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The Science of the Problems Posed by and the Instruments
Used in the Analysis of Art


Art – Criticism – Society

The creative process in art includes several links: reality – artist – art work – recipient (reader, spectator, listener) – reality. The artist interprets reality; the results of that interpretation are fixed in an art work which is perceived by the public, the audience, on whom it exerts a certain intellectual and aesthetic impact; under that influence the public in turn influences reality in a certain socially active way. The chain of interaction between elements in the art process begins and ends with reality. Criticism helps to organize that process and influences all its links and the character of interaction between them. Each avenue of influence is matched by an aspect of criticism and constitutes one of its functions, one of its qualities.
The critic influences the artist's perception of the world (reality-artist relationship) by drawing his attention to certain sides of life and certain themes. In the discharge of that function, the critic tends to raise acute socio-political and philosophical problems.
The critic influences the artist by influencing his artistic personality, shaping his self-control and generally adjusting his artistic activity in social terms. The social aspects of the artists's personality are within the critic's sphere.
There is always something wounding the author's pride in criticism, and yet without criticism an artist cannot really grow. The artist needs self-control which is invariably based on criticism.
Art criticism influences the creation of an art work and so includes some problems that relate to the psychology of art work and craftsmanship. Critical analysis of the work of other artists and one's own previous work influences the author in creating new works and provides important impulses and orientation.
Art criticism interacts with the art work by grasping its meaning and creating a body of public opinion around it. It would be wrong of course to think that art creates semifabricated goods which the critic makes into an object of aesthetic consumption. But it is a powerful catalyst of public understanding and assimilation of the work's message. Criticism begins and ends with love of art.
An unbridgeable gap may form in the art process if critics fail to offer a system of usable criteria and do not put the most important works of contemporary art in their correct historical setting.
Criticism creates a "magnetic field" of public opinion, the environment in which the art work exists as a physically tangible real phenomenon and as a social-spiritual phenomenon. One important function of criticism is to form public opinion around an art work, which helps towards social realization of the work and gives insights into the dialectics of the material and the ideal in the existence of the work.
Art criticism influences the "art work – recipient" relationship.
It helps towards attentive reading and interpretation of the art work which is presented to the consciousness of the audience in the light of its interpretations. The task of the critic is similar to that of a director: to reveal and interpret the message of an art text. The artist's inspiration may be lost on the contemporaries if the critic does not do his job and fails to prepare the audience for understanding new departures in art.
The critic influences the artist's audience by shaping its tastes and social attitudes. Value judgements on art works are an important aspect of art criticism. Sociological studies help to reveal the mechanisms, nature and character of the influence of criticism on the public.
Aesthetic influence on the public and the awakening of its creative spirit is the prerogative of art. Critics have long tried to influence the reader aesthetically not only through the medium of art (for example Belinsky's close rendering and copious quotations from Pushkin's poetry) but through its specifically critical methods (the emotionalism and expressiveness of style and logical elegance in Belinsky's articles). The latter fact brings criticism close to art. It is important to introduce the reader into the researcher's laboratory, to reveal to him not only the result of critical analysis of an art work but also the process of analysis, the searches of the critic's mind. "Theatricalization" of critical thought (working in front of the public) tends to increase the individual element in the critic's work.
Art criticism stimulates and guides the social involvement of the recipient of art. The critic can, by his interpretation of an art work and social conclusions, influence the mind and social activity of the recipient. Dostoyevsky noted that quality of criticism and insisted that every critic must be a publicist, that he should hold firm beliefs and that he should be able to put them into practice. Criticism introduces the art work into the arena of social life, puts it in the context of the social struggles. That is why the publicistic and civic element is so important in criticism.
The critic influences reality by presenting its analysis as given in the art work and by analysing and assessing reality himself. Thus criticism is one of the vehicles of social study. The critic juxtaposes the art work and reality, which is one important way of influencing reality. The study of life, and not only of art, is part of the critic's professional luggage. It equips him for analyzing the truthfulness of a work of art.
So far we have concerned ourselves with the "horizontal" layer of the artistic process, but one must also bear in mind its historical "vertical" layer. The critic influences the character and direction of the influence of artistic tradition on all elements in the creative art process (reality – artist – art work – the public). The critic helps both the artist and his audience to pick his bearings with regard to modern art, fashion, classical heritage and the entire artistic culture.
