A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgment. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgment. Critical judgments, good or bad, may be positive (in praise of an object of attention), negative (in dispraise), or balanced (weighing a combination of factors both for and against). Since all criticism must be regarded as having a purpose, a critic may also be definable by his or her specific motivation. At its simplest, and for whatever reason, a critic may have either constructive or destructive intent.
Formally, the word is applied to persons who are publicly accepted in a recognised capacity, such as professional employment, graduation from a course of study, etc., to give critical commentaries in one or any of a number of specific fields of public or private achievement or endeavour. Such domains most commonly include the arts, performance and public service (such as catering) but may extend more widely to pronouncements on moral character, group behaviour, or any activity involving repute in public life, including war, broadcasting, academia, politics, science, etc. Critical judgments in this sense must always entail some degree of subjectivity and are themselves subject to critical analysis.
Particularly in the domains of the arts and culture, where judgments can be at their most subjective, a formally accepted critic can play a powerful role as a public arbiter of taste or opinion and can occasionally play a more or less defining role in cultural history. Also, because formal criticism is necessarily selective, the role of the formal critic generally intersects with issues of censorship and the construction or denial of canonical reputation in cultures. But criticism need not merely be perceived as a matter of building up or destroying reputations. Good peer-group criticism is an important part of developing or maintaining excellent standards of achievement in any art or discipline, whether at the level of apprenticeship or ongoing practise. The proliferation of online websites setting themselves up as critics of the Arts is allegedly causing concern, particularly at events such as the Edinburgh Fringe festival, where reviewers are often untrained, have no visible code of conduct, and are possibly using the opportunity to practice writing rather than fulfil a morally acceptable and informative role.
Famous quotes containing the word critic:
“Great is paint; nay, God is the painter; and we rightly accuse the critic who destroys too many illusions. Society does not love its unmaskers.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson (18031882)
“No publisher should ever express an opinion on the value of what he publishes. That is a matter entirely for the literary critic to decide.... I can quite understand how any ordinary critic would be strongly prejudiced against a work that was accompanied by a premature and unnecessary panegyric from the publisher. A publisher is simply a useful middle-man. It is not for him to anticipate the verdict of criticism.”
—Oscar Wilde (18541900)