Fall 1950 • Vol. XII No. 4 My Credo: A Symposium of Critics |

II. The Critic as Man of Feeling

At the basis is pathos. Sympathy and empathy—feeling with and feeling into: these are the essential psycho-physical processes without which all criticism is null and dull. It follows from this that there are no immutable canons of criticism, no perfect critics. Criticism is good and sane when there is a meeting of intention and appreciation. There is then an act of recognition, and any worthwhile criticism begins with that reaction. Recognition is inhibited by constitutional limitations in the critic. These may be defects of sensibility (e.g., insensibility to the sensuous quality of words) or imperfect sympathy due to pathological inhibitions. Contrast the critical reactions of two such eminent critics as John Ruskin and Lord Acton to the same author—George Eliot. (Ruskin on The Mill on the Floss: "There is not a single person in the book of the smallest importance to anybody in the world but themselves, or whose qualities deserved so much as a line of printer's type in

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Herbert Read (1893-1968) was a poet, critic, captain in the British Army, and an anarchist. He argued for an organic approach to art and literature and published many critical works concerning the philosophy of art. Read was knighted in 1953 and spent his later years as a writer, teacher, and publisher.

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At the basis is pathos. Sympathy and empathy—feeling with and feeling into: these are the essential psycho-physical processes without which all criticism is null and dull. It follows from this […]

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