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In Dialectical materialism does not necessarily turn the critic into a mere guardian of party doctrine, but it does forbid him to treat literature as a cause in itself, apart from the working class’s needs as interpreted by the party.
Criticism can antagonize authors even when it performs its function well.
Authors who regard literature as needing no advocates or investigators are less than grateful when told that their works possess unintended meaning or are imitative or incomplete.
What such authors may tend to forget is that their works, once published, belong to them only in a legal sense.
The true owner of their works is the public, which will appropriate them for its own concerns regardless of the critic.
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Join Britannica's Publishing Partner Program and our community of experts to gain a global audience for your work!Pedantic critics can obstruct a serious engagement with literature by deflecting attention toward inessential matters.As the French philosopher-critic Jean-Paul Sartre observed, the critic may announce that French thought is a perpetual colloquy between Pascal and Montaigne not in order to make those thinkers more alive but to make thinkers of his own time more dead.The literary critic is sometimes cast in the role of scholarly detective, unearthing, authenticating, and editing unknown manuscripts.Thus, even rarefied scholarly skills may be put to criticism’s most elementary use, the bringing of literary works to a public’s attention.One of criticism’s principal functions is to express the shifts in sensibility that make such revaluations possible.The minimal condition for such a new appraisal is, of course, that the original text survive.Because critics often try to be lawgivers, declaring which works deserve respect and presuming to say what they are “really” about, criticism is a perennial target of resentment.Misguided or malicious critics can discourage an author who has been feeling his way toward a new mode that offends received taste.Especially in modern Europe, literary criticism has occupied a central place in debate about cultural and political issues.Sartre’s own (1947) is typical in its wide-ranging attempt to prescribe the literary intellectual’s ideal relation to the development of his society and to literature as a manifestation of human freedom.