vicarious mastery

In practice there may be in the making of literature a great deal of one or another kind of technique, whether apparently superficial and formalistic or apparently substantial or ideological, and this technique may be deliberate or habitual or traditional. On the other hand, there may be apparently very little technique. It is never possible, in the given case, to say even roughly how much or what kinds or combinations of kinds of technique were employed until after long intimacy and absorption of the work has, by vicarious mastery, made the question artificial; for the we use the work as use other actual experience.

—R. P. Blackmur, “Notes on Four Categories in Criticism,” The Lion and the Honeycomb: Essays in Solicitude and Critique (Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1955.

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