White and Ciardi thus suggest that all criticism is atomistic, that holistic
or gestalt criticism is impossible. True, criticism usually begins with
taxonomy and with developing a vocabulary that identifies features. And,
true, most individual acts of criticism privilege one aspect or another of a
work of art. But each critique is part of a larger conversation, one in
which the individual contributions add up to a richer understanding and
appreciation of the art under examination. Criticism in a community of
critics yields an informed, rather than a naive, and thus much fuller
response to art.
That said, I acknowledge that critics often compete to have the last word,
not seeing themselves as contributing to conversation so much as forclosing
it. It's the difference between Calvin's _Institutes_ and Midrash in
Biblical exegesis. It's the difference between joining a "camp" of critics
who listen only to one another and a fully plural approach to criticism.
Thus, the injection of Ciardi and White into the conversation seems
stunningly pertinent to the other exchange about e-mail manners. . .