Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Criticism and theory and tools and machines

Here's an elegant little piece from William Deresiewicz's workbench about criticism and theory and tools and machines. The pith of it:

It occurred to me, eventually, that if criticism is a set of tools, theory is a series of machines. Tool-work—craft—which responds to both the grain of the material and the sensitivity of the guiding hand, is always unpredictable, always unique, and always bears the traces of the craftsperson. Machine-work—manufacture—is always predictable, uniform, and impersonal. You just feed the lumber into the mill. Tools extend the human; machines replace it. And that’s exactly what literary theory does: the work goes missing; the author, famously, is dead; and art, the highest expression of the human, is effaced.

Nice, eh?!