Literary criticism

Literary criticism

Overview
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critic
Critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

s are not always, and have not always been, theorists.

Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy.
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Encyclopedia
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critic
Critic
A critic is anyone who expresses a value judgement. Informally, criticism is a common aspect of all human expression and need not necessarily imply skilled or accurate expressions of judgement. Critical judgements, good or bad, may be positive , negative , or balanced...

s are not always, and have not always been, theorists.

Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. For example, the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary thinking and Criticism draws no distinction between literary theory and literary criticism, and almost always uses the terms together to describe the same concept. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract.

Literary criticism is often published in essay or book form. Academic literary critics teach in literature departments and publish in academic journal
Academic journal
An academic journal is a peer-reviewed periodical in which scholarship relating to a particular academic discipline is published. Academic journals serve as forums for the introduction and presentation for scrutiny of new research, and the critique of existing research...

s, and more popular critics publish their criticism in broadly circulating periodicals such as the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times Book Review, the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books
London Review of Books
The London Review of Books is a fortnightly British magazine of literary and intellectual essays.-History:The LRB was founded in 1979, during the year-long lock-out at The Times, by publisher A...

, The Nation, and The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

.

Classical and medieval criticism


Literary criticism has probably existed for as long as literature. In the 4th century BC Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 wrote the Poetics, a typology and description of literary forms with many specific criticisms of contemporary works of art. Poetics developed for the first time the concepts of mimesis
Mimesis
Mimesis , from μιμεῖσθαι , "to imitate," from μῖμος , "imitator, actor") is a critical and philosophical term that carries a wide range of meanings, which include imitation, representation, mimicry, imitatio, receptivity, nonsensuous similarity, the act of resembling, the act of expression, and the...

 and catharsis
Catharsis
Catharsis or katharsis is a Greek word meaning "cleansing" or "purging". It is derived from the verb καθαίρειν, kathairein, "to purify, purge," and it is related to the adjective καθαρός, katharos, "pure or clean."-Dramatic uses:...

, which are still crucial in literary study. Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

's attacks on poetry
Poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

 as imitative, secondary, and false were formative as well. Around the same time, Bharata Muni
Bharata Muni
Bharata was an ancient Indian musicologist who authored the Natya Shastra, a theoretical treatise on ancient Indian dramaturgy and histrionics, dated to between roughly 400 BC and 200 BC. Indian dance and music find their root in the Natyashastra...

, in his Natya Shastra
Natya Shastra
The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata.The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope...

, wrote literary criticism on ancient Indian literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

 and Sanskrit drama
Sanskrit drama
The earliest-surviving fragments of Sanskrit drama date from the 1st century CE. The Mahābhāṣya by Patañjali contains the earliest reference to what may have been the seeds of Sanskrit drama. This treatise on grammar from 140 BCE provides a feasible date for the beginnings of theatre in India.Its...

.

Later classical and medieval criticism often focused on religious texts, and the several long religious traditions of hermeneutics and textual exegesis
Exegesis
Exegesis is a critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially a religious text. Traditionally the term was used primarily for exegesis of the Bible; however, in contemporary usage it has broadened to mean a critical explanation of any text, and the term "Biblical exegesis" is used...

 have had a profound influence on the study of secular texts. This was particularly the case for the literary traditions of the three Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions
Abrahamic religions are the monotheistic faiths emphasizing and tracing their common origin to Abraham or recognizing a spiritual tradition identified with him...

: Jewish literature
Jewish literature
Jewish Literature refers to works written by Jews on Jewish themes, literary works of various themes written in Jewish languages, or literary works in other languages written by Jewish writers. Ancient Jewish literature includes Biblical literature and rabbinic literature...

, Christian literature
Christian literature
Christian Literature is writing that deals with Christian themes and incorporates the Christian world view. This constitutes a huge body of extremely varied writing.-Scripture:...

 and Islamic literature
Islamic literature
Islamic literature is literature written with an Islamic perspective, in any language.The most well known fiction from the Islamic world was The Book of One Thousand and One Nights , which was a compilation of many earlier folk tales told by the Persian Queen Scheherazade...

.