To sum up, then, the critic interacts with the public, with the artist, with art and with reality.

Criticism: Is It Literature or Science?

Recent years have produced statements in aesthetic theory which unreservedly identify criticism with literature and deny the scientific and logical elements it contains. From that point of view the scientific approach ("rationalism") is not good for the critic, for it marks a departure from the national tradition in Russia, a concession to West European notions and to the formalists of the 1920s.
In reality criticism has a double nature: in some of its functions and methods it is literature and in others it is a science. Identification of criticism with literature and denial of its scientific ("rational") element is sure to raise a few eyebrows.
How can one claim that the scientific element in criticism is an un-Russian tradition if Pushkin said that criticism is a science, if Belinsky described criticism as moving aesthetics and Plekhanov made it an object of scientific and sociological analysis.
What is the relationship between criticism and literary scholarship if criticism is only literature?
Every kind of thinking has its instrument, or method. What is the method of "non-rational" criticism? Intuitivism? Irrationalism?
If criticism is literature it should be using an artistic and not a scientific approach as its instrument.
One wonders if the advocates of non-scientific criticism ever tried to look at the problem from a general aesthetic point of view and go beyond the "criticism – literature" antinomy. What does one do about the "criticism – theatre" and "criticism – cinema" relationships, etc.? In such a view criticism of choreography will have to be considered as part of choreography and criticism of painting as part of visual arts. But that is absurd. Is criticism of painting literature?
No one knows of such a department of literature.
Nor can criticism be considered as a sphere of pure science. Art criticism is part of the artistic process, it grows out of that process propelled by its own demands and the social aspects of the consumption of art. Art criticism is a borderline area: it is the self-criticism of art, it is a correlate in the self-regulating system of the interaction between art and society. There is no such
phenomenon in the sphere of scientific knowledge. To be sure, scientific manuscripts and books are reviewed orally and in print: specialized journals often carry critical analyses and comments on scientific products. But all this useful and necessary activity does not form a special area, such as art criticism. There is no such thing as "science criticism".
Scientific reviews undoubtedly have something in common with art criticism: both evaluate the results of creative work, both orient the readers towards the achievements of the creative process, they are like pilots in the sea of books. But in science these reviews are ancillary in character and as a rule do not become part of the scientific creative process. This stems from two circumstances. First, scientific achievements are initially addressed to specialists and it is only after being put into practice that they are within reach of the broad public. Second, scientific results can be tested experimentally and checked in the process of application. The results of the artistic interpretation of the world today are, as a rule, aimed directly at a mass audience, and most important, they cannot be experimentally checked. As soon as art was put within the range of the broad public the need for a special sphere intermediate between science and art became more acutely felt. In a sense, the artistic taste of the critic is an instrument of experimentation by which it is possible to test and evaluate the art work.
In philosophy and in the specialized sciences criticism is not singled out as a distinct sphere of activity. The development of thought in the form of polemic inevitably involves the presentation of the case for a certain world view. The critical form of philosophical thinking is but a genre of philosophical study that does not form a special branch of activity as does art criticism with regard to art. Philosophical and scientific criticism does not go beyond philosophy and science and uses their language and their frame of reference.
They have not created a meta-language, a meta-system or a meta-position with regard to science. By contrast, art criticism is a meta-position with regard to art. Art criticism realizes itself "on the borderline" between arts and aesthetics and translates artistic speech into a different semiotic system. In that sense art criticism is a phenomenon without parallel in the cultural field. It is dual by its very nature: its mode of expressing thought and its involvement in the artistic process make it akin to literature while its mode of thought, its reliance on methodology and the existence of its own conceptual framework make it similar to science.

The Experience of Rhetoric and Criticism as Moving Aesthetics

A look at the historical circumstances in which criticism was born will shed some light on the present-day relations between criticism and related spheres of intellectual activity.
Literary-critical thought was born within the poetic text which gradually acquired the reflective capacity and came to include (beginning with Homer and then in the early lyrical poetry and tragedy) value judgements on the plot, on details, on authenticity and on the artistic merits of art works. The first theoretical and aesthetic propositions drawing on the experience of art were formulated as a counter to the judgements on art contained in ancient Greek poetry. In other words, criticism originated as a result of science and art, philosophy and literature moving to meet each other.
