He was sensitive to Hobbes’s and Locke’s investigations in philosophy and psychology, and in following them he expressed attitudes that found fulfillment in romantic critical theory. Repeatedly he invoked the principle of uniformity: the assumption, fundamental to neoclassical theory, that men are everywhere alike . I love this piece because it offers an instance and vision of criticism as an inspired art, not simply an appraisal or a value judgment.It takes a book as its occasion, but its discussion of what that book does (or doesn’t do) ventures into such exquisitely soulful territory—thinking about identity, intimacy, and marginalized voices—that I couldn’t possibly do it justice here.By its close, it has swelled into a beautiful ode to surprising and enduring forms of spinster community: full of black-eyed peas and repaid student loans (also a one-eyed Chihuahua! In its reach and its heart, this piece not only illuminates criticism as passionate conversation—the creative act as utterance, the critical act as response—it also explodes any limited notion of “negative” criticism as a destructive act.The latter essays, summarizing theories that anticipate romanticism, are as psychological in their concern with the experience of art as the essays on Paradise Lost are formalistic, preoccupied with the structure of the poem and its resemblance to other epics.
There is the same fetishistic interest in variant performances and the same concern for the artist’s preservation from commercial interference.
The fan becomes proficient in FLAC and Bit Torrent; the critic learns about copy-text and the Hinman collator.
You follow Sufjan to Denison Witmer, and you follow Melville to Richard Henry Dana Jr.
I have wondered about my beloveds’ personal lives and inspected their songs for hints of autobiography.
If a love of mine sings a song by another musician, I buy that musician’s album too, and try to like it.