Literary criticism was also employed in other forms of medieval Arabic literature
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

 and Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry
Arabic poetry is the earliest form of Arabic literature. Present knowledge of poetry in Arabic dates from the 6th century, but oral poetry is believed to predate that. Arabic poetry is categorized into two main types, rhymed, or measured, and prose, with the former greatly preceding the latter...

 from the 9th century, notably by Al-Jahiz
Al-Jahiz
Al-Jāḥiẓ was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu'tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics.In biology, Al-Jahiz introduced the concept of food chains and also proposed a scheme of animal evolution that entailed...

 in his al-Bayan wa-'l-tabyin and al-Hayawan, and by Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz
Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz
Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz was persuaded to assume the role of caliph of the Abbasid dynasty following the premature death of al-Muktafi. He succeeded in ruling for a single day and a single night, before he was forced into hiding, found, and then strangled in a palace intrigue that brought...

 in his Kitab al-Badi.

Key texts


  • Plato
    Plato
    Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

    : Ion, Republic, Cratylus
  • Aristotle
    Aristotle
    Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

    : Poetics, Rhetoric
  • Horace
    Horace
    Quintus Horatius Flaccus , known in the English-speaking world as Horace, was the leading Roman lyric poet during the time of Augustus.-Life:...

    : Art of Poetry
  • Longinus
    Longinus (literature)
    Longinus is the conventional name of the author of the treatise, On the Sublime , a work which focuses on the effect of good writing. Longinus, sometimes referred to as Pseudo-Longinus because his real name is unknown, was a Greek teacher of rhetoric or a literary critic who may have lived in the...

    : On the Sublime
  • Plotinus
    Plotinus
    Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

    : On the Intellectual Beauty
  • St. Augustine
    St. Augustine
    -People:* Augustine of Hippo or Augustine of Hippo , father of the Latin church* Augustine of Canterbury , first Archbishop of Canterbury* Augustine Webster, an English Catholic martyr.-Places:*St. Augustine, Florida, United States...

    : On Christian Doctrine
  • Boethius: The Consolation of Philosophy
  • Aquinas: The Nature and Domain of Sacred Doctrine
  • Dante
    DANTE
    Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

    : The Banquet, Letter to Can Grande Della Scala
  • Boccaccio: Life of Dante, Genealogy of the Gentile Gods
  • Bharata Muni
    Bharata Muni
    Bharata was an ancient Indian musicologist who authored the Natya Shastra, a theoretical treatise on ancient Indian dramaturgy and histrionics, dated to between roughly 400 BC and 200 BC. Indian dance and music find their root in the Natyashastra...

    : Natya Shastra
  • Al-Jahiz
    Al-Jahiz
    Al-Jāḥiẓ was an Arabic prose writer and author of works of literature, Mu'tazili theology, and politico-religious polemics.In biology, Al-Jahiz introduced the concept of food chains and also proposed a scheme of animal evolution that entailed...

    : al-Bayan wa-'l-tabyin, al-Hayawan
  • Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz
    Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz
    Abdullah ibn al-Mu'tazz was persuaded to assume the role of caliph of the Abbasid dynasty following the premature death of al-Muktafi. He succeeded in ruling for a single day and a single night, before he was forced into hiding, found, and then strangled in a palace intrigue that brought...

    : Kitab al-Badi
  • Rajashekhara: Inquiry into Literature
  • Valmiki
    Valmiki
    Valmiki is celebrated as the poet harbinger in Sanskrit literature. He is the author of the epic Ramayana, based on the attribution in the text of the epic itself. He is revered as the Adi Kavi, which means First Poet, for he discovered the first śloka i.e...

    : The Invention of Poetry (from the Ramayana
    Ramayana
    The Ramayana is an ancient Sanskrit epic. It is ascribed to the Hindu sage Valmiki and forms an important part of the Hindu canon , considered to be itihāsa. The Ramayana is one of the two great epics of India and Nepal, the other being the Mahabharata...

    )
  • Anandavardhana
    Anandavardhana
    Anandavardhana was the author of Dhvanyaloka, a work articulating the philosophy of "aesthetic suggestion". The philosopher Abhinavagupta wrote an important commentary on it.Anandavardhana is credited with creating the dhvani theory...

    : Light on Suggestion
  • Cao Pi
    Cao Pi
    Cao Pi , formally known as Emperor Wen of Wei, was the first emperor of the state of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history. Born in Qiao County, Pei Commandery , he was the second son of the late Han Dynasty warlord Cao Cao.Cao Pi, like his father, was a poet...

