Criticism can antagonize authors even when it performs its function well.Authors who regard literature as needing no advocates or investigators are less than grateful when told that their works possess unintended meaning or are imitative or incomplete.Without sensing the presence of such a public, an author may either prostitute his talent or squander it in sterile acts of defiance.
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What such authors may tend to forget is that their works, once published, belong to them only in a legal sense.
The true owner of their works is the public, which will appropriate them for its own concerns regardless of the critic.
The variety of criticism’s functions is reflected in the range of publications in which it appears.
Criticism in the daily press rarely displays sustained acts of analysis and may sometimes do little more than summarize a publisher’s claims for a book’s interest.
Similarly, some prominent Lionel Trilling, Kenneth Burke, Philip Rahv, and Irving Howe, began as political radicals in the 1930s and sharpened their concern for literature on the dilemmas and disillusionments of that era.
Trilling’s influential Such a reconciliation is bound to be tentative and problematic if the critic believes, as Trilling does, that literature possesses an independent value and a deeper faithfulness to reality than is contained in any political formula.
Because critics often try to be lawgivers, declaring which works deserve respect and presuming to say what they are “really” about, criticism is a perennial target of resentment.
Misguided or malicious critics can discourage an author who has been feeling his way toward a new mode that offends received taste.