Death of the Critic

What is Criticism?

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but starting this week we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

This begs the question: What exactly is criticism?

When we talk about criticism here, we generally refer to literary criticism: the "study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature." And when we say literature, we really mean so much more than just books. We mean anything that we can "read" or looked at with a critical eye. When we publish criticism here, we are generally talking about one of three types: reviews, analysis, or critique. A review is a basic evaluation of a piece, and we do a lot of them here. Is it good or bad? More importantly, why? Analysis is the study and interpretation of a piece. What can we figure out about it when we "read" carefully? what makes up the work? Critique is the culmination of all of this, an application of theory and analysis to help form conclusions.

Essentially criticism is the way we interact with a text in order to learn more.

As we go forward, we will begin by introducing you to different prominent schools of literary theory and show you how we can apply them. We use these different schools to examine a work with an eye towards different things. The interactions between different class systems, the way genders are treated differently, or how countries can have an effect on each other. By honing in on a specific idea, we can dig in deeper than we could if we tried to analyze everything at once.

Every piece is in some way a reflection of the time and place in which it was created. You can see it in the music that characters listen to, the way in which different people interact with each other, the kinds of foods they eat, and the alcohol they drink. Whether we realize it or not, when we create works, we use aspects of our own world and our own biases to create them. Culture bleeds into a work, and by examining this, we can begin to form our conclusions about the world in which it was created. This is true even in explicitly non-realistic worlds, where humanity journeys across the stars or mages cast spells. The way characters speak, act, and interact with one another is all informed by the opinions of the writer.

Starting next week we will be giving weekly primers on critical theory and its applications in music, movies, and games. Our aim is to build the foundation for us to have a conversation about media, and we want to be able to share this with you. Next week we will look at a broad list of the schools of literary theory before delving into a more in-depth examination of several of these prominent schools that are frequently used in contemporary criticism. From there, we will look at how we can apply them before showing you examples of them being used in more heavy analysis.

Death of the Critic is about criticism. It’s about studying the expression of our culture through the media that it has created. It is an examination of what we make and why we've made it. We hope you stick around for the ride.


Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.

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