criticism

July 6, 2019

In regard to literary review and literary criticism, Hans Magnus Enzensberger once noted, ‘it’s difficult to get excited about something that’s simply wasting away,’ before continuing, ‘Literature has again become what it was from the beginning: a minority affair.’ Enzensberger’s polemic addresses a long history of the institutionalisation of literature and its criticism via both the academy and the mass media, noting the situation, ‘Today for every poet there must be approximately sixty-six academics employed in researching and interpreting him.’ He perceives the blunting of interpretative acuity as critics and then reviewers cater to the majority’s appetite for an easily digestible and then excretable moveable feast, and then lauds the demise of said criticism whereby literature has been returned to its stalwart, proper and apparently small audience. Enzensberger’s polemic concludes with the understanding that the century or more of literature’s and literary criticism’s ascension in the mainstream is at an end and (circa 1986 when the essay was written) we might be the fortunate generation to see writers ‘wipe off the representative mask which they wore so long.’

Michael Brennan
Last words: Tranter and Rimbaud’s silence