In point of fact, the reductionist approach to literary criticism not only effectively eliminated the oppressively turgid, treatise-length critiques of the Restoration period and of Dr. Johnson’s immediate predecessors, but took matters to their logical conclusion by condensing even the most picayune paean or snippet-sized squib, the most miniscule encomium or pismire-proportioned drubbing, into an exuberant spritz of approving saliva or a disdainful expulsion of damning phlegm.
Diehard Phlegmatics considered Woolf’s expropriation a crass rebuke, and rejected her reforms out of hand. In response, they formed splinter groups. Vomiting had always been frowned upon—a member was banished for a year from a phlegmatic forum, another expelled from a reading club for this offense. But, with the fading of phlegmatism, the “Regurgitators” phased in, and still more radical offshoots of the Vomit School—the “Barfers” and the “Pukistes” stole their day in the sun. The only bodily secretion besides saliva that the Phlegmatics permitted was perspiration, which was tolerated because it connotes excitement, industry, and assiduous application to the task at hand (critical analysis). Tears, later to be so important in association with the Sentimental School, made a tentative appearance in a trial role among the Post-Phlegmatics, but had little lasting impact.
Gilbert Alter-Gilbert on 50 watts.