Why Great Critics Make Disastrous Judgments

What, then, are the underlying intellectual, creative, and aesthetic issues that can cause even brilliant critics to misfire? An answer can be found in the tension between what we might call literary time and critical time. Critics, of course, have deadlines. A given review or essay must appear by such and such a date, generally just before or after the book’s publication. But as Terry Eagleton points out in Literary Theory: An Introduction, the designation “classic” or “literary masterpiece” is almost always retrospective. By showing how literary genius can be found in works as diverse as Plato’s dialogues, Bacon’s essays, Keats’s poetry, and Hemingway’s prose, Eagleton establishes that there is no intrinsic property that can safely lead a critic to confer the coveted tag of “literary value” to a work:

From Why Great Critics Make Disastrous Judgments – The Chronicle of Higher Education