    : A Discourse on Literature
  • Lu Ji
    Lu Ji
    Lu Ji , style name Shiheng , was a writer and literary critic of Eastern Wu during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history.-Biography:Lu Ji was a direct descendant of the founders of Eastern Wu and son of the general Lu Kang...

    : Rhymeprose on Literature
  • Liu Xie
    Liu Xie
    Liu Xie , courtesy name Yanhe , was a Chinese writer. He was the author of China's greatest work of literary aesthetics, The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons 《文心雕龍》. His biography is included in the Liangshu....

    : The Literary Mind
  • Wang Changling
    Wang Changling
    Wang Changling was a major Tang Dynasty poet. His zi was Shaobo . He was originally from Taiyuan in the Shanxi province of China, according to the editors of the Three Hundred Tang Poems, although other sources claim that he was actually from Jiangning near modern-day Nanjing...

    : A Discussion of Literature and Meaning
  • Sikong Tu: The Twenty-Four Classes of Poetry


Renaissance criticism


The literary criticism of the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 developed classical ideas of unity of form and content into literary neoclassicism
Neoclassicism
Neoclassicism is the name given to Western movements in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that draw inspiration from the "classical" art and culture of Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome...

, proclaiming literature as central to culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

, entrusting the poet and the author with preservation of a long literary tradition. The birth of Renaissance criticism was in 1498, with the recovery of classic texts, most notably, Giorgio Valla's Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 translation of Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's Poetics. The work of Aristotle, especially Poetics, was the most important influence upon literary criticism until the late eighteenth century. Lodovico Castelvetro
Lodovico Castelvetro
Lodovico Castelvetro was an important figure in the development of neo-classicism, especially in drama. It was his reading of Aristotle that led to a widespread adoption of a tight version of the Three Unities, as a dramatic standard....

 was one of the most influential Renaissance critics who wrote commentaries on Aristotle's Poetics in 1570.

Key texts

  • Lodovico Castelvetro
    Lodovico Castelvetro
    Lodovico Castelvetro was an important figure in the development of neo-classicism, especially in drama. It was his reading of Aristotle that led to a widespread adoption of a tight version of the Three Unities, as a dramatic standard....

    : The Poetics of Aristotle Translated and Explained
  • Philip Sidney
    Philip Sidney
    Sir Philip Sidney was an English poet, courtier and soldier, and is remembered as one of the most prominent figures of the Elizabethan Age...

    : An Apology for Poetry
  • Jacopo Mazzoni
    Jacopo Mazzoni
    Jacopo Mazzoni was an Italian philosopher. -Biography:Giacopo Mazzoni was born in Cesena, Italy in 1548...

    : On the Defense of the Comedy of Dante
  • Torquato Tasso
    Torquato Tasso
    Torquato Tasso was an Italian poet of the 16th century, best known for his poem La Gerusalemme liberata , in which he depicts a highly imaginative version of the combats between Christians and Muslims at the end of the First Crusade, during the siege of Jerusalem...

    : Discourses on the Heroic Poem
  • Francis Bacon
    Francis Bacon
    Francis Bacon, 1st Viscount St Albans, KC was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, lawyer, jurist, author and pioneer of the scientific method. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England...

    : The Advancement of Learning
  • Henry Reynolds
    Henry Reynolds (poet)
    Henry Reynolds was a Suffolk man, schoolmaster, English poet and literary critic of the seventeenth century.He is known for two works, Aminta Englisht of 1628, a translation from Tasso, and Mythomystes, a 1632 critical work on poetry considered to be most influenced by the Neoplatonism of the...

    : Mythomystes

Key texts


  • Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

    : Answer to Davenant's preface to Gondibert
  • Pierre Corneille
    Pierre Corneille
    Pierre Corneille was a French tragedian who was one of the three great seventeenth-century French dramatists, along with Molière and Racine...

    : Of the Three Unities of Action, Time, and Place
  • John Dryden
    John Dryden
    John Dryden was an influential English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who dominated the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden.Walter Scott called him "Glorious John." He was made Poet...

    : An Essay of Dramatic Poesy
  • Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux
    Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux
    Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux was a French poet and critic.-Biography:Boileau was born in the rue de Jérusalem, in Paris, France. He was brought up to the law, but devoted to letters, associating himself with La Fontaine, Racine, and Molière...

