Some thoughtful comments by George Scialabba on the work of the great critic Edmund Wilson.
“Art, like all other intellectual activity,” Scialabba notes is in Wilson’s words:
an attempt to give a meaning to our experience–that is, to make life more practicable…. The writer who is to be anything more than an echo of his predecessors must always find expression for something which has never yet been expressed, must master a new set of phenomena which has never yet been mastered. With each such victory of the human intellect, whether in history, in philosophy or in poetry, we experience a deep satisfaction: we have been cured of some ache of disorder, relieved of some oppressive burden of uncomprehended events…. This relief that brings the sense of power, and, with the sense of power, joy, is the positive emotion which tells us that we have encountered a first-rate piece of literature.
[Wilson quote from his essay “The Historical Interpretation of Literature“]