Summary of "Value/Evaluation" by Barbara Hernstein Smith Essay example

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Summary of "Value/Evaluation"
In her essay "Value/Evaluation," Barbara Herrnstein Smith reflects upon the shifting nature of the evaluation process, and what exactly the meaning of "value" is. She begins by pointing out that the dispute on the value of something occurs whenever any social activity becomes the focal point of a discussion. However, Smith points out, the perspective on value and evaluation has changed dramatically, and is still a topic of debate. These new perspectives indicate that value judgments are made by entire societies, not necessarily individuals; they also give rise to skepticism and question traditional ideas about how evaluations are made.
Pointing out the importance of attempting to define a term before
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These include: the ever-present relationship, not opposition, between the criticism of a text and its creation; a personal comparison between this text and any others, and a consideration of how others are likely to enjoy it; the resulting effects furthering its value within a society; the sustaining force of informal evaluations among equals; and finally, the evaluation performed within an institution, such as a school or newspaper (182). Smith refers here to the composition of the text by Charlotte Bronte, as well as its being made into a film, reflecting the multifaceted nature of the value of a specific text.
Smith states here that, while evaluation does not depend solely upon the opinion of society, it is colored by cultural norms. Classification, Smith says, is its own form of evaluation; it is the first step in influencing our evaluations of art and literature; it is a generalization that presupposes what a work is and would be considered by other people. The classifications themselves, Smith argues, is not even specific enough to indicate the actual attributes in a work that would classify it in any given way; these ready-made labels are "exceptionally various, mutable, and elusive" (182). She goes on to say that they are based upon the social norms set up by any and all cultures that then influence our independent value