From the 4th century B.C. there existed rhetorical schools which shaped the norms of oratorical art. The democracy of the city-state demanded such an art and sometimes demagogic skill, and rhetoric was the answer to these social needs. Rhetoric had a complex and changeable relationship with philosophy and at the same time was based on the preceding literary and art experience. Gradually literary criticism isolated itself from rhetoric into a special field. The fact that literary criticism arose from rhetoric is essential for understanding its nature, functions and method. The return to the experience of rhetoric, or rather, the inclusion of its thought matter in the arsenal of the methodology of modern literary (and art) criticism has its roots in the history of its origin.
Whereas in the early days poetry and philosophy were rival influences on the shaping of art criticism, later on these rival influences became aesthetics and rhetoric. In that sense it can be said that criticism in its origin is moving aesthetics and rhetoric addressed to the analysis not of oral but of written "stylistically marked" artistic speech.
So criticism was born through the interaction of poetry, aesthetics and rhetoric by introducing concrete interpretation judgements in their procedure. The birth of criticism contains some mechanisms which directly or indirectly reveal its essential features and shed light on its present relations with adjacent spheres of intellectual activity.
The history of the origins of criticism reveals its inner link with aesthetics (in the theoretical sphere), rhetoric (which in that process played the role of methodology) and poetry proper (which needed artistic criteria and so reflected and created principles and procedures of self-evaluation).
Knowing the history of the origin of criticism one can understand its modern structure and the field of its interactions: 1) with the theoretical studies of literature and art (aesthetics, theory of literature, art studies, poetics); 2) with disciplines related to the methodology of interpretation (rhetoric, hermeneutics); 3) with disciplines that help in text analysis (structuralism); 4) with disciplines concerned with the development of principles and procedures of evaluation (axiology); 5) with types of art (theatre, music, cinema, etc.) each of which is capable of being not only an object but also an instrument of investigation. One speaks here of a new trend in the development of critical thought, namely the use of the experience of various arts and spheres of art studies. Thus, Bakhtin used the categories of musicology (polyphony) in the analysis of Dostoyevsky's poetics. Eisenstein applied the notions of film theory (montage, close-up, frame) to the study of Pushkin's poetry. Later the term "montage" has been used in the analysis of Shostakovich's music. The use of the experience of different branches of art provides the critic with new methods and a new set of categorial tools.
"Criticism is moving aesthetics," wrote Belinsky. A metaphor can never compete with a scientific definition in rigour and lack of ambiguity, but it has its advantages too: emotional conviction, vividness and instant pinpointing of a relationship between phenomena. Belinsky's aphorism can be interpreted in the following way.
Aesthetics, in generalizing the artistic experience of mankind, produces a set of theoretical premises, laws and categories which evolve and change in the course of time. The propositions of aesthetics provide the theoretical foundation for the critical analysis of an artistic text. If a critic gives up aesthetics, it catches up with him in the shape of naive, retrograde and compilatory judgements about art. By running away from knowledge one can only arrive at ignorance. And the judgements of an ignoramus about art, for all his intuition, taste and skill in expressing his impressions of art, hardly advance the science of art or art itself.
Criticism is moving aesthetics in the sense that a critical analysis is only fruitful when the process involves the apparatus of aesthetic categories and the study of a text relies on the artistic experience of mankind as expressed in aesthetics.
Imaginative thought interacts with the personal experience of the reader, spectator and listener. The image is not monosemantic, but it cannot be interpreted in an arbitrary way. There are limits in interpretation and reading. An image provides a set programme of reflections over a certain range of life material. The critic can draw some conclusions from this: he must have a wide range of exposure to real life and aesthetics; one cannot expect all critics to arrive at identical judgements, but with all the divergences their judgements must remain within the programme assigned by the art work.
The object of critical analysis is a particular art work and art as a whole. Art cannot be seen as a mere sum of art works. The critic must determine the value status of every work. Aesthetics is very important for picking one's bearings in the expanse of world artistic culture. Pushkin points out that criticism proceeds from perfect knowledge of the rules guiding the artist or writer in their work, from profound study of specimens and prolonged observation of contemporary phenomena.
