Bust of Socrates in the Palermo Archaeological Museum
The point I’ve been stumbling around trying to make for the better part of six months here is that while I love contemplating literature from political, social, biographical perspectives, there is also a powerful inclination, when reading, to rank what I have read…an ongoing curious search to find works which most excite and absorb me.
From there the urge is to try to explain to myself why I consider these works superior to others… to define previously undefined reasons for preferences…the best way to do this I have found is through writing, and exchange with others…through logical argument…through the defense of taste.
So the question is: why the desire to designate good and bad, to emphasize likes and dislikes…and how useful is this approach versus simply, as Rohan has indicated, understanding and appreciating each work on its own terms…valuing its unique merits in its own context…
Perhaps it goes deep down into some innate, primordial male, competitive instinct…perhaps its linked to a love of debate and the Socratic method of learning…perhaps its just personal preference which explains why I just happen to think that comparative evaluation of aesthetic merit is the most engaging, stimulating and profitable method of studying literature.