Thursday, December 16, 2010

What according to Eliot is the function of criticism ? Comment on "creative" and "critical" criticism. T.S. Eliot

Eliot defines criticism as, "the commentation and exposition of works of art by means of written words ". Criticism always has one and only one defmitie end, and that end is, "elucidation of works of art and the correction of taste." In his essay The Frontiers of Criticism, he further explains the aim of criticism as, "the promotion of understanding and enjoyment of literature."

Since the end of criticism is clear and well-defined, it should be easy to determine whether a critic has performed his function well or not. However, this is not such an easy task. The difficulty arises from the fact that critics, instead of trying to discipline their personal prejudces and whims and composing their differences with as many of their fellow critic as possible and co-operating in the common pursuit of true judgment, express extreme views and vehemently assert their individuality, i.e. the ways in which they differ from others. This is so because they owe their livelihood to such differences and oddities. As a result criticism, has become likeaSunday Park full of oratoes competing with each other to attract as large an audience as possible. Such critics are a worthless lot of no value and significance. However, there are certain other critics who are useful, and it is on the basis of their works, that Eliot establishes the aims and methods of criticism which should be followed by all.
Eliot deals with the problem of criticism in all its manifold aspects. In the very beginning, he comments upon the terms 'critical' and 'creative'. He ridicules Matthew Arnold for having distinguished rather bluntly between the 'critical' and the 'creative' activity. He does not realise that criticism is of capital importance in the work of creation. As a matter of ract, "the large part of the labour of an author in composing his work is ritical labour; the labour of sifting, combining, constructing, expunging, correcting, testing". Eliot further expresses the view that the criticism employed by a writer on his own work is the most vital and the highest kind of criticism. Elsewhere, Eliot calls such criticism, 'workshop criticism.' Its high worth and value cannot be defined, for a poet who knows from personal experience the mysteries of the creative process is in a better position to write about it than those who have no such knowledge. Eliot goes to the extent of saying that some creative writers are superior to others only because their critical faculty is superior. He ridicules those who decry the critical toil of the artist, and hold the view that the greater artist is an unconscious artist. He commends those who, .stead of relaying on the 'Inner voice' or 'inspiration', conform to tradition, and in this way try to make their works as free from defects as possible.
According to Eliot it is a mistake to separate critical and creative activities. A large part of creation is in reality criticism. But critical writing cannot be creative. There can be creative criticism. Creative criticism is neither criticism nor creation. This is so because there is a fundamental difference between creation and criticism. Creation of a work of art, has no conscious aims and other than itself. In other words, it isnotanautotelic activity, its aim being the commentation and elucidation of works of art. Hence it is that we cannot fuse creation with criticism as we can fuse criticism with creation. The critical activity finds its highest fulfilment when it is fused with creation, with the labour of the artist.

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