Criticism: The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment

By Mark Schorer; Gordon McKenzie et al. | Go to book overview

maintain. Yet the Freudian man is, I venture to think, a creature of far more dignity and far more interest than the man which any other modern system has been able to conceive. Despite popular belief to the contrary, man, as Freud conceives him, is not to be understood by any simple formula (such as sex) but is rather an inextricable tangle of culture and biology. And not being simple, he is not simply good; he has, as Freud says somewhere, a kind of hell within him from which rise everlastingly the impulses which threaten his civilization. He has the faculty of imagining for himself more in the way of pleasure and satisfaction than he can possibly achieve. Everything that he gains he pays for in more than equal coin; compromise and the compounding with defeat constitute his best way of getting through the world. His best qualities are the result of a struggle whose outcome is tragic. Yet he is a creature of love; it is Freud's sharpest criticism of the Adlerian psychology that to aggression it gives everything and to love nothing at all.

What one senses always in Freud is how little cynicism there is in his thought, his desire for man is only that he should be human and to this end his science is devoted. No view of life to which the artist responds can insure the quality of his work--how true this is can be proved from the innumerable novels made up of Freudian tags--but the poetic qualities of Freud's own principles, which are so clearly in the line of the classic tragic realism, suggest that this is a view which does not narrow and simplify the human world for the artist but, on the contrary, opens and complicates it.


ALLEN TATE: Hardy's Philosophic Metaphors*

AFTER Thomas Hardy had become a great literary figure on the British model--that is to say, a personage to whom one makes pilgrimages--criticism of his works languished: once the battle over the obscenity of Jude and the pessimism of his "philosophy" had been won, nobody had very much to say, except that one admired him. So far as I know, only two critical works on Hardy exist: Lionel Johnson fine study of the novels, The Art of Thomas Hardy, which, first published in 1894, appeared before Hardy was known as a poet; and Lascelles Abercrombie's Thomas Hardy, a book of considerable value for the criticism of the novels but of not much use for the poetry. One must add to these works the excellent essay, "The Poetry of Thomas Hardy," by J. E. Barton, which appears as an appendix to the John Lane edition of Johnson book ( 1923). The centennial biography, Hardy of Wessex, by C. J. Weber , no doubt adds to our store of facts about Hardy; yet Mr. Weber's critical ineptitude contributes little to our understanding of either the poetry or the novels.

For two reasons I have wished to make this comment upon the critics of Hardy's poetry: they have given us very little to start with, and their assertion of Hardy's greatness as a poet is worse than nothing to start with. I do not in tend in this commentary to deny the "greatness" of Hardy's poetry, nor to deny meaning to the pious enthusiasm of two generations of devoted readers, among whom intermittently I count myself. But I do think at the same time that the enthusiasm is partly sentimental; it implies an equivocal judgment of both the poetry and the man. It is sentimental because it does not distinguish man from poet or tell us upon what terms we may talk about them together. We have here in the case of Hardy--though for no

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*
"Hardy's Philosophic Metaphors" first appeared in The Southern Review, Summer 1941, and was included in the book of essays, Reason in Madness, Copyright, 1941, by Allen Tate. It is reprinted here by courtesy of G. P. Putnam Sons. Mr. Tate (b. 1899) is also the author of Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas ( 1936).

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