I could not post this reply to a post by Lethe because of its length. Please read her post first and then my response. I love you all. You are my family. I am not argumentative.
You asked me to comment on your post and I have chosen to in serious vein given the thought you have applied.
Allow me, rudely, to pick at the seams first to test the strength of your material.
In your eighth paragraph you refer to the 'effervescence of language', and in the following of 'language in its purest, most accessible, most fluid form […] It's on a wavelength most of us can hear.'
Pedantically, effervescence means to bubble, to froth up: language does, indeed, bubble. It is not concrete; it does not point irrevocably to things but seethes around them, crashing over them to reveal their shapes as outlines much as a pier is made visible by stormy water. This, needless to say, is a Saussurean image; however, the fact is, as the late Jacques Derrida endless explored, language, or text, which is far more encompassing, is notoriously unreliable; treacherous even in the way that it undermines itself. So my ears twitch when I read of language, any language, being 'on a wavelength most of us can hear'.
My concern grows when I read a few paragraphs later of 'this ability to zero in on transcendence'. Here is an assumption of belief in a transcendence, or one that can be written on a menu for human consumption, human dialogue. Given the fish slipperiness of language, of the human mind, it is doubtful. You explicitly acknowledge this when you write, 'After all, the concept "art" is in our minds.' Art is artifice, as is language.
Given the direction of your thinking, it is of small surprise to find you drifting towards a Jungian construct of human consciousness - 'what if we attributed an author's sparkling sentences to a state of mind rather than an individual person?'. It is wishful, wistful.
Derrida has presented us with a problem that the Anglo-American tradition of thought is trying to solve through pure logic, forgetting pure logic, itself, is a piece of human engineering (my cards are turned face-up). Even it were proved beyond all doubt in all possible universes that mathematics was a transcendental language, it has already gone beyond the boundaries of what was once the definition of a science, i.e. a demonstrable proof of an experiment conducted in similar conditions producing equivalent results, as string theory, for example, is beyond demonstration and remains only a mathematical conjecture. Reductively, mathematics is only another language.
Derrida never denied the absolute, the transcendental, only the ability of man to bring it into a textual context, as the moment man attempts to do so, he corrupts it by the very process of the transmutation. (Derrida would never write as bluntly as I; indeed, I would be sent to the bottom of the class for being so direct.)
I have picked at the seams and, perhaps, found a few loose threads worthy of further thought. Now permit me to address the meat, or soya, if vegetarian, of your thesis: the concept of genius and criticism.
I love the sentiment, 'Art criticism flattens the journey, however, by making it into a vacation… etc.' It is accurate but begs the question as to what art criticism should achieve. Whose fault this desire for potted heros, self-affirming images of ourselves?
Let's discuss genius. Caravaggio has only been 'discovered' as a genius in recent decades. Why? I would assert for political reasons, not political as in government, but political as in polis, the people. In his paintings, he was the great democrat; recognisable individuals populate his paintings, his lighting technique mirrors contemporary portraiture, he was a rogue: in summary, he is a successful rebel and how we wish we had the balls to be him. In the arts, one can argue that the concept of genius is relative only because the impact of an individual on human consciousness, in terms of the written word or painted canvas, is harder to assess than that of a scientist such as Darwin or Einstein.
I believe your desire to link an individual's unique ability to a wider influence correct. I, too, counter the capitalist desire to divide and sell to us as dumb individuals, but I do not bow to their simplistic argument that you are either for us, i.e. progress in their terms, or the ability to sell more of the same crap from an ever limited number of corporations in the desire to make more profits for the few, or against us, i.e. a Sarah Palin socialist. (Why do so many Americans react so strongly against the idea of people socialising, being concerned about people in worse positions than themselves? It does my head in.)
In conclusion, thank you so much for your post. It has got the blood pumping.