Sunday, April 30, 2006

the poet Lynn Emmanuel says

“[F]or a writer to say in the year 2004 that she doesn’t want to know anything about critical theory is like a writer saying, in the 1930s and 40s, I’m just not going to read Freud.”

-- quoted in the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of Poetry Flash [no, the interview is not online]

I’m okay with knowing something about critical theory, I guess, but it would be nice if she defined the term. Despite the concreteness of her analogy (Freud!), “critical theory” is left vague. Emmanuel does not recommend a single critical theorist. In the sentence that comes just before this one Emmanuel refers to “the critical context in which [a poet is] writing.” Is “critical theory” the “context” of the poem?

I’ll have to say my tolerance for theory is low. And I figure the context of poetry is the times and other art. Not that theory can’t be part of that. Josh Corey’s blog, for instance, is worth visiting those evenings one needs a theory nightcap.

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