July 11, 1930 |
Bronx, New York
|Occupation||Literary critic, writer, professor|
|Literary movement||Aestheticism, Romanticism|
|Spouse||Jeanne Gould (m. 1958; 2 children)|
I would say that there is no future for literary studies as such in the United States.
All that a critic, as critic, can give poets is the deadly encouragement that never ceases to remind them of how heavy their inheritance is.
What is supposed to be the very essence of Judaism – which is the notion that it is by study that you make yourself a holy people – is nowhere present in Hebrew tradition before the end of the first or the beginning of the second century of the Common Era.
What I think I have in common with the school of deconstruction is the mode of negative thinking or negative awareness, in the technical, philosophical sense of the negative, but which comes to me through negative theology.
Criticism in the universities, I'll have to admit, has entered a phase where I am totally out of sympathy with 95% of what goes on. It's Stalinism without Stalin.
If they wish to alleviate the sufferings of the exploited classes, let them live up to their pretensions, let them abandon the academy and go out there and work politically and economically and in a humanitarian spirit.
The world gets older, without getting either better or worse and so does literature. But I do think that the drab current phenomenon that passes for literary studies in the university will finally provide its own corrective.
What we call a poem is mostly what is not there on the page. The strength of any poem is the poems that it has managed to exclude.
I don't believe in myths of decline or myths of progress, even as regards the literary scene.
I have never believed that the critic is the rival of the poet, but I do believe that criticism is a genre of literature or it does not exist.
The second, and I think this is the much more overt and I think it is the main cause, I have been increasingly demonstrating or trying to demonstrate that every possible stance a critic, a scholar, a teacher can take towards a poem is itself inevitably and necessarily poetic.
Indeed the three prophecies about the death of individual art are, in their different ways, those of Hegel, Marx, and Freud. I don't see any way of getting beyond those prophecies.
Criticism starts – it has to start – with a real passion for reading. It can come in adolescence, even in your twenties, but you must fall in love with poems.
We read deeply for varied reasons, most of them familiar: that we cannot know enough people profoundly enough; that we need to know ourselves better; that we require knowledge, not just of self and others, but of the way things are.
In the finest critics one hears the full cry of the human. They tell one why it matters to read.
But in the end, in the end one is alone. We are all of us alone. I mean I'm told these days we have to consider ourselves as being in society… but in the end one knows one is alone, that one lives at the heart of a solitude.
The world does not get to be a better or a worse place; it just gets more senescent.
In fact, it is Shakespeare who gives us the map of the mind. It is Shakespeare who invents Freudian Psychology. Freud finds ways of translating it into supposedly analytical vocabulary.
No poem, not even Shakespeare or Milton or Chaucer, is ever strong enough to totally exclude every crucial precursor text or poem.
I think Freud is about contamination, but I think that is something he learned from Shakespeare, because Shakespeare is about nothing but contamination, you might say.
Shakespeare will not make us better, and he will not make us worse, but he may teach us how to overhear ourselves when we talk to ourselves… he may teach us how to accept change in ourselves as in others, and perhaps even the final form of change.
Shakespeare is the true multicultural author. He exists in all languages. He is put on the stage everywhere. Everyone feels that they are represented by him on the stage.
If I were to sum up the negative reactions to my work, I think there are two primary causes: one is that if there is discourse about anxiety it is necessarily going to induce anxiety. It will represent a return of the repressed for a great many people.
What matters in literature in the end is surely the idiosyncratic, the individual, the flavor or the color of a particular human suffering.