    : The Art of Poetry
  • John Locke
    John Locke
    John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

    : An Essay Concerning Human Understanding
  • John Dennis: The Advancement and Reformation of Modern Poetry
  • Alexander Pope
    Alexander Pope
    Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

    : An Essay on Criticism
  • Joseph Addison
    Joseph Addison
    Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. He was a man of letters, eldest son of Lancelot Addison...

    : On the Pleasures of the Imagination (Spectator essays)
  • Giambattista Vico
    Giambattista Vico
    Giovanni Battista ' Vico or Vigo was an Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist....

    : The New Science
  • Edmund Burke
    Edmund Burke
    Edmund Burke PC was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher who, after moving to England, served for many years in the House of Commons of Great Britain as a member of the Whig party....

    : A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful
  • David Hume
    David Hume
    David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist, known especially for his philosophical empiricism and skepticism. He was one of the most important figures in the history of Western philosophy and the Scottish Enlightenment...

    : Of the Standard of Taste
  • Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson
    Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

    : On Fiction, Rasselas, Preface to Shakespeare
  • Edward Young
    Edward Young
    Edward Young was an English poet, best remembered for Night Thoughts.-Early life:He was the son of Edward Young, later Dean of Salisbury, and was born at his father's rectory at Upham, near Winchester, where he was baptized on 3 July 1683. He was educated at Winchester College, and matriculated...

    : Conjectures on Original Composition
  • Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
    Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
    Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist, and art critic, and one of the most outstanding representatives of the Enlightenment era. His plays and theoretical writings substantially influenced the development of German literature...

    : Laocoön
  • Joshua Reynolds
    Joshua Reynolds
    Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

    : Discourses on Art
  • Denis Diderot
    Denis Diderot
    Denis Diderot was a French philosopher, art critic, and writer. He was a prominent person during the Enlightenment and is best known for serving as co-founder and chief editor of and contributor to the Encyclopédie....

    : The Paradox of Acting
  • Immanuel Kant
    Immanuel Kant
    Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

    : Critique of Judgment
  • Mary Wollstonecraft
    Mary Wollstonecraft
    Mary Wollstonecraft was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women's rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children's book...

    : A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • William Blake
    William Blake
    William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

    : The Marriage of Heaven or Hell, Letter to Thomas Butts, Annotations to Reynolds' Discourses, A Descriptive Catalogue, A Vision of the Last Judgment, On Homer's Poetry
  • Friedrich Schiller
    Friedrich Schiller
    Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

    : Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man
  • Friedrich Schlegel: Critical Fragments, Athenaeum Fragments, On Incomprehensibility


19th-century criticism


The British Romantic
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 movement of the early nineteenth century introduced new aesthetic ideas to literary study, including the idea that the object of literature need not always be beautiful, noble, or perfect, but that literature itself could elevate a common subject to the level of the sublime
Sublime (philosophy)
In aesthetics, the sublime is the quality of greatness, whether physical, moral, intellectual, metaphysical, aesthetic, spiritual or artistic...

. German Romanticism
German Romanticism
For the general context, see Romanticism.In the philosophy, art, and culture of German-speaking countries, German Romanticism was the dominant movement of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. German Romanticism developed relatively late compared to its English counterpart, coinciding in its...

, which followed closely after the late development of German classicism
Classicism
Classicism, in the arts, refers generally to a high regard for classical antiquity, as setting standards for taste which the classicists seek to emulate. The art of classicism typically seeks to be formal and restrained: of the Discobolus Sir Kenneth Clark observed, "if we object to his restraint...

, emphasized an aesthetic of fragmentation that can appear startlingly modern to the reader of English literature, and valued Witz – that is, "wit" or "humor" of a certain sort – more highly than the serious Anglophone Romanticism. The late nineteenth century brought renown to authors known more for critical writing than for their own literary work, such as Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold
Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

.

Key texts


  • William Wordsworth
    William Wordsworth
    William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

    : Preface to the Second Edition of Lyrical Ballads
  • Anne Louise Germaine de Staël
    Anne Louise Germaine de Staël
    Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein , commonly known as Madame de Staël, was a French-speaking Swiss author living in Paris and abroad. She influenced literary tastes in Europe at the turn of the 19th century.- Childhood :...