The theorist systematizes knowledge, derives the accumulated mass of facts from a small number of basic premises. A hypothesis confirmed by facts becomes knowledge of a higher order. Science has a "backlog of knowledge", i.e. facts that have yet to be explained theoretically. These modern ideas about the structure of knowledge explain the relationship between aesthetics and criticism. The latter creates the "backlog of knowledge" for aesthetics and confronts it with questions whose solution advances the theory. The results of a critic's first observations are hypothetical and partial, but a serious critic seeks to reveal the laws of artistic work, to arrive at general conclusions. That is particularly true of literary and art scholarship which deal with a relatively stable process at a certain historical distance. Aesthetics is called upon to systematize the knowledge accumulated by critics and literary (art) scholars, to test, reject or raise hypothetical knowledge to the level of laws and categories.
Theory is not an instrument of critical analysis. Coming between the student and his object are not only theoretical judgements about a given sphere of life but also the methodology that flows from them. The methodology provides the instruments of analysis. In other words, for a critical reading of a work it is not enough to press into service aesthetics and its concepts and categories, it is necessary to equip oneself with the principles, methods and procedures which have been derived from the known laws of art and form the method of critical analysis.
The critic's position is usually a superstructure over some cognitive, aesthetic or other theory. In its evaluations, criticism proceeds from the aesthetic aspects of the theory of values (axiology). And since criticism involves not only cognitive but also interpretation operations, its other aspect is connected with hermeneutics.

Criticism and Hermeneutics

Hermeneutics is the theory of interpretation, of understanding meanings. Like gnoseology (the theory of cognition) and axiology (the theory of values), hermeneutics constitutes an inseparable part of a full-scale philosophical system. Hermeneutics is a sphere of intellectual activity through which criticism must pass in order to become aware of its tasks.
Hermeneutics is a heterogeneous phenomenon. Over the ages, not only the character but also the object and sphere and goals of that discipline have changed. Ancient culture contained, in embryo, all the elements of hermeneutics, including its art criticism element as manifested, for example, in the allegoric interpretations of Homer.
The history of hermeneutics has revealed two trends in interpretation going back to antiquity: the historical and symbolic allegorical interpretation rooted in the system of concepts given in the text and in the conceptual framework of the interpreter himself. However, the antique world did not formulate a complete set of principles of interpretation. Hermeneutics enjoyed a development in the Middle Ages due to the need to interpret Biblical texts. In the Renaissance period, textual-historical interpretation comes to the fore, its aim being to clarify the meanings of words and reproduce the historical context of the thought. The Enlightenment conceptions of interpretation (Chladenius, Meier) were built on a foundation of historical principles, proceeding from the premise that reproduction of the historical context of a thought helps to close the gap between – the author and the recipient (spectator, listener, reader) and is the main task of interpretation . The interpreter was a kind of cultural medium, a translator and intermediary between different cultures and periods. The Enlighteners saw history as a discrete series of changes and their methodology was aimed at preserving the historical originality of an artistic text. The Enlightenment view is that understanding an artistic text means bringing about an agreement between author and recipient. In reproducing the conception of the author, the recipient need not necessarily identify himself with the author's point of view. Sometimes the recipient understands more than the author meant to say, and that is normal for the process of interpretation, because the interpreter-recipient's point of view is historically conditioned and carries an element of subjectivity.
The hermeneutics of the Enlighteners posits ontological stability of the object of interpretation as a condition for understanding.
The next stage in the history of hermeneutics was the theory of interpretation advanced in the early 19th century by Georg Ast, a German philosopher. His theory proceeds from the premise that the unity of human history consists in the unity of the spirit. The notion of the spirit is the key one in understanding the meaning of a text and resolving ambiguities. So, an interpreter of an art work must at the same time be a philosopher and an aesthetician, for he has to grasp the essence of the spirit. While Chladenius measured the clarity of interpretation by the degree to which the objects of the external world are seen behind the text, for Ast understanding is spiritual vision, the mastering of the spiritual wealth, i.e. the emphasis is on spiritual activity. For Ast, and for the German philosopher Schleiermacher after him, the object of interpretation is the author's subjective activity and understanding the author and his attitude to the text, and interpretation is achieved on the basis of spiritual universality, and not through applied thought processes, as the Enlighteners believed. These principles are not wholly acceptable for modern art criticism. The interpretation of a work must be directed to understanding not only the system of the author's ideas but also the concrete historical reality behind it. Schleiermacher distinguishes two aspects in the hermeneutic act: understanding speech as a fact of language and understanding speech as a fact of thought. Speech cannot be understood as a fact of language before its spiritual meaning is grasped. There are however different types of interpretation. The language aspect of interpretation is the object of grammatical interpretation. Understanding as internalizing a thought is the object of psychological interpretation. Only the unity of grammatical and psychological interpretation ensures complete understanding.
