Commonplace Book: Jacques Barzun on Criticism


Criticism, however lofty, profound, subtle, and divinatory, remains exposition and analysis; it is referential and argumentative; it is not original, creative, independent of a text or a theory.  …  Dryden, Hazlitt, Wilde, and Shaw were superb essayists, masters of a literary genre.  But they were artist-creators only when they were writing plays, poems, or novels.  These three things used to be called properly fiction–things made up; criticism is derived.  It cannot be made up without ceasing to be criticism.

“Criticism: An Art or a Craft?” (1990)

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