Toward a Pluralistic Criticism

Toward a Pluralistic Criticism

Toward a Pluralistic Criticism

Toward a Pluralistic Criticism

Excerpt

I have always held that any method which could produce the meaning of a work of literature was a legitimate method. After completing Intellectual America, which I did not regard as a work of criticism but rather as a history of ideologies, I was engaged for a time on research for subsequent volumes. Suddenly I was drawn into administration and faced with the absorbing task of creating a distinguished department of English, an assignment that called upon talents as varied as those of an accountant, a ward boss, a baseball scout, and an impressario. Fortunately, this kept me out of the critical discussions and controversies that, during two decades, forged different sharp tools for the practice of criticism. Nevertheless, I continued to write occasional essays, seizing any convenient method in a search for the author's meaning. It was only toward the end of my exacting administrative assignment that I began to think seriously about the problems of criticism. Whether from re-reading much later things I myself had written and being puzzled over what I had intended or from the answers of established authors when questions were put to them similar to the one I put to myself, and getting sense out of their generally whimsical replies ("Young lady, when I wrote that, only God and I knew what I meant, but now only God knows"), I came to the conclusion that, after all, the critic's task was not to get the author's meaning (for even if the author lived and was voluble, there was small chance of that), but to procure a . . .

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