Recent years have seen a growing interest in hermeneutics in connection with the methodological searches of the critics.
Previously, hermeneutics specialized in the methods of understanding and was a set of methods and procedures. Now it makes its subject the thought procedures from the point of view of their spiritual nature.
The interpretation of a work is a necessary element in its reading.
Hermeneutics singles out three stagesin the interpretation of a text: 1) understanding (grasping the meaning of the text); 2) explication (expressing the understood meanings in the language of description); 3) application (enrichment of the individual's social experience, change in his behaviour, the introduction of what has been understood, "internalized" and expressed into practice).
Criticism presupposes both analysis of the text and its interpretation which ensures a combination of the rational and intuitive elements in its understanding. The rational analysis approaches the art work as an entity hidden within the work, impermeable for direct perception and covered up by a material form which can only be penetrated by analytical, dissecting procedures. For interpretation the work is transparent and its wholeness derives not from its material form but from the hidden, infinite and mobile but in transient meaning.
Ricoeur (France) and Gadamer (West Germany) consider the recipient's own consciousness to be the only instrument of interpretation and believe that there can be no method in grasping the meaning of a work. Such an approach leaves the critic metholodogically unarmed.
The methods of hermeneutics are still evolving but already one can name the most important operations with the help of which an art text is interpreted. They are: 1) The critic ("I") understands a text ("something other than I") through a "third" (e.g. through comparing it with cultural tradition and reality). 2) Empathy, penetration into the inner logic of the artistic text. 3) Mental grasping of the art text in the form of identification (the recipient compares the artistic images with his personality and his aesthetic experience). The types of identification are: association, comparing oneself with the hero of the work as a protagonist in the action taking place in an imaginary world; admiration, comparing oneself with an infinitely superior or inferior character embodying an ideal or an opposite of the ideal; sympathy, comparing oneself with an ordinary character commensurable with the recipient; catharsis, a compassionate comparison of oneself with a tragic hero; ironic a critical attitude towards the anti-hero. 4) The mental horizons of the recipient expand to broaden the context (reality, culture, personal experience) in which the work is perceived.
These and other mental operations yield an "increment" of meaning by creative addition of the personal aesthetic experience of the critic.
But interpretation is not arbitrary and proceeds in accordance with a programme contained in the text of the work.
One of the moot points in interpretation is the problem of the hermeneutic circle. How to grasp the universal if the interpreter at any given moment deals only with the particular? Hermeneutics answers that the very nature of understanding breaks the circle. It is broken by the spiritual attitude which is mindful of the whole at every stage of the interpretation. The nature of spiritual wholeness in a work is such that the general posits and contains every individual element, and every individual element of the work contains something of the universal. By understanding the general the interpreter understands the particulars, and vice versa.
Today hermeneutics is an instrument of criticism because the theory of understanding is methodologically important for it. Criticism however has to come to grips with the task of evaluation as well as interpretation.
The rational nucleus in the experience of hermeneutics is highly relevant to modern art criticism. That philosophical theory of interpretation, first, puts to the foreground the problem of what should be seen behind the art work (the author's personality, the contemporary issues, the reality of the historical period which has produced the work, or the cultural tradition); second, it provides methodological instruments of interpretation; third, it stimulates efforts to reveal the concrete historical content of culture and an integrated, conceptual-philosophical, non-empirical approach to the understanding of an art work.

The "Objective" and the "Subjective" in Critical Analysis

The relationship between the objective and the subjective in critical analysis and interpretation of the art work is a problem that is central to the methodology of critical analysis. There are two opposite and equally erroneous tendencies in the practice, theory and methodology of art criticism, literary scholarship and art studies: one is the absolutization of the objective element and the other, the absolutization of the subjective element.
