“SCHOLAR –CRITIC” - ARCHAIC
Annie Kantha.P ,
Fredrick Wilse Bateson (1901 - 1978), an English literary scholar and critic, was born in Cheshire and educated at Chaterhouse and at Trinity College, Oxford. He is best remembered for his work of the post-war years. In 1951 he founded the critical journal Essays in Criticism and his other works include Words-Worth: A Reinterpretation and A Guide to English Literature. Bateson was skeptical of ‘scientific’ and historical approaches to literary criticism.
According to Bateson, the first essential quality of a scholar-critic is scholarship. The scholar-critic must be a scholar, a researcher, before he can become a really competent critic. The origins of this book, according to the author’s preface, were a series of lectures given in various forms at Oxford, Cornell, Berkeley and the Pennsylvania State University, for the benefit of students beginning their graduate work. The textbook is useful for the use of illustrations and interesting commentary. There is a wealth of information and advice running through the book which is essential for a young graduate student.
Bateson’s Scholar-Critic deals with Research. Research is composed of two words, ‘Re’ and ‘search’ which means to search again or to search for new facts or to modify older ones in any branch of knowledge. A Researcher does not aim at proving something, but at discovering something. Novelty for the sake of novelty is not and should not be the aim of the researcher.
Bateson is not at his best as a theorist and the least satisfactory of his chapters “Sense of Fact”, “The literary object”, “Works of Reference”, “Style”, “Interpretation” and “Literary History.”
Bateson borrowed the phrase “Sense of Fact” from T. S. Eliot. Beginning with the discussion of research from undergraduate studies, Bateson moves on to distinguish research and criticism - the two essential qualities of a Scholar-Critic. The thread of argument that runs through the book is that literary criticism and literary scholarship are independent studies. Central to the argument is the bridge between scholarship and criticism, at the theoretical level at any rate, is the question of how we define a literary work of art. Oliver Elton in the chapter “Sense of Facts” says, “The real discipline in the craft of research comes later, if at all, and its first step is to unlearn undergraduate methods” (1). To be objective in the conduct of an inquiry one should not let one’s belief be influenced by his personal motives. One’s own interest should not be affected by the findings, of their studies, hence leading to prejudice and biases. But Bateson’s idea of objectivity cannot be applied for any literary work in contemporary era. Objectivity is Eurocentric. Our literature now, is literature by the people, for the people and of the people. So a person’s emotions and feelings get involved in his work. If we are going to use Bateson’s idea of objectivity in our research, we will be doing injustice to it.
I. A. Richards is contemptuous of all previous critics including Arnold and Eliot, and Bateson is contemptuous of I. A. Richards. He acknowledges the most informative and theoretical definition of the Rene Wellek and Austin Warren in Theory of Literature, in the chapter “The Analysis of the Literary Work of Art”. He says,“Literary object as in itself remains obstinately obscure and undefined” (52). Bateson quotes with qualified approval the definition of a literary object by Wellek. He says:
The work of art then appears as an object of knowledge...