Archaeology of Criticism



"[A]ll deep thought begins and ends in the attempt to grasp whatever touches one most immediately." [Søren Kierkegaard, The Journals of Kierkegaard 98 (1959) (quoted in Patricia F. Sanborn, Existentialism 21 (New York: Pegasus, 1968))]

"We become critics naturally, as it were, by elaborating on existing moralities and telling stories about a society more just than, though never entirely different from, our own." [Michael Walzer, Interpretation and Social Criticism 65 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1987)]

"Language is the principal medium that allows you to interact with yourself. . . . A principle value of language . . . is that it permits you to distance yourself from your own perceptions, feelings, and thoughts." [Peter Elbow, Writing Without Teachers 15 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973)]

"[W]ords are a way to find your route back." [Larry Woiwode, What I Think I Did: A Season of Survival in Two Acts 132 (New York: Basic Books, 2000)]

"It is the challenge of some problematic aspect of experience that precipitates all of us into such thinking as we ever do. . . ." [Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form 18 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976)]

"It is a feature of everyday life that it supports our self-conceptions much of the time so that it is only when for some reason it leads us on to a disappointment or failure that we become aware of our self-investment in the way we see things." [John O'Neill, Making Sense Together: An Introduction to Wild Sociology 43 (New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1994)]

"[D]oubt leads first to a question, a real question. A real question is not just a thought, or a collection of words or symbols somewhere, or some form of logical structure. A real question is a state of your being, a total state, in which there is suddenly created a large space between thought and action, an empty space across which there are no roads, no tracks, no signposts, no evidence of habitation; you do not know how to start across, what will happen on the other side--if there is one--or why you should undertake the journey. Much less do you know whether you will be happy along the way, or when you get there. Even the simplest actions are suddenly difficult, and confident decisions distant. What once took no time now takes only time, and your doubt only increases the delay." [Robert A. Lloyd, Images of Survival 35 (New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1973)]

"I'm sure we're all familiar with these moments when the meanings on which we've been building our lives unexpectedly collapse. Suddenly they lack weight and substance, no longer influencing us or holding us up as they once did. Before, we may have been motivated for success--making money, providing for our family, or seeking to be loved. Now suddenly, in this moment, we wonder why we're doing all of this, what it's all about. We may look around in vain for some absolute, unwavering reason for it all, some unshakable ground, yet all we see is the inexorable passing of time and our hopeless attempts to grasp on to something solid.

At the same time, when an old structure falls away and we don't have a new one to replace it, we usually feel a certain inner rawness. That kind of tenderness and nakedness is one of the most essential qualities of our humanness, one which we are usually masking. When an outer shell or facade or mask falls away, we get to touch what we might call our basic vulnerability." [John Welwood, "Vulnerability and Power in the Therapeutic Process," in John Welwood (ed.), Awakening the Heart: East/West Approaches to Psychotherapy and the Healing Relationship 148-162, at 148-149 (Boulder: Shambhala, 1983)]

"But there come times--perhaps this is one of them--when we have to take ourselves more seriously or die; when we have to pull back from the incantations, rhythms we've moved to thoughtlessly, and disenthrall ourselves, bestow ourselves to silence, or a severer listening, cleansed of oratory, formulas, choruses, laments, static crowding the wires. We cut the wires, find ourselves in free-fall, as if our true home were the undimensional solitudes, the rift in the Great Nebula. No one who survives to speak new language, has avoided this: the cutting-away of an old force that held her rooted to an old ground, the pitch of utter loneliness where she herself and all creation seem equally dispersed, weightless. . . ." [Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 74-75 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979)]

"The . . . inner drama is begun when dark, turbulent feelings threaten to engulf a person. The conscious self, the daytime self, ordinarily has no interest in exploring the dark; it is only when ego-consciousness feels itself about to be engulfed that it acts." [William James O'Brien, Stories to the Dark: Explorations in Religious Imagination 41 (New York: Paulist Press, 1977)]

"It is reserved for man alone to find his very existence questionable, to experience the whole dubiousness of being. More than such faculties as power of speech, conceptual thinking, or walking erect, this factor of doubting the significance of his own existence is what sets man apart from animal." [Viktor Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul 30 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1960)]

"Even if man's hunger and thirst and his sexual strivings are completely satisfied, 'he' is not satisfied. In contrast to the animal his most compelling problems are not solved then, they only begin. He strives for power or for love, or for destruction, he risks his life for religious, for political, for humanistic ideals, and these strivings are what constitutes and characterizes the peculiarity of human life." [Erich Fromm, Man For Himself 46 (New York: Rinehart and Company, 1947)]

"Contemporary man is prey to a recurrent sense of dissatisfaction. He is intermittently bored, frustrated and neurotic. Life is only occasionally there to be simply lived. Much of the time its structures demand immediate remedial work . . . .

