Someone recently said to me that literary critics are either builders or cutters: they extend others' ideas or cut others' ideas down. As far as I can tell, this is more a matter of framing than of substance; any building necessarily cuts against whatever else might have once occupied that space; any cutting implicitly rests on certain strongly held, if unavowed, beliefs. The framing can be powerful, though; I'm currently reading a book, for instance, that largely stages itself as cutting, and, halfway through, I'm still unclear on the book's actual argument.
In my writing I try as much as possible to be a builder. To my mind, building is more difficult, and therefore more rewarding, than cutting. Building is, as much as possible, an act of creation. But the commitment to building is also part of my research interests; despite their sometimes oppositional language ("I, too, dislike it"), the authors I study are interested in bringing something forth that was once concealed, or insubstantial, or inaccessible.
In the midst of various pressures, it is good to be able to bring something forth, and so in what (wrongly, of course) feels like my old age I find myself renewing my commitment to building. I find myself interested in the craft of critical writing, in the presence of the voice, in the modalities of affection, in what it means to praise. (This last, admittedly, in the context of needing to write a letter of recommendation for something unusually important.) That doesn't mean I've gone all hippie: I'm also interested in invective, in aporia, in travesty, in the poetics of mockery. But I'm interested in them as things that exist rather than as negations of something else.
In other words, I suppose, I'm feeling productive. Which is a good way to be in April, allegedly the cruellest month.
'Again the sun!
day; and new and new and new,
that comes into and steadies my soul.' (ll. 142-5)
Moore, Marianne. "The Pangolin." A-Quiver with Significance: Marianne Moore, 1932-1936. Ed. Heather Cass White. Victoria, BC: ELS Editions, 2008. Print.