Creativity Without Criticism..
The critics Accused!
Report by: Hossam Al-Kholy
Many people accuse the critics and the specialized practitioners of criticism of being responsible for the absence of a consistent review of the accumulating and consecutive literary production that is flooding the cultural scene. Several writers and a large sector of readers and literature lovers claim the responsibility of the critics towards the huge gap existing between the creative texts and the criticism that is supposed to accompany those texts by shedding light on them and provoking the readers to read them and to explore their esthetics and their profound layers, while playing the original role of criticism considering that the critic is “the reader’s consultant” and his/her guide towards the good works that deserve being searched for and read.
Contradictory to the previous opinion, there are others who think that some great existing critics who practice critical writing undertake their genuine role in following creative works, practicing their natural role of exploring the esthetics of literary works, shedding light on them and provoking towards their reception by the biggest number of literature lovers and followers. Yet those who hold this opinion represent only a “minority” that hardly stands in the face of the majority that has a contradictory opinion and insists that “creativity is in a world, criticism is in another”!
In this report we offer the issue for discussion anew, we explore the opinions of a number of writers and critics who belong to different generations in order to identify the reasons behind the crisis and reflect on it once more and on the possibilities to solve it.. May it be!
“Almost all the questions that deal with the aspects of the weakening and regression of criticism –no matter how many and diverse they are- start from the same focus: the absence of literary criticism and its role in our cultural life opposite to what was prevailing in previous times.” This is how the critic Khairy Doma gathers the threads of the issue. He first emphasizes how important it is to be aware of the media of communication that are more widespread now than they were in the past, which opens a wide space for the publishing of creative works as well as of the critical writings of those works. On the other hand, and in spite of how good this might be for creativity and criticism, it is exhausting for the reader because there is no way that he/she can follow thousands of creative works that are published every year then follow what is written about them in all the Arab region.
Starting from this point, Doma thinks that “amidst all the excessiveness resulting from this situation excellent creative voices are hidden away, and with them critical voices that are equally special. Today, there exist on the sides of writing and of criticism intruders who play a role in corrupting the milieu and frustrating those who want to work or write.”
Doma insists on emphasizing the social function of criticism, and the importance of going towards an audience whether specialized or not. He says “I learnt from my great professors that literary criticism has social functions that exceed the narrow specialization, and that the more profound critics are those who play a clear role towards the specialized and non-specialized readers equally. Along many years I was learning from all my professors how to write in a simple and understandable way with the condition of remaining profound, effective and revealing of a true academic knowledge.”
At the same time, Doma confirms that the activity of the publishing houses in the field of literary writing has flooded the market with some writing orientations that helped the development of literature in an amazing way. While the academic literary criticism was busy with the detailed researches under the illusion that it is seeking tools to analyze this new writing, the writing itself developed in contrast the criticism that did not make enough progress to match it.
Following the modern context of the criticism crisis, Doma referred to his own notion of literary criticism: “I feel many times that while criticism is not an art nor a literature, it is still at least a type of precise writing that reveals a talent and a true creative sensitivity. The academic critic possesses a true science that was collected during his/her studies and throughout his/her literary readings, yet in order to reach the readers and have an impact on them, the critic must hide this knowledge instead of showing it like we see most of the time.”
Doma distinguishes between the “true critic” and the “impostor critic” by the ability of hiding the knowledge that he/she has and by employing it to address the readers and to reach their minds and hearts, and before all to attain the secrets of the texts that he/she is approaching and to touch the visions of the writers that he/she is introducing.
In regards to the accusation to the academic critics that they are held behind the fences of the university, Doma is reserved. He says “I do not think that the academic criticism is by nature isolated and separated from the literary reality”, pointing out that it is actually the opposite, the academic criticism can be very useful under the condition that it gives up “part of its arrogance” to allow it to get closer to the actual literary works.