On The Aesthetic Turn

Anastasia Berg at The Point:

The critical tide is turning, once again. The professional critics—and not just the old, curmudgeonly ones—are fed up with moralizing, and they are willing to speak about it in public. From Lauren Oyler’s observation that “anxieties about being a good person, surrounded by good people, pervade contemporary novels and criticism” to Parul Sehgal’s exhortation against the ubiquitous “trauma plot” that “flattens, distorts, reduces character to symptom, and … insists upon its moral authority” to Garth Greenwell’s lament about a literary culture that “is as moralistic as it has ever been in my lifetime”—the critical vanguard has made its judgment clear. For all its good intentions, art that tries to minister to its audience by showcasing moral aspirants and paragons or the abject victims of political oppression produces smug, tiresome works that are failures both as art and as agitprop. Artists and critics—their laurel bearers—should take heed.

The extent of this shift in critical sensibility is hard to measure, but what some have labeled the “aesthetic turn” is not limited to the literary reviews.

more here.