The Roving Critic

The Roving Critic

The Roving Critic

The Roving Critic

Excerpt

Criticism ordinarily asks about literature one of three questions: "Is it good?" "Is it true?" "Is it beautiful?" Each of these questions, of course, permits the widest range in the critic. He may be so simple as to think a given work is not good when it fails to emphasize some truism or when it violates the sort of poetic justice which children in the nursery are mistaught to expect; he may be so complex as to demand from literature the subtlest casuistries concerning moral problems; he may be so perverse as to wince at the first symptom of any plain contrast between good and evil. If it be the true which exercises him, he may sink so low as to be worried over this or that surface error in his author--such as an anachronism or a blunder in botany or mechanics; he may rise so high as to discuss on an equal plane with a great authority the difficult questions what the nature of truth may be or whether there is after all any such thing as truth. Or, holding beauty uppermost in his mind, he may at the one extreme peck at a masterpiece because it departs from some traditional form or at the other extreme may view it under the light of an eternity of beauty and feel satisfied if he can perceive and identify the masterpiece's peculiar reflection. Yet wide as these ranges are, they can all be reduced to the three questions and they mark what may be called the three dimensions of criticism.

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