The absolutization of the objective element proceeds from the following line of reasoning. The artistic text presents the interpreter with a clear and definitive programme for the understanding of artistic meaning. In that approach, critical analysis must reveal the objective artistic meaning which does not depend on anyone, has been created by the author and is fixed once and for all in the text (i.e. objectivized in the text). The content is thought of as something surrounded by a waterproof shell against any influences and hence as something invariable and objectively given. The Absolutization of the objective element of critical analysis, exaggeration of the invariability of the objective meaning of a work produces an illusion that it is possible to study an art work in rigorous mathematical terms. Such an approach leaves out of sight the humanitarian character of the art critic's judgement and the role of the interpreter's personality. Those who absolutize the objectivity of criticism ignore its historically determined character and the historical changeability of its judgements. The so-called "precise" methods of critical analysis (the watertight formulas of structuralism, microanalysis, the semiotic approach, the statistical approach, etc.) imply absolutization of the objective element in criticism and proceed from the assumption that an artistic text is closed and neither history, nor the present time, nor the reader, nor the critic can influence it or interact with it. The task of the critic is then reduced to revealing the meaning objectively contained in the artistic text without bringing into the interpretation the spirit of one's own historical period, or the historical experience of the past and present, or the personal taste, life experience, world view and attitudes. The crisis of "precise" methods, disenchantment with their ability to yield definitive and incontrovertible analyses of art works led to the opposite extreme in criticism and methodology which absolutized the subjective element in art criticism. Criticism has come to be regarded as having the parameters of an artistic text.
The text in this theory is a semi-processed product which needs to be finished through interpretation and criticism.
The subjective trend was greatly aided by the new theoretical-methodological current, receptive aesthetics. According to that theory, every work realizes itself and becomes socially and artistically complete in the recipient's perception. Every perception has its reason and ideally has to be taken into account in a critical interpretation of a work. Differences in artistic perceptions arise with changes in the historical situation. Every historical period gives its own reading of a work. And every such reading is right in its own way. The new reading does not cancel or make erroneous the previous reading. In accordance with receptive aesthetics, the same period has diverse variants of reading by different reception groups. Every type of audience presupposes its own type of reading of the work. Each such reading is legitimate and has equal rights with others. Finally, every recipient reads the work in his own way and his interpretation may be different from the interpretations of other members of the same reception group.
Thus, receptive aesthetics posits at least three stages of subjectivity in the reading of an art work: 1) the subjectivism of the historical period; 2) receptive group subjectivism (depending on the type of audience); 3) personal subjectivism (depending on the personal perceptions of the individual). To these three stages of subjectivity some receptive-aesthetic conceptions add a fourth and fifth stage: 4) subjectivism of age (depending on the biological age of the recipient); 5) subjectivism of the mental state (dependence of perception on the mood and frame of mind of the recipient at the moment of perception). A work of art exists only as something perceived and its existence depends only on the recipient – such is the subjectivist extreme of some concepts in receptive aesthetics. These views water down the unity of the objective and the subjective elements in criticism.
It is notable that in the actual practice of criticism the two extremes (absolutized objectivity and absolutized subjectivity) do not only meet but criss-cross. Thus, the "new criticism" which claims to have precise methods and strict objectivity of results often says through the mouths of its adepts that an artistic text needs to be critically and subjectively "completed" if it is to yield its full meaning. The extremes of subjectivity and objectivity do not only flow into each other, but each of them is ambivalent and fraught with dangers (either of subjectivism or rigoristic objectivism), and on the other hand contains a necessary subjective element (the position of the critic) and the necessary objective element (it proceeds from a real artistic text and follows the logic of that text). These polar judgements of the subjectively active book record the ambivalence of the subjective element in criticism.
The above two trends make themselves felt in the practice of art criticism and its reflections on its methodology. On the one hand, there is a considerable body of critical writings espousing the "precise" methods. Wholesale acceptance of "precise" methods banishes the critic's personality from criticism. As a result the criticism of art, which is a sphere of intellectual culture and a truly humanitarian field, is equated with mathematics where 2x2 is always 4 and this result does not depend on the individuality of the person who carries out the operation. Criticism cannot and should not seek a degree of mathematical accuracy when it is removed from the personality of the critic, his life experience, his taste, world outlook and mode of life. The more fervent advocates of structuralism are inclined to reduce all critical analysis to structural study of the work and to see the operations of structural analysis as complete analogy to the precise methods of mathematics and the sciences. The absolutization of the objectivity of criticism which allegedly uses "precise" methods to achieve the only possible, adequate and final reading of the text, makes the problem of the critic's personality irrelevant to the process of analysis. Criticism is thus removed from the humanities and transferred to the domain of the natural sciences which contradicts the humanitarian nature, goals and functions of criticism, and its inherent and indisputable link with the spirit.
