12 November 2008

Age of Anxiety

by Dan Fox
Published in frieze Issue 114 April 2008

Would the critic be more productive writing in the morning rather than at night? Is the critic happy working at home, or do they prefer libraries and quiet caf├ęs? Are the critic’s interpretative faculties sharpened by strong coffee, or is the glass of cheap red they are drinking easing them into a suitable frame of mind? Does the critic feel that putting Gustav Mahler on the stereo has set the right mood for their task? Perhaps Jay-Z is better? Would the critic prefer to be writing on a Mac rather than their temperamental old PC? To what extent does the missing letter ‘q’ on the PC’s keyboard affect the critic’s choice of words? Is the Internet a constant distraction for the critic? As the critic once again consults Wikipedia, does a small voice in their head chide them for losing touch with traditional research skills? How heavily does the anxiety of influence weigh on the critic?

More.

22 October 2008

A five-star experience

Theatre critic Michael Billington explains why he stepped out of his comfort zone to try his hand at directing some of Harold Pinter's most challenging works.

"Colleagues have variously described me as mad, foolhardy or brave to step out of the critical comfort zone. But I don't quite see it like that. It seems to me absurd that people driven by a hunger for theatre should be confined to little boxes from which they can never escape. The roles of the director and critic overlap. In both cases, the prime task is to discern an author's intention and to interpret it as clearly as possible. The big difference is that the critic does it with words, whereas the director engages in a collaborative process with actors, designers, and lighting and sound experts. What we are all trying to do is get to the root of the text."

Article in The Guardian.

17 October 2008

Why I Blog

by Andrew Sullivan

For centuries, writers have experimented with forms that evoke the imperfection of thought, the inconstancy of human affairs, and the chastening passage of time. But as blogging evolves as a literary form, it is generating a new and quintessentially postmodern idiom that’s enabling writers to express themselves in ways that have never been seen or understood before. Its truths are provisional, and its ethos collective and messy. Yet the interaction it enables between writer and reader is unprecedented, visceral, and sometimes brutal. And make no mistake: it heralds a golden era for journalism.

Article here.

25 September 2008

The Personal and the Individual (Leonard Michaels)

Nothing should be easier than talking about ways in which I write about myself, but I find it isn’t easy at all. Indeed, I want to say before anything else that a great problem for me, in writing about myself, is how not to write merely about myself. I think the problem is very common among writers even if they are unaware of it. Basic elements of writing–diction, grammar, tone, imagery, the patterns of sound made by your sentences–will say a good deal about you (whether you are conscious of it or not) so that it is possible for you to be writing about yourself before you even know you are writing about yourself. Regardless of your subject, these basic elements, as well as countless and immeasurable qualities of mind, are at play in your writing and will make your presence felt to a reader as palpably as your handwriting. You virtually write your name, as it were, before you literally sign your name, every time you write.

Read more in Partisan Review 1/ 2001 VOLUME LXVIII NUMBER 1

Selected further reading (first meeting):

Encyclopaedia of the Essay, ed. Tracy Chevalier
Michel de Montaigne: ”On the art of conversation” (from The Complete Essays)
Leigh Hunt, "Getting Up on Cold Mornings" (1820)
Virginia Woolf: A Room of One’s Own (1929)
Theodor W. Adorno “The Essay as Form”, Notes to Literature, volume one. Trans. Sherry Weber Nicholsen. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, 3-4.
E.B. White
”Once More to the Lake” (1941)
Annie Dillard, ”Living Like Weasels” (1974)
Roland Barthes, The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 1962-80, trans. Linda Coverdale, (Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1991)

Nick Kaye, Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (London, Routledge, 2000)

David Foster Wallace, ”Consider the Lobster” (2004)

Introduction to Critical Writing (WIRE workshop)

Rolf Hughes
September 2008

Workshop 1:
History of the essay
Aristotle: Poetics: Longinus: On the Sublime; Plutarch: Moralia; Seneca: Moral Essays.
John Dryden: An Essay of Dramatic Poesy; Michel de Montaigne: The Essays; Richard Steele & Joseph Addison Spectator (1711-12, 1714); Dr. Samuel Johnson Lives of the English Poets (1779-81); Denis Diderot; Voltaire; Rousseau; Charles Lamb’s Essays of Elia; William Hazlitt; Leigh Hunt; Matthew Arnold; Thomas Carlyle; Oscar Wilde; F.R. Leavis; Virginia Woolf; Henry James; Lionel Trilling; publications including Edinburgh Magazine and Review (1773-76), Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Quarterly Review, Scrutiny (1932-53), the Paris Review (1953–), the Times Literary Supplement (1902–), the New Yorker ((1925–), contemporary blogs.

