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The Liposuction of Literature

"All criticism is reductive" (Paris 222).

When I read this statement, I started to think less of criticism. If all criticism reduces whatever it is criticizing to something lesser, then what is the point? In this sense, criticism seems to be the poor poet's method of involving himself in literature. Criticism seems to be on a lower scale of importance, a lower craft, than producing a creative piece of writing. I was put off by this idea, because I have always thought of writing critically as an act of creation in itself. While literary critics may not be classified as creative writers, I think there is a great deal of creativity that goes into their work. Like the Romantics, I believe that writing is half creation, half perception. Thus, the idea that critical writing is a reduction rubs me the wrong way. I can understand the concept of it: that critical literature cuts the fat out of the way in order to make major components of the work, such as themes, more accessible to the reader. Instead of viewing critical literature as literary liposuction, however, I'd like to see it as a stepping stone or a building block. Instead of cutting the fat in order to get to the meat of a text, I see criticism as grasping on to one part of the whole and running with it to create a whole new text. For who can determine what is the "fat" and what is the "meat" in a literary text? I might claim that a said part of a play seems to be mere filler, while another critic might find extreme significance in these same lines.

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Comments (2)

I have to tell you that when I read the words "literary liposuction" I laughed. Nice alliteration as well. It is interesting to see how you took such a small sentence and wrote so much about it. That in itself is beefing up the text. I have to agree with you on this one because as you and I both know, someone could write a 10 page paper on my favorite example of simple poetry (or is it?) "The Red Wheelbarrow" by William Carlos Williams. I think that criticism can be reductive, but what if a critic finds some meaning the author never intended? Isn't that beefing up the text? Good point!

Jenna:

Wow! Great job on your analysis of this sentence. By criticisms acting reductively, then the critics would be oversimplifying the complex ideas in a work and ignoring the major details. Literary criticism is definitely an art itself and the sentence does make criticism seem less than what it represents.

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