In some traditional societies identity might readily be constructed out of the material of paramount reality. Individuals could display themselves by showing commitment to the arrangements and routines of everyday life. But contemporary consciousness is informed by a sense of reality as something which is not completely our own. We are able to reflect upon our life plans, are able to see them as relative by observing the existence of other dissimilar life plans." [Stanley Cohen & Laurie Taylor, Escape Attempts: The Theory and Practice of Resistance to Everyday Life 21, 22 (New York: Penguin Books, 1978)]

"The search for explanation itself lifts us out of our narrow concerns; and the free consideration of possibilities, placing a matter within a wider matrix of possibilities, not only increases understanding but enables us to transcend the limits of the actual." [Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations 625 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1981)]

"Every intellectual effort sets us apart from the commonplace, and leads us by hidden and difficult paths to secluded spots where we find ourselves amid unaccustomed thoughts." [José Ortega y Gasset , What Is Philosophy? 15 (New York: W. W. Norton, 1960)]

"There is in science and art alike the drive on the part of the creator to get away from the ordinary world of perception and of what we like to think of as common sense." [Robert Nisbet, Sociology as an Art Form 12 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1976)]

"When the dominant vision that holds a period of culture together cracks, consciousness regresses into earlier containers, seeking sources for survival which also offer sources of revival." [James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology 27 (New York: Harper Colophon, 1975)]

"The subjective experience of awareness is outreaching, always expressing itself, however dimly, in some faith in and wonder about the world that extends beyond itself." [Philip Wheelwright, Metaphor and Reality 28-29 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, First Midland Book ed., 1968)]

"[P]articular doubts and uncertainties . . . when pressed and probed far enough, will turn into philosophical doubts and philosophical uncertainties." [Stuart Hampshire, Innocence and Experience 3 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989)]

"From Plato to Schopenhauer philosophers are agreed that the source of their philosophizing is wonder." [Friedrich Waismann, "How I See Philosophy," in Charles Frankel, The Pleasures of Philosophy 282-300, 284 (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1972)]

"Wonderment gives rise to question and insight, man's doubt in the knowledge he has attained gives rise to critical examination and clear certainty, his awe and sense of forsakeness lead him to inquire into himself." [Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom 43 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1951)]

"Reality can't be comprehended without taking into account feelings. The abstractions of intellect and reasoning are important, but when they lose touch with feelings they open the way for in human and destructive acts. When we lose touch with our feelings, we lose touch when our most human qualities. Living in our feelings, we are most in touch, most alive." [David Viscott, The Language of Feelings: The Time-and-Money Shorthand of Psychotherapy 12 (New York: Arbor House, 1976)]

"Begin by watching. Watch the things that seem to be most you: your feeling states." [Arthur Deikman, Personal Freedom: On Finding Your Way to the Real World 102 (New York: Grossman, 1976)]

"[I]f one is to contain the panicking spread of anxiety, one must be able to identify and put a comprehensive label upon one's feelings . . . ." [Jerome S. Bruner, On Knowing: Essays for the Left Hand 33 (New York: Atheneum, 1965)]

"[T]he emotions are the antennae of the psyche and intercept signals that exist in abundance but are not picked up by the cognitive faculties. They are indispensable guides to the deeper motivations and feelings that underlie our own reactions to other human beings and their reactions to us. Without full access to the emotional antennae, it is difficult to assess in what ways one's own self and that of others are genuine, or are false and therefore untrustworthy." [Edrita Fried, The Courage to Change: From Insight to Self-Innovation 51 (New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1980)]

"If the imagination is to transcend and transform experience it has to question, to challenge, to conceive of alternatives, perhaps to the very life you are living at that moment. You have to be free to play around with the notion that day might be night, love might be hate; nothing can be too sacred for the imagination to turn into its opposite or to call experimentally by another name." [Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978 43 (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979)]

"Images are vital for they help us to discover in the vision of our subjects that which may have escaped our own vision; like other metaphors they work to shift the way we see things. But images can be made to lead us to the discovery of the central or formative convictions, the rock-ribbed beliefs which, if a man is something or stands for something, show us more precisely what he stands for and what or who he is." [James Wm. McClendon, Biography as Theology 193-194 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1974)]

"At the level of ordinary consciousness the individual man is the center of everything, surrounded on all sides by what he isn't. At the level of practical sense, or civilization, there's a human circumference, a little cultivated world with a human shape, fenced off from the jungle and inside the sea and the sky. But in the imagination anything goes that can be imagined, and the limit of the imagination is a totally human world." [Northrop Frye, The Educated Imagination 29 (Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1970)]

"[W]e can only promote free men by giving them self-critical knowledge. Here is the core of the difficulty. For in order to free oneself, in order to 'know' oneself critically, one must already be somewhat freed, somewhat 'loosened up' by favorable circumstances. The organism has to have had certain life chances, a certain life career, which predispose it to self-examination and self-reflection." [Ernest Becker, Beyond Alienation 200 (New York: George Braziller, 1967)]

"The feminine is the missing link in our chain of connections to the knowledge and deepened experience of man's psychic life. There is no access to full conscious and unconscious life without the feminine modality. The feminine must be worked on, probed, examined, mediated upon, conjectured about, and contemplated, for the feminine is the completing element in every effort we can make to become a more fully human person." [Ann Bedford Ulanov, The Feminine in Jungian Psychology and in Christian Theology 134 (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1971)]

"Things that women have always informally and deeply known, and been heavily relied upon . . . to affirm on an everyday, folk-knowledge level--for example, that personal truth, one's own intuitive grasp of what is going on, is ignored at one's own grave risk; that large-scale politics are pompous and farcical; that science and logic are limited and overrated part of our array of techniques for exploring reality; that face-to-face relations are in a basic sense the point of life; that flowers, gossip, the smell of food, the smiling of babies, embody and symbolize central human values." [Dorothy Dinnerstein, The Mermaid and the Minotaur 267 (New York: Harper Colophon, 1977)]


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