Reviews + Writings

Where does the word 'criticism' come from?


The term criticism includes three overlapping fields of inquiry-- history, theory, and evaluative criticism. In history, the work is viewed as part of a historical process. In theory an attempt is made to describe the principles of the art form, its genres, techniques and functions. Criticism in the narrow sense of evaluative criticism concerns the study and analysis of specific works and their authors. This judgmental role is often singled out as the particular task of criticism and is a view sanctioned by the etymology of the term, which is derived from the Greek krinein, "to judge." The term kritikos as "a judge of literature" originated as early as the end of the 4th century BC.

Today the role of critic has expanded. Thousands of new works are being released daily and in this flood of output we often trust the critic to suggest to us which works are worthwhile. He has in fact become critic and curator.

"A 'critic' is a man (or woman) who creates nothing and thereby feels qualified to judge the work of creative men (and women). There is logic in this; he is unbiased - he hates all creative people equally."
- Robert A. Heinlein, The Notebooks of Lazarus Long

This rather harsh quote of Robert A. Heinlein rings true sometimes, but today we need the critic more than ever, to help us cut through endless new works and releases.