Dyer on Academic Lit Crit

In Anglo-English Attitudes Geoff Dyer writes of his repulsion for academic literary criticism, particularly of Theory and its advocates. Terry Eagleton is singled out as an odious example. It is harsh, but I agree with the distrust of literary critics that are incapable of producing art of their own.

Dyer argues that:

If you want to see how literature lives then you turn to writers, and see what they’ve said about each other, either in essays, reviews, in letters or journals – and in the works themselves. ‘The best readings of art are art,’ said George Steiner (an academic!); the great books add up to a tacit ‘syllabus of enacted criticism.’ This becomes explicit when poets write a poem about some great work of art – Auden’s ‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ – or about another poet: Auden’s elegy for Yeats, Brodsky’s elegy for Auden, Heaney’s elegy for Brodsky (the cleverly titled ‘Audenesque’). In such instances the distinction between imaginative and critical writing disappears.


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