I read Ronan McDonald's The Death of the Critic last week and liked it well enough. I've seen it dragged into debates about print media versus the blogosphere, but really it has precious little to say about the blogging. The vast bulk of McDonald's book is taken up with the history of the critic (and owes much to John Gross's The Rise and Fall of the Man of Letters). It is an interesting romp, and McDonald is good at showing how Eng.Lit.'s permanent worries about its own ontological status (is Eng.Lit. a proper thing to study? how does one study it?) and criticism's growth and mutations have been closely tied together. After blaming cultural studies for killing the critic -- the critic as public intellectual that is -- he ends his book with a guarded call for a new aestheticism. Along the way, McDonald has some warm words for F.R. Leavis which I was glad to see.

Anyway, over on Todd Swift's blog, McDonald did have this to say about blog stuff:

I know there are excellent critics working on the internet and I hope that they get the recognition they deserve. I feel that blogs have unleashed a wave of energy through the criticism of the arts. And I certainly don't endorse the caricature of blogging as amateurish and semi-moronic.

But there are dangers in the blogosphere too. My chief concern is that the talented critics writing therein will end up being swamped out by the mediocre and banal. The open door policy of the web allows in much talent, but also much dross. The small circulation magazines of the modernists had the advantage of also being few in number. I do think that there is something to fear in the volume of comment that the Internet affords. It makes it easier to miss the good stuff. And to point out that some critics have had authority in the past is by no means ot endorse 'tyranny'. It is to say that we need to read the best criticsim, just as we should be reading the best poetry.

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