Tuesday, August 18, 2009

One Man's Relativism : Relativism and the Aesthetic Criterion

Relativism, after all, is also an `-ism', a theory which claims to be universal. The logical contradiction lies in the statements such as these. When I say, `Everything is relative', I have uttered an absolute statement. I have problem with the absolutism in the argument that `the good and the bad are relative things'. Conclusion: Everyone is working with some absolutism and some criteria. Whether one is aware of it or not or whether one is honest enough to acknowledge it or not is a different issue.
My criterion is this: poetry with cliché, obvious turns of phrase, and usual content is an ordinary one. This I take as a working definition of interesting poetry.
The question would be `what is cliché or obviousness' when it comes to poetry? Well the answer would be largely empirical based on reading of a range of texts. If the phrases, images, rhetorical figures and ideas which recur in quantitatively large number of texts are found in a poem you are reading, the poem becomes an ordinary work. Bad poetry refuses to reinvent the language and move beyond its limits.
I am not sure if I agree with the idea that a good critical analysis would not change my view of the poem under consideration. A good critical analysis can do amazing things, and Oscar Wilde was unfailingly correct when he considered criticism as a form of art. I had never thought of Freud as a creative writer until, I read Harold Bloom's essay ` Freud: A Shakespearean Reading' in the Western Canon.( notice it is not Shakespeare a Freudian reading').People who dislike criticism are people who dislike art because good criticism is also an art: art of discovering, inventing, uncovering and moving beyond the obvious and the habitual modes of reading. In India probably due to the influence of medieval Bhakti movement, there is a tendency to consider criticism as an unnecessary evil. This is largely due to anti-intellectualism among Indian middle class. If anti-intellectualism comes, can fascism and totalitarianism be far behind?

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