I know there are those who are wondering if Superfluities Redux will ever get back to regular business; in truth I rarely write about the state of criticism and write more about erotic tragedy (the subject of my first book); I do promise to get back to this very shortly, and new readers to this blog can certainly visit the index for a fuller picture of what has been concerning me over the past eight years. In the meantime I’m enjoying David Luft’s Eros and Inwardness in Vienna: Weininger, Musil, Doderer, which I highly recommend to the usual suspects.
But in preparation for the upcoming panel at the Public Theater: Instead of linking to one of my own previous essays on criticism, I repost below an annotated link to an essay by Alison Croggon about drama and theatre criticism in Australia, first published in September 2010.
Culturebot, by the way, has a very good, frequently updated resource page from Jeremy Barker and Andy Horwitz for all of the January New York experimental theatre festivals here. And I should also point to Aleks Sierz’ post earlier today in which he describes a rather pugilistic reaction to the ways in which producers and theatres themselves might exploit offerings from the new “citizen critic.” Mr. Sierz, by the way, is quite right — he should see the retweets I get from producers and institutional theatres on my Twitter feed.
I think I’ve participated in and even moderated enough panel discussions on drama criticism and the Internet to moderate a panel discussion on these panel discussions. I stopped doing so not long ago; at the last one, “Risking Criticism/Criticizing Risk,” during the 2009 Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference, I along with fellow panelist Mac Wellman fell into something of a funk, intimating that the opportunities that theatre blogging presented in its early years had been wasted; that the blogging community itself had fallen into a fragmented, bargain-basement imitation of the inside-baseball gossip item, self-absorbed personal anecdote and facile review that could easily enough be found in contemporary print journalism, demonstrating at times a sad lack of ambition that is mirrored in contemporary drama. Even its international quality had waned.
But hope springs eternal, especially from Alison Croggon, who gamely continues to sit on panel discussions and bear the brunt of hostility for all us bloggers. In an essay on today’s Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The Drum Unleashed” blog — mixed metaphors apparently their specialty — she writes about a recent discussion in which she took part at Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre. Stylishly parrying insulting thrusts from Australian print critic Cameron Woodhead (“The Internet is full of trolls,” he trollishly comments — not that he’s wrong, precisely; some of them, in my experience, are even print critics), our Ms. Croggon continues to carry the banner for those of us who sweep up around our little corner of the blogosphere, but not without an eye slightly yellowed with jaundice:
It may be true, as [Geordie] Williamson claims, that “for every brilliant new blogger that has emerged, 100 pallid yes-men (and women) have sprung up.” What he doesn’t concede is that this is even more true of print criticism, and that this print “hive mind”, or manufactured consent, has been culturally toxic because its intellectual weight has been supported by the institutional power of newspapers and publishers. Australian publishers have seldom been champions of the lone critical voice: most often, it’s those very critics who have been marginalised, and, in at least three cases that I know of, sacked, while the yes-men sail on.
What the internet means for the old-fashioned print critic is the end of institutional authority. That so many of these critics mistake institutional authority for critical authority says everything you need to know.