The Hermit Poet

March 31, 2005

Contemporary Literary Criticism as Cocktail Party

Filed under: General — Neil Aitken @ 10:33 pm

It seems to me that the current state of literary criticism is like being at a very large cocktail party. Everyone is engaged in their own conversations, largely motivated by the need to seem intellectual, witty, and different. No one is really paying attention. Sometimes you might catch a word or two from someone else’s conversation and incorporate into your own, completely oblivious of the actual context of that reference. As the night wears on, participants get more drunk and wilder with their rantings. The worst ones are either completely shunned or raised up instead as the new focus of discussion. In the end, no one remembers what the party was about and little is taken away besides a brutal headache and the occasional meaningless liason.

2 Responses to “Contemporary Literary Criticism as Cocktail Party”

  1. Roger Says:

    Hey Neil, yes, I can sympathize with your two most recent posts. I’d like to see literary criticism (more specifically, poetry criticism) move a little more away from high-fallutin’ words and references. It doesn’t have to be all criticism, or every critic, but I think that more people should write in a way that regular folk would care about, or at least more than the dozen or so scholars who care or pretend to care.

  2. Anonymous Poet Says:

    I don’t hang around with too many literary types in person. But, from my reading of what passes for criticism in published print, you seem to be correct.

    It seems that, today, to be straightforward and accessible IS to be avant garde.

    Have you read Dana Gioia’s noted essay “Can Poetry Matter?” He is presently the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

    The essay is available at:

    It is highly recommended, if you haven’t seen it already.

    Take care, Hermit!

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