traditional criticism and common sense.docx
TRADITIONAL CRITICISM AND COMMON SENSE
Common Sense Criticism In Common sense criticism, Catherine Belsey starts by quoting a passage from David Lodge’s novel, Changing Places, through which she presents a teacher-student discussion about writing novels and how each of them perceive literature. Thus, the author defines how literature is generally perceived by readers as common sense view of
literature, suggesting that the practice of reading
is made in quest of
expressive realism, offering by valuable writings the truth about the period that produced them, about the author or about world in general. Common sense is also characterized by terms obvious and natural, canceling a selfconscious and deliberate practice, for this reason this theory is respectable to some degree peripheral area, as a distinct discipline and it can be used by readers which have no connection
with the practice of reading itself. To some diehards, this method can be
misleading because they are in danger of losing direct contact with the text.
The New Theories Next chapter proposes a new assumption of common sense, identifying it as a “poststructuralist” linguistic theory, or in a more complex form as a Post-Saussurean theory, which promotes the authority of common sense itself, the collective and timeless wisdom which seems to be the source and guarantee of everything we take for granted. This theory also consist in the fact that common sense is rooted in a specific historical situation and it can be understood as an ideology which operates with a particular social formation, the “obvious” and the “natural” are produced by the way in which a society talks and thinks. Post-Saussurean work, taking into account here the famous theorists Roland Barthes, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser and Jacques Derrida argued contrary to the concept of realism, saying that the individual mind or inner being is the source of meaning and truth. In this context, assuming the ideas proposed by the author, it is untenable because the framework of assumptions and knowledge, ways of thinking, probing and analyzing that it was based on, no longer stands. Although, in practice, commonsense proves its inadequacy by its incoherences, resembling so much with the world which is also incoherent and non-explicative. This
problem can be effaced by empiricist common sense, claiming that the real task of a critic is to get on with the reading process, to respond directly to the text. The language that is used every day by its speakers includes the common sense, also proving that is not transparent by the possibility of constructing a world of distinct individuals and things, and differentiating between them.
Opacity Post Saussurian theory also support that that literature cannot be read only by familiar assumptions and values, so the text will be characterised by opacity, but by new concepts and new theories. Althusser, a representant of Post- Saussurian theorists, used the term ideology to characterise the experience of the world, which is unconscious precisely in that is unquestioned, taken for granted. Belsey also assumes that term, associating it with common sense. Ideology is inscribed in language in the sense that it becomes a way of speaking, thinking, experiencing. Opacity manifests in language by the fact that new theories are inaccessible because their vocabulary are too complicated or the readers do not make the effort to understand them.
The Project The project of the book, as the author labelled this chapter, is to make the new theories more accessible for the readers by transcribing them in language every day. She does not evade the post-Saussurean terminology, using it as a basis for a new critical practice. On the next few lines, Belsey presents some of the propositions of common sense, including that it urges that “man” is the origin and source of meaning, of action and history (humanism), our concepts are held to be the product of experience (empiricism), and this experience is preceded and interpreted by the mind, reason or thought (idealism). These propositions constitute a practice of reading which assumes the theory of expressive realism.
Expressive realism Expressive realism represents the theory that
literature reflects the reality of
experience, and it is perceived by one individual, who expresses this perception in a text which enables other individuals to recognize its truth. It is resulted from the fusion of Aristotelean concept of art as mimesis, the imitation of reality, with the new Romantic conviction that poetry expressed the perceptions and emotions of a person. This theory belongs to the 19th and 20th centuries, but it had become widely established in relation to literature and painting. It had a greater impact on painting, particularly landscape painting, found its major post-Romantic theorist in John Ruskin, who thinks that the artist must both represent faithfully the objects portrayed, and expressed the thoughts and feelings they evoke in him or her. By portraying a part of nature, which is universally pleasing, painter will only be met and understood by persons having some sort of sympathy with him. In order to avoid this difficulty, Ruskin’s criticism will concentrate first on the question of truth to nature, which will be characterised by mimetic accuracy in all forms of art, thus “nothing can atone for the want of truth”. Ruskin also separate “the representation of facts” from “the separation of thoughts” because the world may perceived and represented in different ways, without either way being simply false, and that, like nature, the work of art too may be read in different ways by different spectators. By the 1960, expressive-realism had been subjected to a series of theoretical attacks, from the Russian formalists, the Prague semioticians and also by the New Critics and Northrop Frye, for which the expressive-realist presuppositions are, in the discussion of the proper place in criticism, newly articulated with a certain defensive edge. Brabara Hardy, one of the critics of this theory, believe that expressive-realism depends on certain specific assumptions. It assumes the existence of a story, views and experiences in the mind of a novelist, prior to and independent of the formulation of them, all this elements composing narrative form. Another important critic of this period is F. R. Leavis, suggests in “Henry James and the Function of Criticism” that the novels he most admires are praised for “the vivid concreteness of the rendering of this world of individual centres of consciousness we live in” (231). Leavis’s criticism recurring in general a slippage from text through he manifests itself in a characteristic way of formulating his observations. Over time, the assumptions of expressive realism are perpetuated in the observations
and practices of some writers, reviewers, and even English departments. The text can be understood in terms of the author’s ideas, psychological state or social background, for this reason the books about authors often begin with a brief biography. The expressive-realist position challenges a number of problems on the formulation of the ideas, the meaning of the term “realism”, the relationship between a text and the world, ways of perceiving the world represented or to what extent is experience contained by language, society and history. All this challenges to expressive realism are discussed by Catherine Belsey in one of the next chapters of her book.
Work cited: Catherine Belsey, Critical Practice (1980). London and New York: Routledge, 2002.