Workshop 2
Forms of criticism
Why is there Genre and not Literature instead?
Creative and Critical Writing

Forms of the essay include: The five-paragraph essay; Academic essays; Descriptive; Narrative; Exemplification; Comparison and Contrast; Cause and Effect; Classification and division; Definition; Dialectic; Dialogue. See also Non-literary essays in Visual Arts, Music, Film, Photography etc.
Related forms (see photocopies): Aphorism; Character Sketch; Dialogue; Journal; Letter; Personal Essay; Philosophical Essay; Propaganda.

Workshop 3
After criticism?
The site(s) of writing
Discussion of assignment responses

The Personal and the Individual (Leonard Michaels)

Nothing should be easier than talking about ways in which I write about myself, but I find it isn’t easy at all. Indeed, I want to say before anything else that a great problem for me, in writing about myself, is how not to write merely about myself. I think the problem is very common among writers even if they are unaware of it. Basic elements of writing–diction, grammar, tone, imagery, the patterns of sound made by your sentences–will say a good deal about you (whether you are conscious of it or not) so that it is possible for you to be writing about yourself before you even know you are writing about yourself. Regardless of your subject, these basic elements, as well as countless and immeasurable qualities of mind, are at play in your writing and will make your presence felt to a reader as palpably as your handwriting. You virtually write your name, as it were, before you literally sign your name, every time you write.

Read more in Partisan Review 1/ 2001 VOLUME LXVIII NUMBER 1

21 January 2008

Q&A with VV art critic Christian Viveros-Faune, part III

A MAN Q&A with Village Voice art critic Christian Viveros-Faune, continued from part one and from part two...

MAN: You're a managing director of a commercial art fair, Volta, and an organizer of another commercial art fair, Chicago's Next fair. At the same time you're a writer, a journalist, you're the art critic for the Village Voice. Why isn't that the most basic kind of conflict of interest?

Christian Viveros-Faune:
I think essentially, because, I believe you can wear a lot of hats in the art world, and one needs to because, among other things, critics can't survive on the money that they make from writing. Very few critics can. And, not only that, but I'm interested in curating, and I firmly believe that there is no interest in the art world without a conflict of interest.
Now, that may seem counterintuitive, and it is, but I would argue that the art world is counterintuitive in the extreme. In what other industry, for example, does one of the major magazines that chronicles both the creative and the business end of the art world establish an art fair of the same name. Obviously, I'm talking about Frieze.
And that's nothing. Examine, for second, the practice of writing catalog essays. You know and I know that there is no such thing as a negative catalog essay and the reason for that is obvious: one way critics make money is by writing promotional copy for galleries and, hopefully, artists they like or love. And then there's the business of curators and critics slinging their asses around to universities and institutions for speaking engagements.
Shall I go on? I mean, again, what I'm arguing for here is honesty all the way around. Like every other business (or form of writing or discipline for that matter) this is not a pristine business, no matter what the NY Times rules of engagement say. It is full of peaks and valleys. I'm honest about my climbing those peaks and going down into those valleys. Maybe that makes me stupid, I don't know. What I do know is it doesn't affect my ethics when I write. I'd rather not write about the market, because weirdly enough, it doesn't interest me much.

More.

If this Space is For Rent, Who Will Move In?

From Modernist to Postmodernist Forms of Criticism -- Criticism as Art or Advertisement?
by Menachem Feuer
in 1000 Days of Theory: td034
Date Published: 2/22/2006
www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=506
Arthur and Marilouise Kroker, Editors

Writing years in advance of television and the internet, Walter Benjamin's vision of the future places the new sensibility created by mechanical reproduction at the forefront of modernity. The most important aspect of this sensibility is the radical immediacy it lodges into the heart of modern life. Benjamin understood, quite clearly, that all aspects of life would be affected by this immediacy in a way quite similar to Karl Marx's vision of capitalism in terms of an ecological (read: total) change of society. The danger of such a change, as Benjamin and Marx understood it (both understood capitalism as creating social and cognitive changes), was the threat of homogenization and mindless consumerism. Indeed, Benjamin's colleague at the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, believed the "culture industry" turned everyone into consumers and foreclosed the possibility of thought and heterogeneity.[2] Benjamin took a much different approach, instructive for us in our post 9/11 crisis culture wherein homogeneity is circulated by reducing the world to a Manichean struggle between democracy and terror. He argued that, rather than taking a position that merely reacts to the media, intellectuals should imitate it and use its strengths in the name of revolution and heterogeneity. For this reason, he argued that criticism should incorporate aspects of film and, strangely enough, the most open media expression of capitalism: the advertisement.

More.

Writing, scholarship and the catalogue

"The typical work of modern scholarship is intended to be read like a catalogue. But when shall we actually write books like catalogues? If the deficient content were thus to determine the outward form, an excellent piece of writing would result, in which the value of opinions would be marked without their being thereby put on sale."
Walter Benjamin, 'Teaching Aid' in One-Way Street, Selected Writings, p. 457, OWS p. 63f