Charles Altieri

"Appreciating Appreciation."  

I try to flesh out the concept of appreciation as a goal for literary criticism by stressing four of its features.  Two involve how we treat the literary object: appreciation stresses the singular object and involves how it demonstrates a capacity for action in imagined situations.  Two involve placing the object in cultural life.  First there is the sense that literary works live by discourse about them.  So the lack of epistemic constraints becomes a positive feature because the goal of criticism is simply to foster the work's life in discourse by elaborating what that discourse can reveal and clarify.  And the ultimate ethical and social role of appreciation is establishing modes of responsiveness in life that are not based on resentment and the self-defensiveness that breeds.