On Literary Critical Method

Just a very short note, while digging through some strange litcrit on James Merrill. One particularly annoying writer’s Richard Sáez, who digs deep into the psychoanalytic garbage pail in his analysis. I am ignoring these parts, but with Merrill this shit keeps coming up. I’ll keep it out of my thesis, if I can avoid it. But how to justify it? Of course, there’s the scientificity of Literary Criticism, which is never far from my mind while thinking about methods. Yet Sáez is remarkably precise, remarkably on point.

The things he writes for instance in his essay “JM’s Oedipal Fire”, written before the magisterial Sandover was published “gets” it unlike so many critics which have read it. He’s very, very effective. His methods, however, are bad. Text, writer, symbols, biography, it’s all jumbled up. Bad, bad writing. But it works. So why not use it? I tend to liken my resistance to the resistance that sane people should develop to “effective” but racist police profiling. Which does indeed work in many cases.

It’s about the cases where it doesn’t work, but is still applied. So much of psychological method is based on banal truisms of how ‘people’ work. It’s bound to work sometimes. Plus, I think that Sáez has a knack for his line of work. His instincts work, that’s why the method works in his case. That does not redeem the ugly method.

I know you don’t care. I just needed to explain to myself why I am not using something that provided Sáez with such prodigious results. This is what I came up with.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.