The standpoint of the present book is that of empiricism. Fundamentally, an empiricist criticism insists that the role of the critic is to show the text for what it is. This assumes, among other things, that the text is. But this need not commit the empiricist to a pure textualism, as in fact Abrams and Hirsch tend to imply. Pure textualism is a scansion-theory that refuses to acknowledge the problem of interpretation. In fact many apparently textualist theories have been soundly based in interpretive principles. The New Criticism in general and the criticism of F. R. Leavis in particular spring to mind. Recent critics have stressed this ‘anomalous’ reliance upon smuggled-in standards. But in fact any useful critical theory or practice must mingle scansion and interpretation, much as it must slide from description to evaluation. Interpretation-theories depend upon visions of life, philosophies, ideologies (to use the loaded Marxist term). There is no need for this set of assumptions and visions to be clearly articulated: in fact, one must suspect the critic who is able to do so. Critical praxis is far too complex and subtle to allow of very clear articulation: it is really the mind of a civilisation that speaks in the work of a Lukács or a Leavis.
KeywordsLiterary Criticism Discursive Practice Literary Text Empiricist Criticism Sexual Material
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