A few of the curious consequences of RS Crane's Aristotelian-inductive approach (ie. a kind of scientific-investigative process : you take poems one at a time, you ask questions of them having to do with what the poet was trying to achieve, and what kind of guiding or formative impulse shapes the work; you proceed by the method of "multiple hypotheses", weighing different possibilities rather than following some abstract, a priori schema or theory about what poetry in general "is"):

1. On the business of "form & content" in poetry (remember that?): the form turns out to be the complex poetic representation as a whole; the matter is the verbal material (like clay in pottery) out of which the form is developed. This is the reverse of the usual arrangement (whereby "form" is the language, "content" is the subject-matter).

2. The method shows a kind of impersonality which is bracing. Although no evidence can be ruled out when analyzing a poem, the method doesn't begin with the biography or literary development of the poet. Questions are asked of individual poems : is this an "imitative" or "didactic" work? If the former, what is being represented by the speaker? Is the lyric an emotional response to a situation? Or a decision or exortation to action (ie. Marvell's "To His Coy Mistress")? Or a meditation on a serious issue called forth by a situation (Gray's "Elegy")? From a variety of directions, the critic tries to get at what the impulse or motive for the poem is - what kind of impression or effect is the poet driving at?

Imagine a critical reading of contemporary poems which came at them in this way, using various analytical tools (genre, mode, literary history, creative impulse) to triangulate the measure of beauty or effectiveness of the work.

This seems so different from what we usually get in a critical article or review : a combination of taste and impressionism, which, because it lacks method and consistency, usually falls back on a stock of "in-house" references and vocabulary; ie., the reviewer, the poet & the reader must share a closed circle of acceptable discourse and knowledge to even make primitive sense of the values to which the critic refers. The reviewer leads in with a resume of the poet's background or past performance, or the "school" to which he/she belongs; perhaps a brief polemic about the parlous state of literary affairs and the salutary difference this poet makes; then a few hyperbolic remarks on the high points of the book under review, a few gentle hints or words to the wise about weaker examples; and that's it. Or perhaps we get a "close reading" of one of the poems in the book : we learn that both the poet & the reviewer have a veritably seraphic deep & special knowledge of some kind, or a genius for subtle triple-entendres, or a mastery of some arcane metrical technique - and this is offered by way of a general aesthetic assessment of the book. It's a wonderful amalgam of sophistry and pseudo-pedantry, which, at least in comparison with Crane's methodical approach, never gets close to particular poems at all.

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