Peter Washington

Sons of Scotland

Tobias Smollett


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WHY DO SO many people still believe that ‘literature’ and ‘criticism’ are opposed or at best complementary activities, when they are really aspects of the same pursuit? And why do they so often assume that any poet or novelist, however bad, is superior to any critic, however good? I suppose one might expect poets and novelists to take this view, even when they write criticism eighteenththemselves; the surprise is that, on the whole, critics seem to agree with them, as do the public.

The root of the misunderstanding is a conviction that writers are ‘creative’ while critics are not. This distinction results fkm the exaltation of imagination at the expense of all other cognitive faculties –

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