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PRINT September 1978

Two Critics: Thomas B. Hess and Harold Rosenberg

These are the inhabitants of the country of the mind,

Or only the marching motion of the mind,

But still, this is what the mind gives the mind.


—Randall Jarrell

THEY WERE MEN OF pluralistic abilities speaking in the name of an exoteric conception of art. The one was a poet, art critic and philosopher, the other an editor, art critic and curator. Underlying the multiplicity of both was a common conception of culture—in Matthew Arnold’s distinction in Anarchy and Culture, as a social rather than scientific passion (or, if also scientific, then with a science in the name of the social). Criticism, for them, did not have its origin in simple curiosity about art, “in the sheer desire to see things as they are”—the things of art—but “in the love of perfection.” That is, criticism was the study of the possible perfection of art—of its human as well as artistic aspiration, of its effort to make a

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