Sunday, December 16, 2018

Chronic Discoveries

John Jay Chapman wrote in 1898 that
The history of these chronic discoveries of Whitman as a poet, as a force, as a something or a somebody, would write up into the best possible monograph on the incompetence of the Anglo-Saxon in matters of criticism.
About 1950, Randall Jarrell wrote that
Serious readers, people who are ashamed of not knowing all Hopkins by heart, are not at all ashamed to say, "I don't really know Whitman very well." This may harm Whitman in your eyes, they know, but that is a chance that poets have to take.
Having written that, he went on to write a score of pages discovering Whitman for his time. The essay, "Reflections on Whitman", is collected in Poetry and the Age.

By Jarrell's day, the Anglo-Saxons, or at any rate the Americans, had come to think of themselves as pretty fair critics. He published two books of criticism during his life, and his heirs brought out a couple later. Yet he complained that many among the reading public had come to prefer reading the criticism to reading the works criticized: the essay "The Age of Criticism", also collected in Poetry and the Age, discusses just that.

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