A Writer’s WRITING & RE-WRITING Journey
By – Prof (Dr) Shalini Verma ‘Lifoholic’
“The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.”
– Oscar Wilde
The above mentioned Wilde’s words highlight the reciprocal nature of the relationship, suggesting that both parties have roles in guiding and informing each other.
The relationship between critics and authors is complex and multifaceted, often characterized by a blend of admiration, conflict, and mutual dependence.
This sweet-sour relationship can be understood through various lenses, including artistic development, public perception, and market dynamics.
At its core, the relationship is one of evaluation and response. Critics, whether they are professional reviewers, academics, or casual readers, engage with an author’s work and assess it based on a set of criteria that can include style, thematic depth, originality, and emotional impact, among others.
Authors, on the other hand, create works of fiction or non-fiction that they hope will be received positively by both critics and the wider audience.
One key aspect of this relationship is the role of critics in shaping an author’s reputation and public perception. A positive review can elevate an author’s work to a wider audience, potentially leading to increased sales, awards, and opportunities while negative criticism, conversely, can damage an author’s reputation and affect their future work’s reception.
However, criticism, even when negative, often provides valuable feedback to authors, helping them grow and refine their craft. It offers a perspective that might be overlooked by the author, throwing light on strengths and weaknesses in his/her work.
Another dimension is the historical and cultural context in which both authors and critics operate. Critics often contextualize an author’s work within the broader literary and cultural landscape, offering insights into how a particular piece of writing resonates with or diverges from contemporary trends, societal issues, and literary movements. This can help readers understand and appreciate the work more deeply, while also placing the author’s work in a larger narrative.
The relationship is also dynamic and can evolve over time. An author who may initially be dismissed or poorly understood by critics may later be celebrated as their work gains recognition or as literary tastes and perspectives change.
Conversely speaking, an author once popular and acclaimed might later be critiqued for aspects of their work that fall out of favour or are re-evaluated in a new light.
As Samuel Johnson says, “The task of the critic is not to make the stones stony, but to make the reader aware of the stoniness of the stones.” Here, Johnson metaphorically conveys the critic’s role in enhancing the reader’s perception and understanding of a work, rather than altering the intrinsic nature of the work itself.
Moreover, the rise of the internet and social media has transformed this relationship. The traditional gatekeeping roles of critics have been democratized, allowing a wider range of voices and perspectives to participate in the critique of literature. This shift has challenged authors to engage with a more diverse array of feedback, from professional critics to casual readers sharing their opinions online.
In addition, the relationship between authors and critics can be seen as a symbiotic one. Critics need authors to produce works for them to evaluate and discuss, while authors can benefit from the exposure, analysis, and audience engagement that critics provide. This interdependence highlights the essential role of each in the literary ecosystem.
In conclusion, the relationship between critics and authors is a critical component of the literary world. It is a relationship of interplay and exchange, where criticism serves as a bridge between the author’s personal vision and the public’s reception.
While it can be fraught with tension and disagreement, it is a life-long relationship that fosters growth, understanding, and the continual evolution of literature and art.