[Milton-L] finding the bad in what you find good

Richard A. Strier rastrier at uchicago.edu
Sat Apr 16 13:14:23 EDT 2016


Just for the record, I want to say that I think the "Polemical Introduction" to Frye's Anatomy by far the worst and least useful part of the book.  I am tempted to instruct my students simply to razor it out and go on to the good stuff, his comments on actual literary works, structures, and traditions.

Johnson is alway, as Eliot says, worth contending with, even when one thinks he is wrong.  And Yvor Winters, our modern Johnson, is a wonderful critic, from whom I have learned a great deal.  Again, always worth contending with.

RS
________________________________________
From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu [milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu] on behalf of Carrol Cox [cbcox at ilstu.edu]
Sent: Saturday, April 16, 2016 8:00 AM
To: 'John Milton Discussion List'
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] finding the bad in what you find good

When the discussion turns to either "X is good" or "X is bad" I tend to
return in my memory to the "Polemical Introduction" of Northrop Frye's
_Anatomy of Criticism_. "Evaluation" is simply not a very interesting
critical mode. Moreover, no one ever bothers to prove that some piece of
newspaper verse is "bad"; silence is the mode for negative criticism. Check
out Twain's "Sweet Singer of Michigan"; do you really want to spend time
"proving" that she was as bad as Twain believed she was? "Who breaks a
butterfly upon a wheel?"

Moreover,  attempts at negative evaluation of a text raise a prior question:
What difference does it makes if someone sits delighting in a poem that
someone else thinks is bad? Did "It takes a heap o' learning" cause death
and destruction?

Carrol

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