The Function of Criticism at the Present Time?

walrus

The July/August issue of the Walrus has a piece called “The Long Decline” by André Alexis.  In it, he argues that there’s been a marked degeneration of criticism in popular fora.  He suggests, strikingly, that Frye’s work was one of the principal “catalysts” against which critics reacted to move away from taxonomy to  personal opinions and something more akin to the stock market of authors’ worth.  The attack  Alexis makes is in some ways predictable — there has been a marked decline in both the quantity and the quality of mainstream book reviewing — and in other ways fascinating.  Among other questions Alexis raises, we might ask is John Metcalf really the primary culprit in the changes in Canadian criticism?  Is James Wood’s How Fiction Works a way forward out of a criticism too limited to individual assessments of worth?  Has Alexis captured something of what the anti-Frye reaction is all about?  I think this piece might stimulate our own debate.

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