The PQeticWrites Fraternity
-- Literary Critique
One Member's View
By Norman T. Thornton
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

    The PQeticWrites Fraternity meetings of literary critique, what it isn't: 
     The PQeticWrites Fraternity is more interested in literary critique than pedestrian criticism.  As far as The PoeticWrites Fraternity is concerned, to aid in understanding literary critique as opposed to pedestrian criticism, some notions are presented.  One essential differencing notion is that in a literary critique  the critic is responsible to make use of their imagination to supply a response beyond the prosaic.  Comments about mechanics for instance have a place, more appropriately conveyed in a writer's workshop than at a Fraternity meeting.   Fraternity members are more concerned with looking deep within the poetic writes and themselves instead of pointing out supposed shortcomings (superficial or otherwise) of a poetic write.
    The Fraternity is not interested in the professorial "how well"  of literary critique.  Answering "Did the poetic write achieve a particular?" is not the focus.  But instead, the Fraternity is concerned with "how does" and  "what does" a poetic write achieve, where achieve is taken to mean a positive attainment.  Saying a poetic write achieves boredom when that is obviously not the intent is simply rude and not Fraternity esprit.
    Is the Fraternity merely a mutual admiration society?  The Fraternity seeks to find, make and share gold in poetic writes for the mutual benefit of all Fraternity members.  It does not seek to glorify any individual, style, technique, poetic write, etc. or merely pass out pats on the head.  However, leaving a Fraternity meeting with a sense of creative refreshment is a Fraternity goal.  So, the answer is no; it is not merely a mutual admiration society.  It  is more  of a communal fountain for creative renewal and reflection, an all too rare societal experience perhaps.
What it is:
 sanctuary for poetic ideas.   
Possible mottos: 

Some concepts to consider when discussing a poetic write:
General Observations
Was any of the poetic write:
How so?
Essay Directives
    Below, the items are in gray to show that they are not the focus or are to be avoided.  For instance, Fraternity members do not seek to "Criticise" anyone's poetic write.  If a Fraternity member calls for or offers "Critical Analysis", it is an examination of the topic or argument or the poetic write's strenghts.  A call for an "Explanation" is a request for   your main focus on the 'why' of a particular issue, or on the 'how' with the aim of clarifying reasons, causes and effects.
    Consider directives of essay questions:
Analyse Separate or break up something into its component parts so that you discover its nature proportion, function, relationship, etc.
Comment Make critical observations, even if they are fairly open-ended. Your texts, learning guide, lecture and discussion notes should provide sufficient guidelines and your own commonsense should prevail.
Compare Find similarities and differences between two or more ideas, events, interpretations, etc. Ensure you understand exactly what you are being asked to compare.
Contrast Find similarities and differences between two or more ideas, events, interpretations etc. Focus on the differences.
Examine the topic or argument in terms of its strengths and weaknesses.
Criticise Express your judgments regarding the correctness or merit of the factors being considered. Discuss both strong and weak points and give the results of your own analysis. Student insights are expected and arguments must be justified.
Define Provide concise, clear, authoritative meanings. In such statements, details are not necessarily required, but briefly cite the boundaries or limitations of the definition. Remember the 'class' to which a things belongs and whatever differentiates the particular object from all others in that class.
Describe Recall facts, processes or events. You are not asked to explain or interpret. Try to provide a thorough description, emphasizing the most important points.
Diagram Present a drawing, chart, plan or graphic representation in your answer. Generally, you are also expected to label the diagram and a brief explanation or description may be required.
Discuss Present a point of view. This is likely to need both description and interpretation. Your opinion must be supported by carefully chosen and authoritative evidence.
Enumerate Provide a list or outline form of reply. In such questions you should recount, one by one, but concisely, the points required.
Evaluate Present a judgment of an issue by stressing both strengths and advantages, and weaknesses and limitations. The emphasis is on assessing the value, worth or relevance of the matter under scrutiny.
Explain Your main focus should be on the 'why' of a particular issue, or on the 'how' with the aim of clarifying reasons, causes and effects. You are being tested on your capacity to think critically, to exercise perception and discernment.
Illustrate This asks for an explanation; you may clarify your answer to a problem by presenting a figure, picture, diagram or concrete example.
Interpret Explain the meaning of something and give your own judgment of the situation.
List Give an itemised series or tabulation; such answers should be concise.

Outline This asks for an organised description. Give the main points and essential supplementary materials, but omit minor details. Present the information in a systematic arrangement or classification.
Prove To conform or verify. You should establish something with certainty by evaluating and citing experimental evidence, or by logical reasoning.
Relate When showing relationships, your answer should emphasize connection and associations in a descriptive manner.
Review Re-examine, analyse and comment briefly (in an organised sequence) on the major points of an issue.
State Express the high points in brief and clear narrative form. Details, and usually illustrations or examples, may be omitted.
Summarise Provide a brief statement or an account covering the main points; omit details.
Trace Give the development, process or history of a thing, event or idea, especially by proceeding from the latest to the earliest evidence.

Source: Adapted from Bate, D. 1979, Essay Method and English Expression, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Group, Sydney.

Entertain what Alexander Pope addresses in his length poem An Essay On Criticism:

          A perfect judge will read each word of wit
          With the same spirit that its author writ:
          Survey the whole, nor seek slight faults to find
          Where Nature moves, and rapture warms the mind . . .
          Whoever thinks a faultless piece to see,
          Thinks what ne'er was, nor is, nor e'er shall be.
          In every work regard the writer's end,
          Since none can compass more than they intend . . .
          Most critics, fond of some subservient art,
          Still make the whole dependent on a part . . .
                                                                      (233-36; 253-56; 263-64)

and what Tina Blue (lecturer in English at the University of Kansas since 1972) points out:

          This point is important, because too many people think that what a critic does with literature is criticize it. But anyone who is primarily in the business of pointing out supposed flaws in works of literature is more properly called a kvetch than a critic. To critique a work of literature is not to identify flaws, or even to judge the relative quality of the work, though sometimes a critic does end up doing one or both of those things.

          The point of literary criticism is to get under the hood of a work of literature, in order to understand both what it means and how it achieves its meaning and effect--i.e., the sort of thing I was doing in the first two articles in this series.

          What I am saying is that the critic analyzes and interprets, and his purpose is to understand a work of literature on its own ground, not to complain about what it isn't or what it doesn't do.