Good Criticism Behaves Like Writerly Dirt

This fabrication of separation, this great divide, rejects closeness as transgressive, and demands a prophylaxis between writing and its subjects. This need to have everything in its proper place reveals criticality embedded in, rather than freed from modernities regime of hygiene and housecleaning. Critical distance in this context is like safe sex, absolutely necessary under certain circumstances, yet somehow, even if only in the most classical sense, unproductive. So, I’d like to re-fertilize criticism…I’d like to define criticism as writing that lacks critical distance. Instead of coming clean, good criticism behaves like writerly dirt; it’s always in the wrong place because it always tries to go anywhere that is too close for comfort, and claims that intimacy between architecture and criticism gives particular forms of efficacy and purpose to writing. For Lacan, transgressing the proper distance is the first step towards love, one that opens the space not of over idealization, but of fantasy and imagination, and therefore of production. Criticism therefore lacks critical distance but is a form of love that engages writing, in an imaginative performance.

Sylvia Lavin, The Coversation, November 2004, GSAPP, Columbia University


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