What is a critic’s role? What motivations shape their decisions to write about the books they defend and those they dismiss? And what are the ethical or moral dimensions of those decisions? Beyond mere conflicts of interest, what lines do they draw for themselves in their work? What personal forces or experiences affect their preferences about what to read and review?
In this ongoing series of interviews with critics, one of the central questions will be, “What is a critic’s role?” It’s a broad question, open-ended, but one which can be used, if the critic chooses, to address the personal side to their lives as critics, and perhaps how they see their work affecting society and culture.
For the first post in this series, I’m very pleased to present an interview with Rohan Maitzen. Our conversation took place over email in recent months.
Maitzen was born in Berkeley, California, and raised in Vancouver, B.C. After doing her Ph.D. at Cornell she moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she has taught in the English Department at Dalhousie University since 1995. She specializes in Victorian literature; her academic publications include Gender, Genre, and Victorian Historical Writing and The Victorian Art of Fiction: 19th-Century Essays on the Novel. She is an editor and regular contributor at Open Letters Monthly and blogs at Novel Readings.