Being a Critic of the Arts
Everyday, we act as critics, i.e., deciding which film to see or which channel to watch. Much of the time, experience guides us through the aesthetic judgments we make. Left on our own, however, we can go only so far. As Martin and Jacobus (1997) argue, in studying the essentials of criticism and in learning how to put them into practice, we develop our capacities as critics (p. 48).
We all resist taking on the critic’s role because we value the participatory experience. Losing ourselves in a “good” film is one thing, and thinking about it critically is another. If we were to choose, we would probably prefer the former. After all, we might argue that art should be enjoyed. By the same token, we know that “good” critics help us appreciate the complexities and the subtleties of works of art. In sharing their insight into the uniqueness of a work, say, they help us appreciate what’s going on. In this way, in fact, they help us become critics.
2. the critical response
Usually, the initial response is an emotional one: this can be described as the pre-critical response. What interests us as would-be critics is the critical or reflective response that follows. This reflection can intensify our appreciation of the work in question, i.e., sharpen our perception of its form and increase our understanding of its content. What is problematic for all critics is expressing in the very different medium of conceptual prose that unique, untranslatable quality that pervades a work of art in the medium of music, painting, and so on. As Martin and Jacobus argue, we can distinguish three kinds of criticism or critical activities, which go into the actual writing:
…ork of this individual. The booklets available in cinemas, which draw attention to new releases, fall into this category.
* the WORK, we can say that she is engaged in ACADEMIC CRITICISM. Many of the research essays we write at university ask us to engage in this sort of critical activity.
* the AUDIENCE, she is engaged in REVIEWING, i.e., sharing her insight into the artistic merits of a work with readers who might be described as enthusiastic amateurs.
Of course, these distinctions are by no means hard and fast. Nevertheless, our objective is to express our responses in prose that is clear as well as direct.
Greene, Theodore. The Arts and the Art of Criticism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1940.
Martin, F.D., and Lee Jacobus. The Humanities through the Arts. 5th edn. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 1997.