Analytical criticism

And while I read a lot about negative criticism, I read less about the need for analytical criticism — an approach to reading in which the critic focuses on explanation over judgment. I think that if more of any type of criticism is needed it’s this. What matters to me is: does the critic help me to understand something about the comic I likely couldn’t/didn’t figure out myself? does the critic’s reading help me to pay attention to other comics in a new/different way? does the critic challenge conventional wisdom about reading/interpretation that goes beyond praise or condemnation and into thoughtful analysis? Often, if I come away from critical writing with one new concept or way of thinking, that’s enough. And a greater presence of writing that helps and encourages people to read comics carefully would, I hope, lead to something like the higher standards that the [negative criticism] proponents want.

Parille, Ken. “Needs-Based Criticism.” Blog Flume 13 July 2008.

I whole-heartedly agree with Parille on this issue. This is the type of criticism I hope to write (whether I am successful or not is not for me to say, though my column on a page from “Flies on the Ceiling” may be a half-decent example). Really great criticism lets you return to a work with fresh eyes, able to gain a new depth of understanding (be it emotional, formal, thematic, etc), or it gets the reader interesting in something new, which they can read with a starting point of interest and understanding. I’ve read a lot of criticism (film, literature, comics, music) which either got me very excited about some work/artist I’d never heard of (or previously dismissed) or got me excited to revisit some work previously seen/read. Most recently, Matthew Stearn’s book on Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation album got me listening to an old favorite with a new found interest and understanding. (Also check out his suggestions at the end of his post for more analytical criticism in The Comics Journal (or anywhere).)