The Clyde Fitch Report
Not actually position papers in the intended meaning of this corner of our site, these snippets do, however, at least suggest positions. They are gathered here after having had their week or month (or two) in the home page sun; the initial dates are when they were posted.
There’s been a spate of recent comments on criticism as chastisement and/or advertising (mainly of books, but we see the connections). For links to pieces by Richard Brody(newyorker.com), Jacob Silverman (slate.com), David Streitfield (nytimes.com), J. Robert Lennon (slate.com) andDwight Garner (nytimes.com), click here.
“Is there a future for criticism?” asked A.O. Scott in the NYT, March 31, 2010. He began:
“TWO weeks ago I went to Atlanta to give a talk at a conference devoted, in part, to ‘The Future of Criticism.’ The gist of my remarks was that there is one.
“This was a contrarian, and perhaps also somewhat self-serving, position to take. After all, the countervailing evidence is hard to avoid… . Variety, the leaky flagship of entertainment reporting, had recently let go of its senior film and theater reviewers … . The loss of print jobs is only one aspect of a dire overall picture… .” For his surprisingly positive comments, click here.
“The future of theater critics and theater criticism seems to have become a popular subject of panels, think pieces, blog posts, and conversations on Twitter,” says Jonathan Mandel. Here’s a nice survey in his New York Theater blog on The Faster Times site: click here.
”Regional theater wasn’t a big turn-on for me when I was a theater student in the late 1980s, early 1990s. Off-Broadway was cool; off-off-Broadway was cooler. Those subscription-based behemoths scattered around the country like giant shopping malls sounded dorky to me… . ” Charles McNulty, theater critic for the L.A. Times, explains how working with Joseph Papp at the N.Y. Public Theater and Emily Mann at the McCarter was good training for a theater critic. June 12, 2011: cllck here.
The Perspectives in Criticism talk at ATCA’s weekend conference in NYC (Feb., 2011) was coordinated by Sherry Eaker (Back Stage), who gathered playwrights Adam Rapp and Richard Nelson, artistic director Tim Sanford and producer-director-playwright Emily Mann to discuss the role of the contemporary critic. It was a stimulating discussion, one of ATCA’s best.
Sherry deserves further thanks for getting it transcribed and posted elsewhere online, with her introductory thoughts, then sending the whole thing to post here. NOTE that it ends with ideas for training critics that ATCA will address at the Ashland conference and beyond.
Alison Croggon gave this talk on April 11 at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts in Brisbane, Australia, as part of the Low-Fi Forum organised by Arts Queensland. You can read it in its original setting here, where you can also read and add comments.
A couple of quotes: “Criticism as a whole is best recognised as a polyphony, rather than a monologue: if there is a diversity of making and experiencing art, then surely the health of a culture can be partly measured by the availability of a diversity of response.” … ” the biggest shift is that we are no longer dealing with hierarchies of taste, with the critic at the top, but with an intensely complex system of interconnected networks. Authority exists within these networks, but it has changed … The discourse is fluid and rapid, and energies move according to different and sometimes counter-intuitive orders. The only rule is participation.”
The whole talk follows.
Feb. 14, 2011 — At ATCA’s recent New York weekend conference, playwright-director-artistic director Emily Mann, one of the Perspectives in Criticism panel (along with playwrights Adam Rapp and Richard Nelson and artistic director Tim Sanford), preemptively set a high initial bar for all critics by reading aloud Howard Clurman’s 1964 “The Complete Critic’s Qualifications.” Clurman outdid Moses by issuing 12 commandments — and as someone immediately said, no one but Clurman ever measured up.
The Complete Critic’s Qualifications
Besides having cultivated taste, feeling and a talent for clear observation of people:
In The Guardian, 17 April 2010, the playwright replied to his critics by arguing that good theater should never be confused with journalism. A few quotes:
“Journalism is life with the mystery taken out. Art is life with the mystery restored.” …
“If we accept the simple distinction that factual work asks questions for us, whereas fictional work is more likely to ask questions of us, then why can some work not do both?” …
“The paradox of great factual work is that it restores wonder. Thinly imagined work takes it away. ‘I never knew that, I never realised that, I never felt that’ is what you hear from the departing audience when their evening has been well spent. Because we think we know, but we don’t.” …