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WU YAN: Literary critics should stay in touch with social reality

| 2015-08-05 | Hits:
(Chinese Social Sciences Today)

Literary criticism, much like its creation, can’t be separated from life. Having a strong sense of reality is an essential quality for all literary critics.

Literary criticism should be based on works. A literary critic can offer pertinent and evenhanded aesthetic judgment only by carefully comprehending and analyzing a work. This is the most basic professional quality a literary critic can have. However, some critics influenced by the market economy fail to carefully analyze works and instead casually make criticisms devoid of reality.

A critic should stress literary horizons, further conducting internal and external research of works scrutinized. Critics should grasp the meaning of a work in addition to its literary forms and writer’s skills. Only through deep understanding of a work can a critic express his or her unique opinion and offer insightful criticism. 

A critic should take the writer into consideration. On one hand, a critic should know about the writer to grasp the value of their work. In analyzing a work, a critic must be acquainted with its writer’s life and experiences in the pursuit of objective, comprehensive evaluation. Evaluating a work should start with the writer’s creative track. The critic must then determine if a work offers anything new and whether its content or style differs from the writer’s former works.

On the other hand, a critic should compare a work with others of the same period, identifying its values and defects. This allows the critic to accurately identify advantages and disadvantages of a work and offer constructive suggestions to its writer. 

Literary criticism should be closely connected with society. A critic should view a work and its writer against the backdrop of social development, inspecting, analyzing and judging the literary significance and social value of both the work and its writer.

A successful critic should focus on society and the public to deeply reveal reality and make thoughtful, artistic criticism. Achieving this requires the critic to observe, experience and reflect on life and society with nuance.

Literary criticism should be instructive to readers. Primarily, criticism can be a bridge between a work and its readers, helping the latter understand the work and appreciate its beauty. In the current diversified era, critics should bear responsibility for value guidance. They must actively recommend excellent works to readers that convey positive energy for social development, while directing readers away from depraved works of violence, sex and horror.

Feedback is also very important. By basing feedback on readers’ expectations and psychological desires, a critic can facilitate dynamic dialogue between writers and readers. In turn, this can encourage writers to create works popular with the public. 

Successful literary criticism is intertwined with life. Critics should resist the temptation of fame and wealth to instead focus on mastery of theory, cultural experience and social responsibility. Only by doing this can knowledgeable and professional criticism be made that enlightens readers and the public.


Wu Yan is from the Institute of Literature and Art at the Shaanxi Academy of Social Sciences.