to criticism in general.) When I read
> someone like Wayne C. Booth, whom I've mentioned earlier, I get elucidation
> on how narration works. He isn't necessarily saying, "You must read and
> enjoy _A Passage to India_ or you're not worth a bucket of spit."
> Interesting novel about Henry James and Sherlock Holmes I read sometime
>> back (sorry I don't remember the title).
>> I'd love to find a literary critic who doesn't wallow in theory and just
>> tells how much he enjoys the book, and whose likes are similar to mine.  So
>> many genres, so many books.  So little time.
> I'm not sure what you're looking for from literary criticism. Just a
> thumbs up? Well, you can read sales rankings and see how many stars a book
> gets. You can also just skim. No one's forcing you to read criticism. :)
> By the way, there are many critics who are also artists, such as Henry
> James, Virginia Woolf, Randall Jarrell, Charles Baxter, and Francine Prose.
> Regards,
> Dan

​I thought for sure I did not have to provide examples to you of people who
went on to have great careers in the arts whom critics dismissed at first -
Stravinsky and the uproar over Rite of Spring.  Some, like Alkan, were
dismissed their entire lives and were only admired far later.

All I look for in art is pleasure.  Loved reading that book; loved hearing
that sonata.  I've been known to read an author's entire output based on
one book and have rarely been wrong.  Any additional meanings are lagniappe.

See my other postings for other answers.

Yeah, thumbs up works for me.  I'll figure out the symbolism, relation to
earlier works and so forth for myself. ​

​Why read critics when you can be reading books?  Can you name names of
authors or composers that would not have encountered if not for a review?
The critics I do read are music critics in American Record Guide.  I also
read the Book Review section of the NYT, but that's all.  I pay no
attention to the critic's name - probably a mistake.  bill w​

>   Sample my Kindle books via:
> http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Ust/e/B00J6HPX8M/
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