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Bergler, E. (1951). Literary Critics Who Can Spell But Not Read: Contributions to the occupational hazard of reviewers — “Emotional Reading Block.”. Am. Imago, 8(2):189-218.

(1951). American Imago, 8(2):189-218

Literary Critics Who Can Spell But Not Read: Contributions to the occupational hazard of reviewers — “Emotional Reading Block.”

Edmund Bergler, M.D.

One of the commonest but most uncritical faults of criticism — the refusal to consider what it is that the author intended to give us.

George Saintsbury, Preface to Fielding's Tom Jones

Lterary criticism has been attacked by practically every writer of importance through the ages — and is still alive. The reason is not difficult to detect: the average reader believes himself in need of a guide; the possibility, often expressed, that the guide may be worthless is dismissed as “silly grievances of dissatisfied writers.” Thus, writers have protested in vain against critics' abuses, misjudgments, and resort to personal attacks. To quote a few of the protests, over a wide range of time and culture:

Zeuxis (circa 400 B.C., as quoted by Pliny in NATURAL HISTORY): “Criticism comes easier than craftsmanship.” Changed, about 2300 years later, by G. B. Shaw into “Those who can, do; those who can't — teach.” (He should have said, “teach writing.”)

Francis Bacon: “Sir Henry Wotton used to say that critics are like brushers of noblemen's clothes.”

Lawrence Sterne: “Of all the cants which are canted in this canting world — though the cant of hyprocrites may be the worst — the cant of criticism is the most tormenting.”

Shelley: “Reviewers, with some rare exceptions, are a most stupid and malignant race. As a bankrupt thief turns thief-taker in despair, so an unsuccessful author turns critic.”

Coleridge: “Reviewers are usually people who would have been poets, historians, biographers, etc., if they could: they have tried their talents at one or the other, and have failed; therefore they turn critics.”

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