"Criticism must always profess an end in view which, roughly speaking, appears to be the elucidation of works of art and the correction of taste."
- T. S. Eliot
The most significant thing in an author's compositions is a natural power of exalting our soul. I try to discover 'Enlightenment Universals' in my review of literary works. The mass killings of Auschwitz and Nagasaki clearly reveal that all 'metanarratives' (Lyotord) of science and Marxism have failed to create a better world. Only the ideas and laws of the inward world of a creative artist can save our planet. Matthew Arnold aptly says: "The greatness of a poet lies in his powerful and beautiful application of ideas to life,-to the question-How to live? A poetry of revolt against moral ideas is a poetry of revolt against life; a poetry of indifference to moral ideas is a poetry of indifference to life." But it may be remembered that ethical sympathy of a poet should conform to poetic truth and poetic beauty.
The above quotation of Matthew Arnold makes it evidently clear that the present-day globalization processes by producing 'a systematic skepticism' will only harm the cause of serious and sublime literature. The 'nostalgia for the impossible' afflicting most of the authors today poses a serious danger to sublime substance and content of a creative work. It is difficult to agree with an uninspiring nihilism of Jean Baudrillard: "Everything has already happened...nothing new can occur." Literature is full of moral ideas; 'the idea is the fact'. Nancy Scheper-Hughes wisely says: "If we cannot begin to think about social institutions and practices in moral or ethical terms, then anthropology strikes me as quite weak and useless."
It is significant that the best powers of some authors whose works I have reviewed and included in Critical Essays are visible in revealing 'the high moment'. These poets succeed in describing the mysterious responses of heart and mind to the universe. They very aptly delineate a complex reaction to their whole experience.
Another chief merit of some of these creative artists is their mysticism, an immediate awareness and acute consciousness of the Divine Presence. This results in an intellectual intuition and 'dialectic of the feelings'. This attitude is quite different from the postmodern destruction of meaning. "Whoever lives by meaning dies by meaning" (Ashley). Some of these poets pine for union with Reality, and express their communion with the highest. The postmodernists seem to reject the contemporary themes and subjects. "Theory conceals, distorts, and obfuscates, it is alienated, disparated, dissonant, it means to exclude, order, and control rival powers" (Rosenau). But it is not easy to discard every system of thought. W. B. Yeats pointed out the significance of mysticism: "The mystical life is the center of all that I do, and all that I think, and all that I write. I had an unshakeable conviction, arising how or whence, I cannot tell, that invisible gates would open as they opened for Blake, as they opened for Swedenborg..." As a literary critic, I find that most of the poets included in Critical Essays are in quest of these 'invisible gates'.
As a reviewer I always try to promote understanding and enjoyment of literature. A literary critic should always aim at reconstructing the mind of the creative artist as manifested in his or her manuscript. The vast field of an artist's mind is revealed only when we discover 'wisdom of the ages' in his work. "The past is altered by the past as much as the present is directed by the past." In my critical review of the creative artists included in Critical Essays I have kept the attitude of a careful searcher or explorer. The main concern is to search the intrinsic and unique strength of the poet or short-story writer. An immortal poet always uses language "charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree" (Ezra Pound), and his poetry is "the storehouse of recorded values" (F. R. Leavis).
- Santosh Kumar