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Two Thumbs UpHow Critics Aid Appreciation$
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Stephanie Ross

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226064284

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226705033.001.0001

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Comparing and Sharing Taste

Comparing and Sharing Taste

(p.134) 6. Comparing and Sharing Taste
Two Thumbs Up

Stephanie Ross

University of Chicago Press

I introduce Critic Clusters, groupings of critics whose preference sets (assessments of various works) overlap, to impose a metric on critical judgment. The clusters' density indicates the comparative value of works as well as the tendentiousness of competing interpretations. In addition to charting how critics’ opinions relate to those of their predecessors (the test of time) and their contemporaries (the suitability requirement), we must also examine how they relate to the amateurs they advise. I address two important challenges posed by Jerrold Levinson: Training Up—why abandon the works we like for more difficult works that critics recommend?—and Authenticity—don’t we lose something of ourselves, and become more like everyone else, if we allow critics to shape our taste? Levinson is insistent that critics’ advice can lead novices to more rewarding aesthetic experiences. I believe this claim must be doubly leavened, including not only the qualification Levinson proposes regarding equivalence classes of worthy works, but also the suitability effects I argued for earlier. Issues about the trajectory of taste come into play here. I suggest that the notions of juvenilia and maturity apply to critics and the amateurs they advise as well as to artists’ oeuvres.

Keywords:   critic clusters, equivalence classes, developmental arc, authenticity, training

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