Why literary critics still count


The past decade has been a vivid tutorial in the truth of Marshall McLuhan’s phrase, “the medium is the message”. The rise of 24/7 TV and the concomitant decline of traditional network news has fragmented the old collective audience. Today disparate groups receive the same facts, filtered through a different angle of the political prism. Web commentary has split these primary colours into a thousand graded hues. The residual virtue of mainstream critics is that they still discriminate on behalf of whole communities; they bind readers together, not slice them into ever smaller coteries. Also, in a world characterised by a hyper-abundance of media, where bandwidths are filled with a ceaseless flow of chatter and governments drown real information in large-scale data dumps, it is the sceptical, nimble-minded, old-fashioned literary critic, trained to thresh narrative grain from word chaff, who is best situated to gather something like truth from the digital realm.

more from Georgie Williamson at the ALR here.