    : Literature in its Relation to Social Institutions
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
    Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
    Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

    : On the Relation of the Plastic Arts to Nature
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

    : Shakespeare's Judgment Equal to His Genius, On the Principles of Genial Criticism, The Statesman's Manual, Biographia Literaria
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt
    Wilhelm von Humboldt
    Friedrich Wilhelm Christian Karl Ferdinand Freiherr von Humboldt was a German philosopher, government functionary, diplomat, and founder of Humboldt Universität. He is especially remembered as a linguist who made important contributions to the philosophy of language and to the theory and practice...

    : Collected Works
  • John Keats
    John Keats
    John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

    : letters to Benjamin Bailey, George & Thomas Keats, John Taylor, and Richard Woodhouse
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
    Arthur Schopenhauer
    Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

    : The World as Will and Idea
  • Thomas Love Peacock
    Thomas Love Peacock
    Thomas Love Peacock was an English satirist and author.Peacock was a close friend of Percy Bysshe Shelley and they influenced each other's work...

    : The Four Ages of Poetry
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Percy Bysshe Shelley
    Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

    : A Defense of Poetry
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
    Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German writer, pictorial artist, biologist, theoretical physicist, and polymath. He is considered the supreme genius of modern German literature. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, prose, philosophy, and science. His Faust has been called the greatest long...

    : Conversations with Eckermann, Maxim No.279
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

    : The Philosophy of Fine Art
  • Thomas Carlyle
    Thomas Carlyle
    Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

    : Symbols
  • John Stuart Mill
    John Stuart Mill
    John Stuart Mill was a British philosopher, economist and civil servant. An influential contributor to social theory, political theory, and political economy, his conception of liberty justified the freedom of the individual in opposition to unlimited state control. He was a proponent of...

    : What is Poetry?
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Ralph Waldo Emerson
    Ralph Waldo Emerson was an American essayist, lecturer, and poet, who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century...

    : The Poet
  • Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
    Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve
    Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve was a literary critic and one of the major figures of French literary history.-Early years:...

    : What Is a Classic?
  • Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe
    Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

    : The Poetic Principle
  • Matthew Arnold
    Matthew Arnold
    Matthew Arnold was a British poet and cultural critic who worked as an inspector of schools. He was the son of Thomas Arnold, the famed headmaster of Rugby School, and brother to both Tom Arnold, literary professor, and William Delafield Arnold, novelist and colonial administrator...

    : Preface to the 1853 Edition of Poems, The Function of Criticism at the Present Time, The Study of Poetry
  • Hippolyte Taine
    Hippolyte Taine
    Hippolyte Adolphe Taine was a French critic and historian. He was the chief theoretical influence of French naturalism, a major proponent of sociological positivism, and one of the first practitioners of historicist criticism. Literary historicism as a critical movement has been said to originate...

    : History of English Literature
  • Charles Baudelaire
    Charles Baudelaire
    Charles Baudelaire was a French poet who produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work, Les Fleurs du mal expresses the changing nature of beauty in modern, industrializing Paris during the nineteenth century...

    : The Salon of 1859
  • Karl Marx
    Karl Marx
    Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

    : The German Ideology, A Contribution of the Critique of Political Economy
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Nietzsche
    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist...

    : The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, Truth and Falsity in an Ultramoral Sense
  • Walter Pater
    Walter Pater
    Walter Horatio Pater was an English essayist, critic of art and literature, and writer of fiction.-Early life:...

    : Studies in the History of the Renaissance
  • Émile Zola
    Émile Zola
    Émile François Zola was a French writer, the most important exemplar of the literary school of naturalism and an important contributor to the development of theatrical naturalism...

    : The Experimental Novel
  • Anatole France
    Anatole France
    Anatole France , born François-Anatole Thibault, , was a French poet, journalist, and novelist. He was born in Paris, and died in Saint-Cyr-sur-Loire. He was a successful novelist, with several best-sellers. Ironic and skeptical, he was considered in his day the ideal French man of letters...

    : The Adventures of the Soul
  • Oscar Wilde
    Oscar Wilde
    Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

    : The Decay of Lying
  • Stéphane Mallarmé
    Stéphane Mallarmé
    Stéphane Mallarmé , whose real name was Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Dadaism, Surrealism, and Futurism.-Biography:Stéphane...

    : The Evolution of Literature, The Book: A Spiritual Mystery, Mystery in Literature
  • Leo Tolstoy
    Leo Tolstoy
    Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was a Russian writer who primarily wrote novels and short stories. Later in life, he also wrote plays and essays. His two most famous works, the novels War and Peace and Anna Karenina, are acknowledged as two of the greatest novels of all time and a pinnacle of realist...

