Pretexts Reflections on Literature and Morality

Pretexts Reflections on Literature and Morality

Pretexts Reflections on Literature and Morality

Pretexts Reflections on Literature and Morality

Excerpt

The ancient opposition between creator and critic no longer prevails in tutored minds. The examples of Goethe, Coleridge, Poe, Baudelaire, and more recently, of Valéry and Eliot have shown conclusively that the creative and critical faculties can cohabit harmoniously. Today no one contests the justice of Baudelaire's statement in his Art romantique that "It would be an un- heard-of event in the history of the arts for a critic to become a poet, a reversal of all psychic laws, a monstrosity. On the other hand, through a natural development, all great poets eventually become critics. . . . It would be stupendous for a critic to become a poet, and it is impossible for a poet not to contain a critic. Hence the reader will not be shocked that I look upon the poet as the best of all critics." As Baudelaire's application of the term "poet" to Wagner and Delacroix makes clear, he called any maker, any creator in whatever art, a poet, always careful to spell the name with a dieresis rather than a grave accent to indicate its particular nobility.

In the same spirit, André Gide--who quoted part of Baudelaire's statement as an epigraph to his essay on Paul Valéry--could confidently state elsewhere: "Criticism is at the base of all art." Partly because Gide himself produced so much critical work and partly because, like every great artist, he never failed to temper his lyricism with an almost infallible critical sense, Gide belongs in the tradition of the Goethes, Baudelaires, and Eliots--in the tradition of the creator-critics.

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