On Evaluative Criticism

36 thoughts on “On Evaluative Criticism”

  1. Reblogged this on tiffanymariepalaniuk and commented:
    I can’t highlight a single sentence (or phrase, for that matter) written by Mark that did not pull me in. Excellent flow, organization, and tone.

  2. Very thought provoking post. I saw the movie and honestly did not enjoy it but I am inclined to agree with your opinion.

  3. I like how you’re focusing on the fact that people use books and the media as political platforms and sometimes take something that was supposed to be entertaining or enlightening or inspiring and turn it into a social issue. I look forward to reading more of your work.

    1. I don’t have a problem with people politicizing the media, I just want to stress that a thing’s politics need to be argued and demonstrated and even if they are than that does not conclude the possibility of further and even contradictory meanings.

  4. Very interesting and well argued.

    One of the difficulties I have always had with some breeds of cultural criticism is the tendency to be evaluative, to take up a political position and use that position as a way of labeling a text good or bad, progressive or regressive. And often these evaluations drift away from the actual text in question to the point that the argument is weakened by the lack of attention to local factors like generic or narrative strategies or larger stylistic conventions.

    You’re right about the endless flow of signification and that the analysis of meaning can’t be tied down to a single conclusive Meaning and instead should be open to multiple voices interpreting the text according to any number of social and political factors.

    The problem is that that endless flow is not necessarily conducive to certain types of political discourse. When I tried to tackle the Black Widow problem (https://24frameworkspersecond.wordpress.com/2015/05/11/feminism-and-the-black-widow-problem/) I argued that a great deal of feminist criticism has its roots in provocation, in the attempt to provoke discussion and debate in order to challenge some of the binaries you’ve mentioned and to enact change. Because of the immense visibility of popular cinema, discussion of the feminist status of films like Mad Max opens a widely available arena for those kinds of debates in which taking a definitive stance may be an important rhetorical (and therefore political) strategy.

    I get frustrated by that kind of criticism both because it tends to lock down meaning and because it tends to forget the text in its search for that meaning – the film essentially becomes a tool for examining something like gender disparities rather than the discussion of gender being used to understand the film – and I have always been more interested in micro level questions of style and narrative than macro level enquiries into cinema’s relationship with society. I think those debates about popular film could benefit from looking more closely at those micro level questions and adopting the type of analysis you suggest, but I do understand why evaluative critiques exist and why they could even be considered necessary.

  5. Excellent points. My husband has started to inject the word binary into our conversations as in “That question begs a binary–yes or no–response” because I just love to entertain multidimensional perspectives. I get it but, like Captain Kirk from Star Trek, you can’t win if you always allow the other to set up rigid yes or no answers only.. lol. I enjoy your thinking. It engages my thinking. That is a good thing.

  6. I enjoyed this piece.
    One person may not enjoy it but another might. And I don’t all things can be feminist, I just think some people look down on women like we’re objects. Everyone should have a chance to express themselves
    Don’t be naive. Just because one woman didn’t enjoy the movie, it doesn’t mean it’s terrible.
    Everyone different lets be proud of that instead of judging them.

  7. Thank you so much for saying this! Film will always be subjective, so when everyone claimed that Mad Max was feminist, I thought, “What if I see it and disagree? What then?” Everyone can have an opinion, but in a subject like film, opinion will never become fact.

    1. Well, a film’s subjectivity doesn’t disprove the point. It can be “feminist” or not, but what I hope is for people to explore their subjectivity more openly and to try to argue, understand and communicate their positions. You’re right, a film never be fact, but opinions can still be reasonable and valuable. Thanks for the comment.

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