    : What is Art?

  • [Romantic Criticism]

The New Criticism


However important all of these aesthetic movements were as antecedents, current ideas about literary criticism derive almost entirely from the new direction taken in the early twentieth century. Early in the century the school of criticism known as Russian Formalism
Russian formalism
Russian formalism was an influential school of literary criticism in Russia from the 1910s to the 1930s. It includes the work of a number of highly influential Russian and Soviet scholars such as Viktor Shklovsky, Yuri Tynianov, Vladimir Propp, Boris Eichenbaum, Roman Jakobson, Grigory Vinokur who...

, and slightly later the New Criticism
New Criticism
New Criticism was a movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic...

 in Britain and America, came to dominate the study and discussion of literature. Both schools emphasized the close reading
Close reading
Close reading describes, in literary criticism, the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of text. Such a reading places great emphasis on the particular over the general, paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which sentences and ideas unfold as they...

 of texts, elevating it far above generalizing discussion and speculation about either authorial intention
Authorial intentionality
In literary theory and aesthetics, authorial intent refers to an author's intent as it is encoded in his or her work.-Literary theory:In literary studies, the question of the validity of the methods of determining authorial intent has been debated since the early twentieth century. New Criticism,...

 (to say nothing of the author's psychology or biography, which became almost taboo subjects) or reader response. This emphasis on form and precise attention to "the words themselves" has persisted, after the decline of these critical doctrines themselves.

Theory


In 1957 Northrop Frye
Northrop Frye
Herman Northrop Frye, was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century....

 published the influential Anatomy of Criticism
Anatomy of Criticism
Herman Northrop Frye's Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays attempts to formulate an overall view of the scope, theory, principles, and techniques of literary criticism derived exclusively from literature...

. In his works Frye noted that some critics tend to embrace an ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

, and to judge literary pieces on the basis of their adherence to such ideology. This has been a highly influential viewpoint among modern conservative thinkers. E. Michael Jones
E. Michael Jones
Eugene Michael Jones is a writer, former professor, and the current editor of Culture Wars magazine ....

 in Degenerate Moderns argues that Stanley Fish
Stanley Fish
Stanley Eugene Fish is an American literary theorist and legal scholar. He was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island...

 was influenced by his adulterous affairs
Adultery
Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

 to reject classic literature that condemned adultery.

In the British and American literary establishment, the New Criticism
New Criticism
New Criticism was a movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic...

 was more or less dominant until the late 1960s. Around that time Anglo-American university literature departments began to witness a rise of a more explicitly philosophical literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

, influenced by structuralism
Structuralism
Structuralism originated in the structural linguistics of Ferdinand de Saussure and the subsequent Prague and Moscow schools of linguistics. Just as structural linguistics was facing serious challenges from the likes of Noam Chomsky and thus fading in importance in linguistics, structuralism...

, then post-structuralism
Post-structuralism
Post-structuralism is a label formulated by American academics to denote the heterogeneous works of a series of French intellectuals who came to international prominence in the 1960s and '70s...

, and other kinds of Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

. It continued until the mid-1980s, when interest in "theory" peaked. Many later critics, though undoubtedly still influenced by theoretical work, have been comfortable simply interpreting literature rather than writing explicitly about methodology and philosophical presumptions.

Key 20th-century texts


  • Benedetto Croce
    Benedetto Croce
    Benedetto Croce was an Italian idealist philosopher, and occasionally also politician. He wrote on numerous topics, including philosophy, history, methodology of history writing and aesthetics, and was a prominent liberal, although he opposed laissez-faire free trade...

    : Aesthetic
  • A. C. Bradley: Poetry for Poetry's Sake
  • Sigmund Freud
    Sigmund Freud
    Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

    : Creative Writers and Daydreaming
  • Ferdinand de Saussure
    Ferdinand de Saussure
    Ferdinand de Saussure was a Swiss linguist whose ideas laid a foundation for many significant developments in linguistics in the 20th century. He is widely considered one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics...

    : Course in General Linguistics
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

    : The Structural Study of Myth
  • T. E. Hulme
    T. E. Hulme
    Thomas Ernest Hulme was an English critic and poet who, through his writings on art, literature and politics, had a notable influence upon modernism.-Early life:...

