The Critic
in Spite of Himself

. . . a great deal of the best and most
sensible criticism of any age is necessarily
absurd
.

RANDALL JARRELL

RANDALL JARRELL HAS had the last word on criticism. No one can improve on his blissful condemnation of the modern critic and the special languages and vested interests of criticism. No one has tried harder to curb some of the critic's wasteful activity. But whether he has done any good is hard to say; Jarrell is himself such a fine critic (at least when I can agree with him) that he may father a whole new family of critical minds. If he does, and if they are truly writers and not just "machines of sensibility," we may be able to see an end to the age of criticism, as he calls it. This is not very likely. We are indeed in the age of criticism and one can hardly put an end to the criticism without putting an end to the age.

I am one of that innumerable tribe of poets who was drawn into criticism at that tender age when one has published his first poems in a respectable place. I now look back on my initiation into criticism as something of a tribal investiture, for it was this ceremony that turned my hand to prose. As a writer of prose I eventually became an editor, which is to say a big

-3-

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In Defense of Ignorance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • To the Reader ix
  • The Critic In Spite of Himself 3
  • T. S. Eliot: the Death Of Literary Judgment 35
  • Ezra Pound: the Scapegoat Of Modern Poetry 61
  • W. B. Yeats: Trial By Culture 87
  • The Retreat of W. H. Auden 115
  • William Carlos Williams: The True Contemporary 143
  • Dylan Thomas 171
  • The First White Aboriginal 187
  • The Jewish Writer In America 205
  • Poets and Psychologists 219
  • The Unemployed Magician 239
  • What is Not Poetry? 263
  • Poets of the Cosmic Consciousness 287
  • The Greatest Living Author 313
  • About the Author *
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