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“ imitation of nature"; it is no longer a “criticism of life"; it is “the barbarity of the spirit.” Signor Croce himself, to escape the dangers of aestheticism, may be able to turn to his notes on ethics and metaphysics, but the average citizen is not likely to have at hand any such recourse.
Croce's theory of criticism follows as a corollary from his theory of art. Perhaps the clearest exposition of it can be given in his own words in a quotation from an article on Pascoli (La Critica, July, 1907; reprinted in Due Saggi, 1908): “It is a method based on the notion of art as pure imagination or pure expression. It therefore excludes from art no content or state of mind whatsoever, provided it be rendered concrete in a perfect expression. Beyond this conception of art, the criticism I am describing relies on no other theoretical presupposition at all. Hence it rejects as arbitrary the so-called rules of the literary and artistic classes and all other kinds of particular artistic laws. In order to judge a work of art, it knows of no other way except to interrogate the work of art itself directly and experience a living impression of it; for this end and this alone, it admits, nay requires, researches into the circumstances of the production of the work of art concerned-learned researches possessing interpretative value, which must assist in transporting us so to speak, into the mental condition of the author at the time he produced his artistic syntheses. This living impression once obtained, the further labour only consists in determining what, in the object under examination, is the pure product of art, and what in it appears to be not truly artistic—for instance, violence committed by the author against his vision for reasons of extraneous preoccupation; obscurities and emptiness which he allows, to subsist through laziness; excrescences he introduces for effect; signs of academic prejudices, etc., etc. The result is the exposition or critical estimate, which simply states (and in stating has thereby judged) wie es eigentlich geschehen, 'how it really happened, according to Leopold von Ranke's brilliantly simple definition of history. Hence the history of art and the criticism of art, in my view, coincide. Every essay in the criticism of art is an attempt to write a page in the history of art (understanding the term “history' as it must be understood, in its full and complete sense); it determines by analysing and characterising reflectively, what the effective production of art consists in, according to temporal succession."
Several matters in this program call for comment. In the first place, criticism, according to Croce, is raised to the level of a creative art. If genius creates beauty, taste recreates it. In essence the processes are exactly the same. The spoken or written word serves merely as a link between poet and critic and is in itself of no aesthetic importance. The artistic fact, it will be remembered, is for Croce not the physical manifestation on paper or in marble, but the inward expression, and this the reader or beholder can recreate for himself, becoming in so doing the equal of the poet or sculptor. “In order to judge Dante, we must raise ourselves to his level; in that moment of judgment and contemplation, our spirit is one with that of the poet, and in that moment we and he are one single thing." 25
Croce's theory, secondly, accords a place, and I think a rightful place, to the historical aids to criticism, research in dusty archives, the work of the philologist, the commentator, the scholar.
Recreation of any work, historically conditioned, demands the surmounting of barriers built up by time or prejudice between it and ourselves. Croce's tribute to erudition, however, is a qualified tribute. To study the race, the time, the environment of a poet's work, he insists, is not in itself criticism. In the case of Shakespearean scholarship, for example, he ridicules the labour of philologists and biographers who think that they are furthering an insight into Shakespeare's art by retailing gossip, or drawing upon the plays for biographical conjectures.26 Biographical facts appear to Croce to be often an actual bar to artistic contemplation—a reason why a poet's contemporaries and fellow townsmen are said to be not good judges of his poetry. He censures Sainte-Beuve for his psychological curiosity, and Taine for confounding Kulturgeschichte with the criticism of art. Granted the times, the environment, the race, the passions of the poet, the great question is what he has done with his materials, how he has created poetry out of reality.
It will be seen, in the third place, that Croce's formula reduces enormously the bulk of criticism. It admits of no discussion of technique, no analysis of content, no ethical judgment, no attempt
Aesthetic, p. 199. 26 Ariosto, Shakespeare, and Corneille, Engl. tr., pp. 132 ff. 27 Contemp. Review 118. 531.
