The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays

The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays

The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays

The Charted Mirror: Literary and Critical Essays

Excerpt

The parts of this book are intended to make a balanced collection as between criticism of verse, criticism of prose, and discussion of some of the guiding ideas of criticism itself. A consequence of this is that most of the essays in Part One and Part Two put into practice ideas which are advanced more generally in Part Three; or conversely, mark out in a given case the limitations of ideas which are called into question in that Part. It would be wrong, however, to look for more than a certain definite though limited degree of connexion between the two sides of the book. The multiplicity of tasks which critical discussion can undertake, and the always decisive importance of what is distinctive in the particular instance, mean that to think of 'putting theories into practice' would be out of place. Rather, it is a question of exploring, in particular or in general, how any guiding idea with which the critic may equip himself, any question which he comes recurrently to ask about what he reads, is likely to open up certain parts' of his particular subject, but certain parts only. Illumination is always from a certain angle, and of a certain kind. It cannot easily throw one thing into relief, without throwing another into shadow. In part, the mirror which the critic must 'chart' is that in himself which forms an image of the work he studies. It is no unrelieved or flawless plane, but complex and partly personal, both magnifying and diminishing, in accordance with all that makes up his outlook, guiding ideas, and general approach.

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