A unique literary venture, Emerging Critics, is launched this weekend as applications are invited for a mentoring programme for aspiring literary critics which will begin this autumn. The Scottish Review of Books, in conjunction with Creative Scotland, is embarking on a pilot scheme for training the next generation of reviewers and commentators, whether they will be working in print, broadcast, or solely digital form.
As well as offering bijou mentoring groups and individual feedback for successful applicants, there will be three public discussions debating the nature and future of criticism. The first, entitled The Death of the Critic?, is at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, on Saturday 27 August.
Chaired by Alan Taylor, Editor of the SRB, its panel includes broadcaster James Naughtie, professor at the American University in Paris and Samuel Beckett expert Dan Gunn, and renowned theatre critic Joyce McMillan. Further events will be held at Dundee Book Festival (23 October) and in Glasgow during Book Week Scotland in late November, as part of the Aye Write out-of-season programme.
This initiative is in response to the Literature and Publishing Sector Review commissioned by Creative Scotland and published in 2015, in which the need for ‘critical review’ was highlighted. As literary editors, publishers and writers have been all too aware, there has long been a dearth of high quality cultural criticism. This scheme aims to fill that need.
As an SRB editorial put it, ‘Great critics are like great poets and great novelists; they help us see things differently and more clearly.’ The act of reviewing, it continues, ‘involves imagination, attention to detail, deep knowledge, wide reading, insatiable curiosity and an ability to discern why one piece of writing is of higher standing than another. Then there is the not insignificant matter of laying out one’s argument in prose that is lucid, insightful, stylish and captivating.’
That is no small order, but those keen to learn or improve these skills will have the opportunity to be part of small mentoring groups led by critics Alan Taylor, David Robinson, for many years Literary Editor of The Scotsman, Rosemary Goring, consulting literary editor of The Herald, Sunday Herald and The National, novelist and blogger Kaite Walsh and online reviewer and academic Dave Coates. For more information, or to apply, contact firstname.lastname@example.org, by 10 am, September 8, 2016.