My Excellent Twitter Reviews for #TLSAPP

Presented here in all their glory, and in order from first to last, are my losing entries for the TLS tweet-a-book-review contest. A good time was had by all, I think, even though one week’s ringer, I mean winner, actually writes for the TLS. I know!

Here’s to Alex Drace-Francis (@AlexDrace), who was singled out by the TLS for honorable mentions three weeks in a row, and the impressively prolific Basant (@KangriCarrier), whose thumbs by now must be tweeted to the bone.  As for me, I managed to snag honorable mentions for my first two entries (special thanks to @kmziegler for the assist with Middlemarch). All gems, though.

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Analysis and “Ruining the Fun”

  • “Secondly, and more seriously, it has been deduced from this belief that you are liable to destroy the poem if its meaning is discovered, that it is important to preserve one’s innocence about the meaning of verses, that one must use sensibility, and as little intelligence as possible.”

This is from William Empson’s Seven Types of Ambiguity (originally published in 1930; this is from the revised third edition, page 20). He’s talking about analyzing poetry, but you could apply his view to any art. The central idea is simply that using your intelligence to understand a work of art will not ruin good art, and any view that seeks to restrict your appreciation to the so-called innocence of “non-understanding” is mistaken.

Empson elaborates on this as the quotation continues: “People suspect analysis, often rightly, as the refuge of the emotionally sterile, but that is only to say that analysis is often done badly. In so far as such destruction occurs because you have used your intelligence it must be accepted, and you may reasonably expect to become interested in another poem, so that the loss is not permanent, because that is the normal process of learning to appreciate poetry” (21).