W.H. Auden, in the essay “Reading” from the collection The Dyer’s Hand:
What is the function of a critic? So far as I am concerned, he can do me one or more of the following services:
- Introduce me to authors or works of which I was hitherto unaware.
- Convince me that I have undervalued an author or a work because I had not read them carefully enough.
- Show me relations between works of different ages and cultures which I could never have seen for myself because I do not know enough and never shall.
- Give a “reading” of a work which increases my understanding of it.
- Throw light upon the process of artistic “Making.”
- Throw light upon the relation of art to life, to science, economics, ethics, religion, etc.