Hartman--Literary Commentary as Literature
what the "proper" relationship is between
"critical" and "creative" activities, and
"primary" and "secondary" texts. He then
goes on to observe that a "fusion of creation with
criticism is occuring in the writings of contemporary critics.
We are now in the presence of something that, if not entirely
new, is now methodically pursued, and without the backing of any
specifically literary authority." Criticism has stopped
being "dependent" on literature, because it has
stopped being specifically about literature. The next
question Hartman asks is "what to make of the 'brilliance'
of this phenomenon, which liberates the critical activity from
its positive or reviewing function, from its subordination to
the thing commented on."
Hartman goes on
to a discussion of the pre-Marxist Lukacs. "Lukacs does not
accept subordination as a defining characteristic of the
essay." For Lukacs, everything in "the essayistic
mode" is ironic. "That the critic should talk about
ultimate issues only in the guise of reviewing pictures or books
is considered a deep irony." Much of contemporary criticism
is actually a consideration of some idea, and the artifact
ostensibly being discussed is discussed in terms of its
relationship to the idea being considered. This criticism is
self-referential, it "can insist quietly and proudly on its
fragmentary character against the minor perfections of
scientific precision." This seems to be the essential
position of poststructuralism: the creative/critical project of
poststructuralists insists on its fragmentary character against
the minor perfections of the structuralist models of
Levi-Strauss, Frye, etc.
Hartman discusses "tends to proceed . . . by shifts of
perspective that expose the non-homogeneity of the fact at hand,
the arbitrariness of the knots that bind the work into a
semblance of unity." This kind of criticism determinedly
rips the veils of illusion away from us, showing us the
mystifications and strategies by which we achieve "any kind
of unitary, consensual view of the artifact." This kind of
criticism is "critical: we are allowed to survive but not
to substantialize our illusions."
It is the
ability of criticism to put things in context, "its
strength of recontextualization," which makes it important
that we do not consider criticism a "supplement to
something else." Hartman repeats the by-now well-worn
attack on "totalization" in any metaphysic:
"There is no absolute knowledge but rather a textual
infinite, an interminable web of texts or interpretations."
From here, Hartman launches into a discussion of the infamous Glas
"by" "Derrida." "Derrida exerts a
remarkable pressure on privileged theoretical constructs, in
paarticular those of origin, self, author, and book," says
Hartman. I suspect however, that despite Derrida's
"remarkable" pressuring of "privileged"
notions of author and book that he made quite certain that he
would be paid all royalties and fees due him as the author/nonauthor
problem today with criticism is not with critics of literature
but with critics of other critics, "those that bark at
their own kind." Criticism--turning now more and more
into that "rough beast" called theory, slouches
toward Bethlehem to be born as a new kind of literature.