Saturday, November 22, 2014

Critique, anyone?

Exordium: (winning of attention)
One is only as good as the judge thinks you are. When the ice skater falls yet wins a gold, while the other stayed upright, who am I to judge? Who determines the value of wine, the perfection of a dish, and who gets 'to stay'? This sunset is good, but you should have seen last night's! Why is writing for one person "brilliant," but "obtuse" for another? Unless judges have the same criteria, and are of the same mind, so much of the desired outcome in a competition, depends.
Narratio: (historical survey)
All of history has given us competitions. Evolution we believed to mean survival of the fittest. The Vikings pillaged and plundered. Romans loved the fight between lions and Christians, and gave us gladiators galore. Ancient Greeks venerated decathletes and bull jumpers. Knights tilted lances and hoisted on petards. Englishmen slapped faces with gloves and colonized the 'lesser-thans'. Russians shot the Tzar. The French ousted their Antoinettes. And Cowboys got quicker and quicker. The Industrial Age brought us race-tracks and commercial tycoons. Modern commerce and politics are rife with needs to secure individual purchases and public votes. Competition is in our blood!
Propositio: (resolving and defining main contention)
How to judge fairly? Especially in art. Objectivity versus subjectivity is the watchword. Yet surely a painting set in Africa will appeal more to one who has been there? So too for a story set in France. Or what about the differences between Caesar salads? One has to hope, when entering a competition, that the judges have the right wherewithal to know just what it is they are evaluating! Or are they like me, ignorant of the criteria that makes up ice-skaters?
         In writing, does the judge know the classic sea-star principles; know spiral-dynamic-memes of characterization; know Anneagram personalities; the Johari window; or a Classical Mountain deployment? One takes for granted that one's judge is aware of ordinary literary terms, has no qualms between similes or amongst metaphors, and is conversant with ontology, epistemology, and even the purposeful injection of a poetic anapestic tetrameter. But are they perhaps like me with ice-skaters, ranking each on a criteria that is just about entirely subjective?
Partitio: (dealing with arguments)
In parsing arguments for fair judgements it might be averred that we choose judges based on their proven expertise in past competitions, their professional affiliations, and their track record. Criteria for competitions is usually explicit. Set distances and laser-timers determine outcome. So too for wrestling matches. So too for productivity and sales charts. So too for voter counts.
           Yet evolution itself reveals that it is very much the lucky who survive, who win, rather than necessarily the fittest. A literary agent receiving 400 hundred cookbook submissions a week sifts  for the first or so 'perfect' fit; the rest can simply not be given their due.
Confirmatio: (proving one's point)
Three or more judges seldom are instantly unanimous. A deliberation is necessary. Juries most frequently require a debate. The distinction between the winner and the loser, particularly when there is only one prize to give, is reduced to delicacies complicated by democracy itself.
Reprehensio: (refutations of likely contentions)
Without the Latin terminology as herein explained (following the seven parts of Classical Oration) who may comprehend the purposeful thread of my current litany? Too pretentious? Which of us is easily aware of the diverse memes within the subtext structure of most written contentions? Must there be footnotes? No, we either like it, or we don't. Such is our wont.
Peroratio: (summation)
Careful adherence to criteria in any competition is paramount. (A runner in our local marathon was disqualified for accepting a drink held out by a spectator.) Trying one's best, belief in one's product, and knowing no such thing as perfection is the heaven that one might best reach for, or why else perpetuate possibly exceeding one's grasp with an entering into competitions at all?

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