Monday, April 3, 2017

Good Teaching involves the Cultivation of Good Taste

New Criterion
"[T.S.] Eliot does not say what the impact of “Embankment” was on the class to which he read it. Perhaps he could not produce evidence, except to say that the poem gave pleasure. Maybe he urged the class to listen as if they were listening to a piece of music. If we have a chance to hear András Schiff playing Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, we do not say anything, unless we are musicologists or professional music critics: anything we would say would be banal, our response is not a discursive one. It is not an occasion for saying. It may be analogous to the experience that Eliot adumbrates at the end of “The Dry Salvages” of
music heard so deeply
That it is not heard at all, but you are the music
While the music lasts.
—if such a degree of transformation is possible.
This is probably enough to show that “elucidation” is not the right word in Eliot’s phrase “the elucidation of works of art.” By calling works of art “autotelic,” he protected them from improper comment, but he did not say what form a proper comment would take. “The Correction of Taste” is more intelligible. I take him to mean that if something is in bad taste it should be corrected by appeal to good taste. To pick up a phrase he used earlier, taste is the custom by which we like something with the right liking. That is the direction of good teaching. It is easy to like something for the wrong reason. Many of us like trash for no good or right reason. Trying again: the function of criticism—as of good teaching—is to lead our students, our readers—to like something for the right reason. What is the right reason? That is what we have to know and to be able to show."


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.