Word of the Day: Criticaster

Criticaster [kri-ti-KAS-ter]: a minor, incompetent critic.  The ending -aster is used to form nouns referring to someone who is inept or unskillful in a certain sphere of activity, for example, poetaster, a person who writes bad poetry, or medicaster, a person who falsely claims to have medical skills.*

Used in a paragraph: Dance critics who write for newspapers and magazines might think that dance bloggers, myself included, are criticasters because we don’t necessarily have journalism degrees and years of professional experience writing about dance, and therefore lack the authority to critique. I disagree. As dance criticism becomes more internet-based, via blogs and online journals, I think it’s important to reconsider the qualifications one needs to write and critique dance.  I’m not suggesting that we throw the craft of criticism out the window, as that would lead to us all being criticasters.  However, the dance bloggers I’ve met (and whose blogs I read regularly) are passionate, dedicated dance-goers who love sharing their opinions and observations with others by means of their blogs.  None of them have made it to journalism school (yet), but dedication to and passion for dance are just as or perhaps even more important than a journalism degree and dance background.  So, shouldn’t bloggers and “mainstream” critics be treated as equals? 

*This definition comes from Totally Weird and Wonderful Words, edited by Erin McKean.  It’s a wonderfully entertaining, whimsical book filled with hundreds of rare, bizarre, and obsolete words.

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2 Responses to Word of the Day: Criticaster

  1. tonya says:

    I totally agree, of course! I don’t think most dance critics even have journalism or dance degrees — I know Joan Acocella has a PhD in Comparative Literature, as does Apollinaire Scherr; I guess I don’t really know about the rest. I don’t think there should be no criteria, but it’s interesting to ponder what that criteria should be. The popular and well-respected book bloggers like Maud Newton (a lawyer-turned writer / editor) and Mark Sarvas (a screenwriter and novelist) have no journalism background but are just very passionate about their subject and have a vested interest in its continuation and legitimacy. I think we all have those things as well!

  2. Taylor says:

    I was going to say the same thing, Tonya, about how most of the print critics haven’t been to journalism school. And by the same token, many were not even dancers themselves. So the criteria for being a good critic are extremely up in the air.

    I think the only major difference between print critics and us bloggers right now is just that they have all been writing for their publications for a long time, for the most part. It’s not necessarily that time and experience = better criticism, it’s just that publications have their writers and trust them, so why venture out to a new critic when print is dying anyway?

    I hope soon bloggers and online critics will be appreciated as equals…

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