Return Maximization

Before I write, I pull a small lump of metal, no larger than a thimble, melted and dimpled and deformed, from the windowsill. According to the Sedona Crystal Vortex shop in Sedona, AZ it’s a meteorite, capable of activating Kundalini energy plus simulating the third eye and/or crown chakras. I rub it between my fingers, feeling its weight, its material strangeness. I don’t believe in the New Age but I like the idea that this thing  may or may not be from outer space, that I could have been scammed and it doesn’t even matter, that everything’s from outer space if we’re being technical and it’s the sort of technicality that mocks any attempt at de-vagueifying the unshapen. Continue reading “Return Maximization”

Return Maximization as Critical Mode

Interested in what I am possibly calling Utilitarian Criticism, or more likely Consequentialist Interpretation, or even more likely Return Maximization as a Critical Mode. This is the mode where the goodness or badness of a text/art object, for example, is largely irrelevant. Instead, modes of interpretation or ways of seeing are sought which maximize the audience’s return on said text or art object. Utilitarian may be the wrong term because the obvious argument that critiquing (in the sense of evaluating) bad art likely has positive effects towards a culture producing more good art in the long run. Arguments over whether a sober or bright-side approach is better for a culture in sum (or where on the spectrum between approaches is a so-called sweet spot) makes for an interesting conversation but one outside the scope of this specific critical mode. So perhaps Return Maximization is the superior term.

Especially coming out of 20th Century Meaning Wars in literature departments (“Should we rely on author intent, reader response, or formal elements in our interpretation of a text?”) the Return Maximization approach interests me as an “out” where consequentialism replaces deontology in deciding critical or interpretative methods. If contextualizing information adds to a text’s perceived richness or value, it is worthy of inclusion. Return Maximization implicitly rests on the belief that arguments about “correctness” or “truth” are only relevant with respect to human beings as an end, especially where human-defined concepts like “quality” and “meaning” are concerned.