The Role of Knowledge and Preference in Literary Criticism

In: English and Literature

Submitted By bleu5591
Words 1651
Pages 7
Chrystal Hemphill
Dr. Kilpatrick
ENG 500
10/12/2015

The Role of Knowledge and Preference in Literary Criticism

Some argue that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, while others argue that there are scientific and social factors that contribute to a clear definition of beauty. The same type of argument comes into focus when one considers literature. Dictionary.com defines literature as “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit,” but this brings into question how one is to judge whether a work has greater or enduring artistic value. This question is addressed in Plato’s Ion. In Ion, Plato addresses whether it is through experience and skill or through divine intervention that Ion judges the merit of works. Through an explication of the text, one can consider whether it is knowledge or preference that leads to determining value through literary criticism. The dialogue opens with Socrates speaking to Ion who is a rhapsodist, or a professional performer of epic poetry. The reader learns that Ion is a skilled rhapsodist as he has just won first place among competitors at the festival of Asclepius. It is upon this knowledge and skill that Ion bases his affinity for Homer. Ion makes the claim that Homer is a superior poet and because of this, Ion is better able to interpret his works as compared to his inability to interpret other poets’ works. When this claim is made, Socrates goes through a series of deductions in order to determine how Ion has come to realize the merit of Homer’s works. Unlike Ion, Socrates believes that Ion’s judgment is based on divine intervention as opposed to any real skill. In order to prove his argument, Socrates equates the rhapsodist to artists or sculptors and argues that the artist does not limit his or herself to a critique of simply one artist, and that Ion should not do the…...

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