The subjective element in modern criticism takes the positive shape of civic commitment and moral demands on art and the negative shape of subjectivism and license in the interpretation of an artistic text.
The subjectivism of some extreme representatives of receptive aesthetics shows itself in the fact that they believe the recipient's consciousness to be the only instrument in understanding an artistic text. These theorists mistakenly believe that it is impossible to formalize hermeneutic operations or determine the methods of understanding the meaning of an art work because the essence of interpretation is an attitude of mind and not the method. Such subjective views leave the critic without methodological tools and the act of understanding the meaning runs the risk of becoming purely intuitive.
Some modern critics have revealed a tendency to commit subjective violence over an artistic text by turning it into a ground onto which they unloose their personal tastes, inclinations, attitudes and sometimes prejudices. Some critics choose contemporary writers and sometimes even classics as their allies in validating and advancing ideas that otherwise meet with no sympathy among readers and spectators. In such cases the name of a modern writer or classic is used to endorse the muddled and sometimes inhumane ideas of the critic.
Extremes of critical subjectivism in criticism are just as dangerous as the extremes of critical objectivism. Modern criticism does not always strike a balance between subjective and objective elements.
This will be readily seen from the names by which modern critical schools and trends call themselves: "precise", "scientific", "new", "structuralist", "philosophical", "stylistic", "essayistic", "sociological", etc. Many of these adjectives1 proliferating among schools of criticism reveal their gravitation to the extremes of subjectivism or objectivism.
The absolutization of both the objective and subjective elements fails to take into account the real dialectics of the perception and critical interpretation of an art work. The category of proportion is very important for artistic culture as a whole. In art only that is beautiful and true which is in moderation. Moderation is important for art criticism too. It must strike a balance between the subjective and objective elements, and a bias in either direction is wrong and unproductive.
The objective factors that ensure certain stability of critical interpretation, relative precision, faithfulness to the text and a mirror reflection of the author's artistic conception include: 1) the programme of artistic experiences and aesthetic orientations, the artistic content of the text; 2) the objective historical inclusion of the text into the socio-cultural context which makes the artistic text a real social phenomenon: a work of art.
The subjective factors behind mobility and variation in the perception of an art work are due to the influence of 1) historical period and its practical and artistic experience; 2) the socio-psychological group to which the reader belongs; 3) his personal qualities; 4) his psychological state at the time of reading; 5) the methods and approaches, instruments and attitudes of the critic.
The dialectics of these objective and subjective elements is such that the reading and evaluation of art works by critics are at once subjective and objective, stable and changeable, invariant and variant, "precise" and polysemantic.
For that reason only a combination of all the rational elements of "precise" and "humanitarian" methods can ensure an all-embracing and comprehensive analysis of an art work corresponding to the tasks, mission and nature of art criticism. In this connection one must draw attention to the emerging trend in modern criticism towards an eclectic approach, a combination of disparate methodological instruments in the analysis of an art work.
While an art work must be approached from different angles if it is to strike a balance between subjectivity and objectivity, such an approach is fraught with dangers. Eclecticism of critical analysis often implies eclecticism of methodology, patchiness of critical thinking, and disparateness of results obtained through the use of different research instruments. That danger can only be overcome by fusing together all the rational elements in contemporary and past critical experience, by combining on the monistic basis of the historical approach everything that "works", all the best and sound elements of traditional and modern methodology. What is needed is a single methodological system of comprehensive critical analysis gathering in all the traditional and new, "precise" and humanitarian, rational and intuitive, interpretational and evaluative approaches.
Such a combination is a guarantee that a true balance will be observed between the objective and subjective elements in criticism.
Critical analysis that strikes a balance between subjectivity and objectivity leaves the art work its openness, presupposes the infiniteness and definiteness of its meaning and proceeds from its significance in the past, present and future, which corresponds to the nature of art.

1 Unfortunately,this list could be continued with metaphoric epithets and definitions, such as the criticism of "the emotional sob", impressionistic", "a look at nothing", "enthusiastic", "strict", "reinforced concrete", etc.