Reviews

Criticism With Character

This book presents essays written by George Panichas, which initially appeared from 1962 to 1980. Panichas's essays take the measure of a generation. What is their verdict?

It is not a happy one. Panichas finds modern conditions to be those defined by technology and Benthamism, by empiricism and quantification, and everywhere "humanistic values . . . have come under threat and attack." Panichas urges his readers "to challenge and to resist precisely those habits of mind that lead to the ascendancy of quantifying criteria at all levels of life and letters." It is Panichas's unceasing effort to unveil the "habits of mind" that define modern existence and to locate the roots of our language, culture, and society at large.

Panichas wants to maintain—or, better, to reestablish—"the character of criticism," by which he means, specifically, the moral dimensions of criticism. "The need to foment and instill critical leadership is a moral need," one based upon "the deeper meaning of life as judgment, as conduct, as character." The character traits required for any criticism worthy of the name are moral attributes, then, and their possession by a critic signals to Panichas that critic's awareness of his responsibilities. "Authentic fulfillment of critical responsibility demands a rigorous commitment to principles of order, to the making of hard...

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