What does literary criticism hope to achieve? There are many schools of thought, but all take as their starting point the analysis of the reader's or listener's response. Poems may be complex, requiring a good deal of explanation or even correction of corrupt scripts, but there has to be an immediate impact of some sort: not very strong, and not blatantly emotional necessarily, but something that allows the critic to ask: how is this obtained? how significant is it? how does it compare with similar works? No impact and there is nothing to analyze. The work has failed, at least where that particular reader is concerned, and no amount of critical cleverness, literary allusions and information will bully him into responding to what he cannot feel.
But who is the reader? Each and everyone, as Stanley Fish might claim, or Milton's "select audience though few"? Poets may not make money but they still have outlets to consider. Whom are they writing for - the editors of leading magazines, friends, society at large, or themselves? And to say something significant about the world around them, to resolve personal quandaries, to gain a literary reputation with those who count? In an ideal world all aims might be served by the one work, but the world is not ideal, and aims needed to be sorted out.
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