to escape the individual work of art and attain to the universal. Croce seeks simply for answers to the questions: Is this a work of art? What is its degree of purity? That is to say, to what extent has the author kept himself free from all considerations alien to the perfection of the work as a lyrical intuition? And when handled by a consummate artist like Croce himself, his method yields results not so barren as one might anticipate. No one is more ready than Croce to uncover sentimentality, academic frigidity, and pose. His conception, furthermore, of criticism as a branch of history, re-creating the setting of a work of art, allows him considerable freedom in stepping outside the bounds of his aesthetic compartment-a freedom of which, to the regret of many of his readers, he avails himself all too seldom. Even from the point of view of a criticism that demands the discussion of ideas and the content of art, nothing could be more admirable than Croce's masterly essays on Carducci or Pascoli. He does not hesitate to score the neurasthenic insanity of D'Annunzio, the eroticism of Fogazzaro,28 the sensual obsessions of modern French Drama.29 But one may gather from his own occasional footnotes that he nas been accused of proving himself, in passages like these, an apostate to his own aesthetic gospel.30
Indeed the final quarrel with Croce as a critic turns out to be, I think, this very matter of compartments. His aesthetic theory, denying all interest in ideas, leads to the starvation of the artist's mind; his criticism, especially when imitated by men who have not his own larger vision, runs the danger of being reduced to mere impressionistic interpretation. Such recent studies of his as those on Dante and Goethe show that his own work may be attacked on this very ground. He feels obliged to break up the full-blown mind of Goethe, allowing only the aesthetic aspects to filter through his sieve. Only in the first two chapters, sixteen pages in all, do we learn something of what interests us most in Goethe, the man and his ideas on life, yet this is exactly where the criticism of a philosopher like Croce might help us. His book on Dante consists also, for the most part, of running comment, praising characterization here, dramatic intensity there. It is the kind of
28 Due Saggi, p. 28 ff.
comment that Croce does excellently well; but its chief service lies in reminding us of the original, leading us to dispense with both critic and commentary and to read the poet himself.
Croce's theory of Expressionism explains much in present-day tendencies in art. It is perhaps the most logical formulation of the divorce between art and life which began with the Romanticism of the eighteenth century and which in our day is clearly seen in such movements as futurism in painting and imagism in poetry. When Miss Lowell, in one of her manifestos, throwing Aristotle and the ancients overboard, asserts that “Imagism is presentation, not representation,” she is expounding a Crocean doctrine. It might be argued that this divorce between art and life is impossible. Indeed, the school of naturalistic fiction has gone back to "representation ” of raw life with a vengeance. But there is not much doubt that, the naturalistic novel apart, most modern schools of poetry and the plastic arts are attempting to live up to the Crocean formula, and consequently, in their endeavor to produce the pure and “innocent” impression, are even finding conscientious craftsmanship unnecessary. The Crocean doctrine tempts the artist to transfer his responsibilities from the realm of art to that of selfexpression, two things which are not identical. Surely one may express oneself in ways which are, according to all objective conceptions of art, inartistic. And while a refusal on the part of the artist to submit his lyrical impression to a discipline of intellect and will is of course of every-day occurrence, for the critic to limit himself likewise to a mere attempt at re-creation, however inevitable this be in all appreciation of art, is to make criticism, not
creative," but unnecessary. Carleton College.
PUN AND PROVERB AS AIDS TO UNEXPLAINED
By M. P. TILLEY
In the text of Shakespeare's plays where we find a character applauding the witty words of another character, we are not always able to find in the speech applauded an adequate reason for the praise elicited. Where this may occur there is a strong presumption that the fault is not that of the character praising the other's words, but our own. Not only have there been a number
, of passages of this nature which, upon greater knowledge on our part, have revealed a reason for the apparently unwarranted praise; but it is characteristic of such passages that the wit commended has often turned either upon a pun, not easily clear to us, or upon some forgotten proverbial saying, or upon pun and proverb combined. For these reasons, wherever there appears to be a passage praised without reason, it is unsafe to assume that the praise is unwarranted, unless the person contributing the commendation has elsewhere shown himself utterly incapable of distinguishing sense from nonsense.
The three passages following are examples in question. In each case the praise elicited is shown to be justified; and to have been based in two instances upon puns, and in the other upon a punning allusion to a forgotten proverbial phrase.
Costard. I Pompey am,-
You lie, you are not he.
With libbard's head on knee.
Love's Labour's Lost (V. ii. 541-545).
Theobald explains that Boyet's words, "with libbard's head on knee” alludes to those old-fashioned garments, upon the knees and elbows of which, it was frequent to have, by way of ornament, a leopard's or a lion's head. So far as this exclamation goes it is correct; but it gives no inkling of the wit lurking in Boyet's remark,