Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wellek was right

... the New Criticism has stated or reaffirmed many basic truths to which future ages will have to return: the specific nature of the aesthetic transaction, the normative presence of a work of art which cannot be simply battered about and is comparatively independent of its origins and effects....The charge of “elitism” cannot get around the New Critics’ assertion of quality and value. A decision between good and bad art remains the unavoidable duty of criticism. The humanities would abdicate their function in society if they surrendered to a neutral scientism and indifferent relativism or if they succumbed to the imposition of alien norms required by political indoctrination. Particularly on these two fronts the New Critics have waged a valiant fight which, I am afraid, must be fought over again in the future. -- René Wellek

Wellek, René. “The New Criticism: Pro and Contra.” Critical Inquiry vol. 4 no. 4, 1978, pages 611–624 at 624. JSTOR, Accessed 1 Sept. 2021.

The passage is quoted by Cleanth Brooks at the end of his article on The New Criticism in The Sewanee Review, volume 87 number 4, 1979, pages 592–607; also accessible via JSTOR:

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