Sunday, October 18, 2009

Criticism: Destroying Art

Voltaire’s Candide addresses the concept of beauty. When Candide is amazed by the beauty within the play he cries. To his surprise a critic states: “Your tears are misplaced; that is a shocking actress; the actor who plays with her is yet worse; and the play is still worse than the actors” (57). By placing the critic in Candide, Voltaire demonstrates the annoyance of criticism on art and the parasitic role it plays on others.

Candide’s personal view of beauty is challenged; therefore the art becomes less important and the argument becomes the focus. I believe that Voltaire used this scene as a disclaimer, stating that with criticism comes a removal of pleasure within the art and he utilized this scene to prevent that from happening to his work. The critique beats up the art and its meaning, so pleasure is placed on pause while the audience is battling out on the meaning found within the art.

This then helps me move into my next point that art helps demonstrate free will and the formulation of unique interpretations. However, with this sense of criticism comes a “right” answer. Voltaire’s writing helps demonstrate that the art is more important than the “right” answer. The scene with Candide and the critic demonstrates everything Voltaire hoped wouldn’t happen to his art, Candide. However, the direct opposite happened when his novella was banned (kind of ironic?).

This reminded me of my service-learning at Education Based Latino Outreach, EBLO. Last week at EBLO, my service-learning (for my other class), the teacher I was working with told me that Carmen’s mother did not speak English. Given the name EBLO, I knew that for most of the children English was a second language, but I found Carmen’s case very interesting. Carmen was the best at reading and spelling in her class. To find out that her parents did not speak English astounded me. Carmen told me that she would take books out from the library to practice before she went to bed.

The concept of beauty came to my mind because Carmen loved this one book “Smelly Socks”, and because the other girls in the class were not on the same reading level they weren’t able to read it without assistance. So instead of asking Carmen what her favorite book was about, they just made fun of her and told her that it was a “boy’s book”. This experience made me see what other’s opinions could do to a little girl.

Just because the other girls didn’t think Smelly Socks was a good book, Carmen decided that she was going to change her favorite book to one the other girls liked. It hurt me to see this because Carmen enjoys reading, and I know that she appreciated the humor within Smelly Socks and to Carmen books were an escape for her, and these little girls (mini critics) put a damper on her book (art).

Voltaire’s Candide demonstrates the power of free will and the effect of criticism on the pleasure of art. I believe Voltaire placed the scene in the playhouse to say “don’t critique my work, just embrace it for what it is, otherwise the art behind it is lost”. I agree with that completely, because not only does criticism take away from the art it interferes with the overall purpose. People should acknowledge the works of art and see the beauty before the art gets subject to critics.

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