Why crrritics must have no taste ~ theatre notes

Monday, March 22, 2010

Why crrritics must have no taste

For your Monday morning rumination: a thought provoking post on criticism from Maladjusted. It syncs very well with my long-held view that opinion (what Robert Brustein calls "Himalaya criticism") is the least of criticism. An excerpt (emphasis mine):

Good criticism (of art, of music or whatever) has something in common with good philosophical and theological debate, both of which have nothing to do with the ‘I’ll name your beliefs and you name yours’ game which makes people rightly think that argument about things on which people have different proclivities is a kind of social disorder. After all, both philosophy and theology have their raison d’etre in uncertainty (which is why religious fundamentalists tend to hate theology as either dangerous sophistry or feeble equivocating). However, this doesn’t necessarily lead either philosophers or theologians to quietistic silence, mysticism or hand-waving. On the contrary, the fact that truth may be ultimately elusive, has never stopped anyone but the most bloodlessly indifferent people from thinking that it shouldn’t be sought, or reaching Socrates’ conclusion that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living.

…at the heart of criticism, there is always something apart from our desire to express to others who we are. Instead, there is a fascination with the object, with the thing that made us start writing, with music or art or literature (as a region in which certain beings, certain strange and shining creatures can appear to us in certain ways). It involves an implicit belief (and most beliefs are implicit) that there is something revealed to us in music, intimated in art, given to us in the things that we most appreciate, but obscured in the things that we do not. In this sense, a good critic is someone who lacks the glibness of the way we normally rack up tastes: she’s someone who wants to try and give voice to the strange language of the things that she’s witnessed, to act in fidelity to the truths that she has endured.


Kerryn Goldsworthy said...


Maladjusted said...

Dear Alison.


To receive such kind words from both you and the redoubtable Anwyn (of "Popular Demand") I really must have poured appropriate libations to the gods this morning.

Thank you so much for the link; and for the opportunity to discover your delightful blog.

Best wishes,


Alison Croggon said...

My pleasure, Mal. (I found you through Anwyn, in fact). And thank you for so precisely describing something that I've never been able to quite articulate!

Janet Watson Kruse said...

Brilliant! That's why I love your blog, Alison. It's the only blog I follow, to be honest. I find an enthusiasm & passion for the theatre, and it's also so scholarly that I always learn a great deal, and feel like I'm part of a greater community of dialogue. I'm an actor myself - this is how criticism should be!

I saw a really good production last week of As You Like It set in the 80s New Romantic scene which may well interest you: The Husk Theatre Company's first show in Heidelberg Road. Very tight and fun, lots of movement and some kooky dancing. And no, they're not my mates who have put me up to telling you, although I did know one of the ten cast members. Worth a look.

Take care & keep blogging

Alison Croggon said...

Hey, thanks Janet!

My theatre diet is limiting me to (ideally) two shows a week (though lately it's been working out to three). I'm being stern tho because otherwise all the different mes fall to bits. So I'll miss the New Romantics, sadly by the sound of the things...