A Critical Review
I wrote my first literary review as a lifestyle writer in a journalism class working for my college newspaper. I reviewed a play or musical at the Sundance Summer Theater at Sundance Resort. The mountain setting captured me, but I wrote what I considered was an honest reaction to the play and the performance. The student editor thought I was too negative and sent me back for another showing. In reality, I was an immature writer who thought I would be doing my job better if I recognized and pointed out the flaws. I probably went looking for them.
A critic is one who forms and expresses judgments of the merits, faults, value, or truth of a matter. A critic can also be one who specializes, especially professionally, in the evaluation and appreciation of literary or artistic works.
My American Heritage Dictionary has this usage note for critique:
Critique has been used as a verb meaning “to review or discuss critically” since the 18th century, but lately this usage has gained wider currency, in part because the verb criticize, once neutral between praise and censure, is now used mainly in a negative sense.
That usage goes along with the third definition of a critic as one who tends to make harsh or carping judgments. The negative connotations of these words—critic and critique—are probably growing now more than ever with the barrage of negative opinions in all forms of media.
I question whether the increase of criticism and opinion has brought us more enlightened solutions or more creative excellence. I copied this quote years ago from an Architectural Record:
a critic can. . . seek out analogies in literature, or history or science or poetry, compare and contrast to what we see around us. A good critic can deepen our love and sharpen our wits, while ferreting out the imperfections and raising questions that we, and he, could answer. . . When it succeeds, criticism informs debate and educates, clarifies the issues and states a position, allowing us to make informed decisions, to be wiser consumers and more ardent and rational proponents for worthwhile efforts.
in Architectural Record
July 7, 2001
While we are inundated with more and more information and opinions, I believe our culture continues to need more thought-filled, evaluative writing of this sort. Apparently, there is still room for a critic, we just need to give him or her a new name.