Let’s start, if you dare, by taking a deeper dive into story analysis.
Yeah, I know. Who am I to tell you what you like? Nobody. I’m just a guy passing on the little knowledge I have to those who might like it. This critical analysis stuff doesn’t mean you suddenly won’t like your favorite movie or book, and it doesn’t mean you should sell off your comic book collection. It’s just another way to expand your mind. Just like reading does. Just like the visual arts do. Just like music does. Critical analysis, in its way, is just another art form, and can be equally criticized on its own merits. Are there critics for the critics? Probably. These ideas also don’t mean I sit there and go deep into the weeds of every form of entertainment I consume. That could drive you insane and probably not be too healthy for any of your relationships either. If you find analysis entertaining, pick and choose what to look at. Just like any other art form, you probably have to be in the right frame of mind to indulge in your critical nature.
Where to start? Well, in my case I’ll mostly be talking about storytelling in the written form. That’s what I know best. I know very little about painting, architecture, sculpting and many other things. But these concepts should be applicable to all art forms in one way or another.
When considering a work of art there are certain questions we can ask to help us evaluate it.
1. What is its purpose?
Is it something that the creator made to reflect certain facets of society? Something to entertain? Something to educate or raise awareness? And so on. It can be simple or very complex in its construction depending on what its purpose is.
2. Does it do it?
Does the work of art accomplish the goal it set out to do? Did it entertain? Etc.
3. Specifically, how does it win or lose?
Here is where we get into the details. Here is where we discover the how, the when, the where, and the why. This is where your inner critic can shine and is the meat and potatoes of what we’ll be discussing. Most of the specificity I’ll be looking at will be storytelling.
So, we are going to start with the concept of Operationalization. Yes, this is kind of a made up word, but it has a definition.
Operationalization: the concept whereby a definition contains within itself enough objective critical criteria for an uninformed observer to determine if a thing is the thing defined.
Basically, is what you are looking at the thing that was defined? For an object, like a wrench, a definition serves by itself to operationalize it. But for a concept, well, that’s where we have to delve much deeper than a simple definition. That is what this series plans to explore. I’ll try and explain how knowledge of this concept can be helpful to someone who wishes to evaluate a work of art as opposed to opining it.
Once you have operationalized your definition of a good or bad work of art, you have by definition objectively stated your critical standards for either contrast or comparison.
Warning: this can also open your definitions up to criticism, for good or ill.
Next time we get into terms like, Catharsis and Aesthetic Reaction.