Kermode, The Art of Telling

Today again, I have time only to post a couple of short excerpts from my current reading:

Their [‘licensed practitioners’] right to practise is indicated by arbitrary signs, not only certificates, robes, and titles, but also professional jargons. The activities of such persons, whether diagnostic or exegetical, are privileged, and they have access to senses that do not declare themselves to the laity. Moreover they are subject, in professional matters, to no censure but that of other licensed practitioners acting as a body; the opinion of the laity is of no consequence whatever, a state of affairs which did not exist before the institution now under consideration firmly established itself–as anyone may see by looking with a layman’s eye on the prose its members habitually write, and comparing it with the prose of critics who still thought of themselves as writing for an educated general public, for la cour et la ville. (170)

We wean candidates from the habit of literal reading. Like the masters who reserved secret senses in the second century, we are in the business of conducting readers out of the sphere of the manifest. Our institutional readings are not those of the outsiders, so much is self-evident; though it is only when we see some intelligent non-professional confronted by a critical essay from our side of the fence that we see how esoteric we are. (182)

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