    : Romanticism and Classicism; Bergson's Theory of Art
  • Walter Benjamin
    Walter Benjamin
    Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was a German-Jewish intellectual, who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist, translator, radio broadcaster and essayist...

    : On Language as Such and On the Language of Man
  • Viktor Shklovsky
    Viktor Shklovsky
    Viktor Borisovich Shklovsky was a Russian and Soviet critic, writer, and pamphleteer.-Life:...

    : Art as Technique
  • T. S. Eliot
    T. S. Eliot
    Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

    : Tradition and the Individual Talent; Hamlet and His Problems
  • Irving Babbitt
    Irving Babbitt
    Irving Babbitt was an American academic and literary critic, noted for his founding role in a movement that became known as the New Humanism, a significant influence on literary discussion and conservative thought in the period between 1910 to 1930...

    : Romantic Melancholy
  • Carl Jung
    Carl Jung
    Carl Gustav Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist and the founder of Analytical Psychology. Jung is considered the first modern psychiatrist to view the human psyche as "by nature religious" and make it the focus of exploration. Jung is one of the best known researchers in the field of dream analysis and...

    : On the Relation of Analytical Psychology to Poetry
  • Leon Trotsky
    Leon Trotsky
    Leon Trotsky , born Lev Davidovich Bronshtein, was a Russian Marxist revolutionary and theorist, Soviet politician, and the founder and first leader of the Red Army....

    : The Formalist School of Poetry and Marxism
  • Boris Eikhenbaum: The Theory of the "Formal Method"
  • Virginia Woolf
    Virginia Woolf
    Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

    : A Room of One's Own
  • I. A. Richards
    I. A. Richards
    Ivor Armstrong Richards was an influential English literary critic and rhetorician....

    : Practical Criticism
  • Mikhail Bakhtin
    Mikhail Bakhtin
    Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin was a Russian philosopher, literary critic, semiotician and scholar who worked on literary theory, ethics, and the philosophy of language...

    : Epic and Novel: Toward a Methodology for the Study of the Novel
  • Georges Bataille
    Georges Bataille
    Georges Bataille was a French writer. His multifaceted work is linked to the domains of literature, anthropology, philosophy, economy, sociology and history of art...

    : The Notion of Expenditure
  • John Crowe Ransom
    John Crowe Ransom
    John Crowe Ransom was an American poet, essayist, magazine editor, and professor.-Life:...

    : Poetry: A Note in Ontology; Criticism as Pure Speculation
  • R. P. Blackmur
    R. P. Blackmur
    Richard Palmer Blackmur was an American literary critic and poet. He was born and grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. An autodidact, Blackmur worked in a bookshop after graduating from high school, and attended lectures at Harvard University without enrolling...

    : A Critic's Job of Work
  • Jacques Lacan
    Jacques Lacan
    Jacques Marie Émile Lacan was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who made prominent contributions to psychoanalysis and philosophy, and has been called "the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud". Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced France's...

    : The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience; The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious or Reason Since Freud
  • György Lukács: The Ideal of the Harmonious Man in Bourgeois Aesthetics; Art and Objective Truth
  • Paul Valéry
    Paul Valéry
    Ambroise-Paul-Toussaint-Jules Valéry was a French poet, essayist, and philosopher. His interests were sufficiently broad that he can be classified as a polymath...

    : Poetry and Abstract Thought
  • Kenneth Burke
    Kenneth Burke
    Kenneth Duva Burke was a major American literary theorist and philosopher. Burke's primary interests were in rhetoric and aesthetics.-Personal history:...

    : Literature and Equipment for Living
  • Ernst Cassirer
    Ernst Cassirer
    Ernst Cassirer was a German philosopher. He was one of the major figures in the development of philosophical idealism in the first half of the 20th century...

    : Art
  • W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley
    Monroe Beardsley
    Monroe Curtis Beardsley was an American philosopher of art. He was born and raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, and educated at Yale University , where he received the John Addison Porter Prize...

    : The Intentional Fallacy, The Affective Fallacy
  • Cleanth Brooks
    Cleanth Brooks
    Cleanth Brooks was an influential American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the mid-twentieth century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education...

    : The Heresy of Paraphrase; Irony as a Principle of Structure
  • Jan Mukařovský
    Jan Mukarovský
    Jan Mukařovský was a Czech literary and aesthetic theorist.He was professor at the Charles University of Prague. He is well known for his association with early structuralism as well as with the Prague Linguistic Circle, and for his development of the ideas of Russian formalism...

