Indeed, I was able to understand Eliot's statements only through the reading
of a later book by Wilson Knight, where 'criticism' and 'interpretation' are
explained and clearly distinguished.
Criticism provides a judgement on merits, whereas interpretation attempts to
explain the work of art in the light of its own nature, employing external
reference, avoiding any discussions on merits.
As you can see, if Eliot's critic can only express remarks and give the
historical setting, he/she can both criticise and interpret. I seem to
understand Eliot simply wanted to keep some distance between his own sense
for 'interpretation' and the Romantic sense, which Goethe and Coleridge had
exploited by turning Hamlet into themselves (and vice versa). Also, I found
some helpful comments in Warren's book 'TS Eliot on Shakespeare', where the
author states Eliot
simply meant to deal with something else, though the subject of the essay is
Yet, that WE really destroyed all my theories, for I instantly wondered who
Eliot was supposed to be within the whole scheme of criticism. Nancy's reply
was really clear.
I'm going to read Carta Da Vista... Although, in Italian, A Visiting Card
would be translated as Biglietto Da Visita. 'Biglietto' is the same as the
English 'card, ticket', whereas 'visita' is the same as the English 'visit'
(as in Prufrock). 'Vista' means 'sight'. Pound's rendering sounds rather
Spanish to my Italian ear... Did Pound speak Spanish?
----- Original Message -----
From: "Richard Seddon" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, February 15, 2004 5:22 PM
Subject: Re: Qua work of art....
> I think "we and "reader" are both aspects of *everyman* and that the
> assuming that the reader does not know certain historical facts is the
> I also have trouble with the significance of what he is writing.
> Eliot would appear to be denying the critic any role beyond stating
> evaluative remarks and perhaps providing a historical setting. He is
> denying that it is a critic's role to establish an authoritative reading
> interpretation. He is not denying the reader such an interpretation.
> reader when he/she reads a work interprets that work within the reader's
> context. The critic is free to provide his/her own reading but it should
> understood that this is but one reader's interpretation.
> A literary theorist is free to construct general theories of how
> should be read but should not, in the role of "critic", provide specific
> interpretation of a specific work. A reader can utilize a theorist's
> general statements about literature to better understand a specific work
> can recite that understanding to others but is not performing a "critic's"
> role when he/she does so. That reader is only providing *that* reader's
> The idea approaches Pound's concept of "Imagism". Because the "meaning"
> an Imagist/Vorticist's work is the result of the triggering of a specific
> reader's "complex" by an artist's supplied Image, every realization of art
> is specific, within cultural limits, to a reader. There is nothing to
> generally "interpret" within a work of art. All that can be done is to
> in a reader's blanks of specific understanding and issue a value of the
> work's worth. Any reader is still free to write about the results of the
> work of art as it was processed by that reader's "complex" and provide
> his/her understanding but it is not a critic's role to do so.
> In "Carta Da Vista" (A Visiting Card), on page 318 of "Selected Prose:
> 1909-1965", Pound has a little to say about critics, writers and readers
> which may be of interest to you. Since you can enjoy the original it may
> of more value than John Drummond's translation of the Italian which is in
> "Selected Prose" :>)
> Rick Seddon
> McIntosh, NM