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Eric: There's probably a psychology paper in the association of credit and food in this blog.

From the very start, I've tried to make a distinction between critiques, which is what I try to do with Websnark, and reviews. It hasn't been easy. Part of the problem is terminology, of course. The technical term for literary and artistic analysis is criticism, which back in the 19th century didn't presume to be positive or negative. Criticism simply was. However, in the 20th century, the word criticism came to mean adverse judgment. It got to the point where they came up with a whole new phrase for criticism that wasn't meant harshly -- "constructive criticism" -- and even there the idea was "here's the stuff you're doing wrong and should change."

But over in the world of literary criticism, "criticism" doesn't mean "here's what they did wrong." It means "here's what they did, decoded and analyzed, and put into perspective." Different critical theories lead to different senses of perspective, of course. A historicist might want to put an author's short story into the perspective of the author's life, or into societal trends of the time, or into the cosm of literary development as it was shown both at that time and into the present. A new critic might want to explore the subtextual perspective, finding connections in the specific story's text and tying them back into each other. A Marxist critic might want to show how the short story highlights societal evolution and class warfare. And so on, and so forth.

A reviewer, on the other hand, wants to judge worth. He might bring all of the above tools and perspectives into play, of course. But in the end, he's rendering a judgment on the piece. "This is good," he says. "This is not good. This sucks berries."

Our word for the analyst mentioned two paragraphs ago? "Critic." Our word for the reviewer mentioned one paragraph ago? "Critic."

C'est la vie. I am a critic. I work at being an analyst, discussing technique and meaning where I can. Often, I am a reviewer, saying "I think this is so fucking cool!" (Or, at the other extreme, "you had me, and you lost me.") Somewhere in between the two aspects of the word "Criticism," you'll find Websnark.com.

Well, reviewers tend to come out with their ten best list, their award shows and the like. And many of them also come out with star ratings or things like that. Well, I don't do "stars" or anything like it. I just give out biscuits to individual strips that really appeal to me, and otherwise I do short essays expressing my thesis and move on.

But, it's the end of a calendar year... and at the end of a calendar year the urge to have the big gala prize events is overpowering. And I am just a man, like any other. I have needs, you know. I'm only human.

So. over the next several days, we're going to have our Websnark Year End Wrapup, where I give some general props to the webcomics that have made me just plain happy to be a webcomics fan. We're going to ape an awards show, in that I'm going to have several nominees in each category, and then announce who gets the nod, but it's all purely my opinion, no one else's, and so you're going to disagree with some of them. Hell, a month after this, I'm going to reread it and think what was I thinking?

Be that as it may. It's my website, and I want to play at being a reviewer for a few days. And it's going to be a Websnark-happy series of events. We're going to go through the old jargon pretty hard. There will be Bringing of Things, there will be Cerebus Syndromes. There will be Funny and Story and Toolsets galore. If you're not a fan of the Lexicon -- and I know there's people out there who aren't -- this is pretty well going to suck for you. Consider that the disclaimer.

The question is... what are we going to call this?

Well, individual daily strips sometimes earn a biscuit -- a tasty, tasty biscuit -- from me.

Strips at the end of the year? They get Shortbread. It's Christmas, after all.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at December 20, 2004 12:15 PM

Comments

Comment from: Spatchcock posted at December 20, 2004 12:48 PM

PREDICTION

----------

Eric gives mad props to Queen of Wands, Questionable Content, Something Positive, Narbonic. At last, collective recognition for webcomics' most long-winded practitioners! The bread's short, the dialogue sure as hell ain't.

Just yanking your chain big man, season's greetings! ;-)

Comment from: Patrick Harris posted at December 20, 2004 12:49 PM

I think you're having space bar issues - if not you, your software. It's showing on LJ's display of the RSS feed as well, so it's presumably not on my end. :)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 20, 2004 1:24 PM

Spatchcock -- well, I didn't say this was going to be chock full of surprises ;). Though I'm going to try to talk about more than those four plus Sluggy, I swear.

Patrick -- software issue I missed. Search and replace went awry in trying a new thingy. It's fixed now. I hope.

Comment from: Snowspinner posted at December 20, 2004 1:38 PM

I'm sure we'll get a comment about For Better or For Worse too!

(Unless we get Annie. Sweet sweet Annie... speaking of which, we're coming up on when we're due for another check in on what the fuck is going on there, aren't we?)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at December 20, 2004 1:41 PM

We are indeed coming up on an update on the Little Orphan One.

Comment from: Kris@WLP posted at December 20, 2004 2:21 PM

I'm keeping silent because I don't know how close to my sense of the perverse Eric is. If someone tells me, "you won't do X," or, "you'll probably do Y," that's the best possible way to get me TO do X or to NOT do Y. }:-{D

So I'm keeping my trap shut.

Comment from: BassetKing posted at December 20, 2004 5:28 PM

So, would a holiday YHMbYLM be said to be recieving Fruitcake? Perhaps Coal in their stocking?

Would a Holiday "First and Ten" be "Olive, the other Reindeer"?

Oh, and as I Haven't seen it yet, Thank You, and merry merry Yule to Mr. Burns. Your ability to "Bring the Criticism" earns you a Biscut. A Tasty, Tasty Biscut.

Comment from: UrsulaV posted at December 20, 2004 5:37 PM

Oooo...shortbread...

Do the really bad strips get fruitcake, then?

Comment from: Robotech_Master posted at December 23, 2004 4:16 PM

Found an interesting comment on the nature of criticism linked in Scott Rosenberg's blog. (Well, the link actually went to somewhere else, but it feels more honest linking to Rosenberg's blog because that's the one I read. :)

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