critic 1580s, "one who passes judgment," from M.Fr. critique (14c.), from L. criticus "a judge, literary critic," from Gk. kritikos "able to make judgments," from krinein "to separate, decide" (see crisis below). Meaning "one who judges merits of books, plays, etc." is from c.1600. The English word always had overtones of "censurer, faultfinder."A perfect judge will read each work of wit
With the same spirit that its author writ;
[Pope, "An Essay on Criticism," 1709]
And then how tame and weak has life itself become . . . .Where do we now meet an original nature?Where is the man with strength to be true,and to show himself as he is?– Goethe, Conversations with Eckermann
. . . when I reflect that the discovery of book-printing has resulted in virtual extinction of illiteracy, my optimism returns. On the other hand, when I reflect on the power and influence of many who have just about managed, painfully, to master the alphabet, then indeed my pessimism starts coming back again. [Schoenberg, Style and Idea (SI ), p.148]
. . . experts are as rare as good judgement. [SI, p.125]Mozart was told, after the first performance of his Don Giovanni in Vienna, by Emperor Joseph II: "This is no music for our Viennese." "No music for our Viennese?" At that time already it was not the highest quality of art Mozart should produce, but he was supposed to express himself as broadly as popular understanding required. * [SI, p.128]
It is a natural temptation for critics to engage in speculations more calculated to display their learning or virtuosity than to give a clear, dispassionate and accurate idea of their subject. ... Critics, to my mind, should be missionaries and prophets whose function is to discover and share with humanity the delightful secret that is music. Good missionaries are rare; good dissectionists are a drug on the market.– Jose Rodriguez,in Schoenberg, ed. Merle Armitage
. . . negative criticism, because it lacks generative power, is wrong ninety times out of a hundred . . . . [SI, p.140]
. . . the aim of the critic,beyond that of saying what he thinks,is to make two thoughts growwhere only one grew before.– Jacques Barzun, Science: the glorious entertainment
crisis early 15c., from Latinized form of Gk. krisis "turning point in a disease" (used as such by Hippocrates and Galen), lit. "judgment, result of a trial, selection," from krinein "to separate, decide, judge," from PIE base *krei- "to sieve, discriminate, distinguish" (cf. Gk. krinesthai "to explain;" O.E. hriddel "sieve;" L. cribrum "sieve," crimen "judgment, crime," cernere (pp. cretus) "to sift, separate;" O.Ir. criathar, O.Welsh cruitr "sieve;" M.Ir. crich "border, boundary"). Transferred non-medical sense is 1620s in English. A German term for "mid-life crisis" is Torschlusspanik, lit. "shut-door-panic," fear of being on the wrong side of a closing gate. (see critic above)
. . . there is no scorn more profound, or on the whole more justifiable, than that of the men who make for the men who explain. Exposition, criticism, appreciation, is work for second-rate minds.
– G.H. Hardy, A Mathematician's Apology
– Rudyard Kipling, "The Benefactors"Ah! What avails the classic bent
And what the cultured word,
Against the undoctored incident
That actually occurred?
(in The Years Between )
Thus we may understand Schopenhauer's story of the surprise of one ancient Greek orator who, when he was suddenly interrupted by applause and cheers, cried out: "Have I said some nonsense?" [SI, p.114]
* This quote featuring the well known "reception story" about Don Giovanni is included here in order to credit Emperor Joseph II as possibly music's very first "new critic." It is ironic (or a fun fact, if you prefer) that an 18th century monarch should provide what is arguably history's first example of ad populum criticism. Sensing what was coming, Postmodernism decided to get a head start.