The Critical Edge

The Critical Edge

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Weisinger, Hendrie Little, Brown & Company, 1990
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IN THIS SUMMARY

Criticism has its roots in philosophy and art. Coined by Aristotle, the word originally meant "able to discern or judge accordingly." Criticism was seen as an intellectual activity based on well-defined criteria, however, it was also acknowledged that there were no simple criteria. The rise of the Church saw the decline of criticism (criticism was a sacrilege in a society where the divine word of God was the final word) and the beginning of the Dark Ages. Criticism became influenced by empiricism during the neoclassical era, but was transformed from an objective measurement into a concept colored by the critic's personal values, beliefs, and feelings during the Romantic Period. The American and French Revolutions caused criticism to expand as a tool to evaluate all society, rather than just art. Freud added a psychoanalytic dimension to criticism, and the Expressionist era saw it become a means of challenging old ways. Today, criticism is interpreted as a measure of our personal worth, rather than an objective appraisal of what we do. The human mindset tends to find what's wrong rather than what's right. As a result, the contemporary definition of criticism has taken on negative connotations. This negative definition, brought into interpersonal relationships and combined with the need to protect one's ego, produces a highly charged, emotional encounter.