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Archive for July 15th, 2006


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X-posted to Long Sunday

Michael Wood, in Children of Silence:

Auden thought a critic had an obligation to declare his or her idea of Eden, because the pleasure of a work of art, at the moment of enjoyment, is our pleasure and not someone else’s:

So long as a man writes poetry or fiction, his dream of Eden is his own business, but the moment he starts writing literary criticism, honesty demands that he describe it to his readers, so that they may be in the position to judge his judgments,

Or even just to look at the critic’s assumptions, I’m inclined to believe that writers of any kind do in fact declare their dream of Eden, whether they set out to or not – at least in implication, and for those readers who care to find it. And I’m not sure that their dream of Eden is the first thing I want to know about a critic, or anyone else. I might want to know about their idea of affection, or their notion of cruelty. But then perhaps these things are already contained in the dream of Eden.

Auden pursued his game quite literally, that is, follow out the metaphor with entire owlish seriousness. He wanted to know what Eden would look like and how it would be ruled, and grouped his questions under these headings: landscape, climate, ethnic origin of inhabitants, language, weights and measures, religion, size of capital, form of government, sources of natural power, economic activities, means of transport, architecture, domestic furniture and equipment, formal dress, sources of public information, public statues , public entertainments.

Wood wisely steps away from the game soon after trying a few questions on for size. Are you wise enough to do the same?

I’m not…

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July 15, 2006 at 2:33 am

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