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On Criticism



Published in Dialogue

Volume 45, Issue 3

March 2013

We live in a culture of criticism.

If a movie review does not include at least one downside, we can’t trust it–it’s biased and superficial. If a student agrees with a political theorist completely, he or she lacks independent thought.

To be taken seriously, to show that we have gone beyond superficiality and really engaged with a text, to give credibility to our opinions on a subject, we must find fault. We must find some room for improvement, identify some error or limitation.

We must show that no essay or movie, idea or food, institution or theory is perfect. Everything is limited, and our culture of criticism demands that we find those limitations and broadcast them. If a book is persuasive, study its support; if it is well supported, examine its multiculturalism; if it is multicultural, scrutinize it for offensiveness. If it is inoffensive, look harder. […]