    : Standard Language and Poetic Language
  • Jean-Paul Sartre
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

    : Why Write?
  • Simone de Beauvoir
    Simone de Beauvoir
    Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir, often shortened to Simone de Beauvoir , was a French existentialist philosopher, public intellectual, and social theorist. She wrote novels, essays, biographies, an autobiography in several volumes, and monographs on philosophy, politics, and...

    : The Second Sex
  • Ronald Crane
    Ronald Crane
    Ronald Salmon Crane was a literary critic, historian, bibliographer, and professor. He is credited with the founding of the Chicago School of Literary Criticism.-Early life:...

    : Toward a More Adequate Criticism of Poetic Structure
  • Philip Wheelwright
    Philip Wheelwright
    Philip Ellis Wheelwright was an American philosopher, classical scholar and literary theorist.He is best known for two books in the field of literary criticism, The Burning Fountain: a Study in the Language of Symbolism and Metaphor and Reality , and his book on early Greek philosophy, The...

    : The Burning Fountain
  • Theodor Adorno: Cultural Criticism and Society; Aesthetic Theory
  • Roman Jakobson
    Roman Jakobson
    Roman Osipovich Jakobson was a Russian linguist and literary theorist.As a pioneer of the structural analysis of language, which became the dominant trend of twentieth-century linguistics, Jakobson was among the most influential linguists of the century...

    : The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles
  • Northrop Frye
    Northrop Frye
    Herman Northrop Frye, was a Canadian literary critic and literary theorist, considered one of the most influential of the 20th century....

    : Anatomy of Criticism; The Critical Path
  • Gaston Bachelard
    Gaston Bachelard
    Gaston Bachelard was a French philosopher. He made contributions in the fields of poetics and the philosophy of science. To the latter he introduced the concepts of epistemological obstacle and epistemological break...

    : The Poetics of Space
  • Ernst Gombrich
    Ernst Gombrich
    Sir Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, OM, CBE was an Austrian-born art historian who became naturalized British citizen in 1947. He spent most of his working life in the United Kingdom...

    : Art and Illusion
  • Martin Heidegger
    Martin Heidegger
    Martin Heidegger was a German philosopher known for his existential and phenomenological explorations of the "question of Being."...

    : The Nature of Language; Language in the Poem; Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry
  • E. D. Hirsch, Jr.: Objective Interpretation
  • Noam Chomsky
    Noam Chomsky
    Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, and activist. He is an Institute Professor and Professor in the Department of Linguistics & Philosophy at MIT, where he has worked for over 50 years. Chomsky has been described as the "father of modern linguistics" and...

    : Aspects of the Theory of Syntax
  • Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida
    Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

    : Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences
  • Roland Barthes
    Roland Barthes
    Roland Gérard Barthes was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes' ideas explored a diverse range of fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism, anthropology and...

    : The Structuralist Activity; The Death of the Author
  • Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault
    Michel Foucault , born Paul-Michel Foucault , was a French philosopher, social theorist and historian of ideas...

    : Truth and Power; What Is an Author?; The Discourse on Language
  • Hans Robert Jauss: Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory
  • Georges Poulet: Phenomenology of Reading
  • Raymond Williams
    Raymond Williams
    Raymond Henry Williams was a Welsh academic, novelist and critic. He was an influential figure within the New Left and in wider culture. His writings on politics, culture, the mass media and literature are a significant contribution to the Marxist critique of culture and the arts...

    : The Country and the City
  • Julia Kristeva
    Julia Kristeva
    Julia Kristeva is a Bulgarian-French philosopher, literary critic, psychoanalyst, sociologist, feminist, and, most recently, novelist, who has lived in France since the mid-1960s. She is now a Professor at the University Paris Diderot...

    : From One Identity to Another; Women's Time
  • Paul de Man
    Paul de Man
    Paul de Man was a Belgian-born deconstructionist literary critic and theorist.He began teaching at Bard College. Later, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the late 1950s...

    : Semiology and Rhetoric; The Rhetoric of Temporality
  • Harold Bloom
    Harold Bloom
    Harold Bloom is an American writer and literary critic, and is Sterling Professor of Humanities at Yale University. He is known for his defense of 19th-century Romantic poets, his unique and controversial theories of poetic influence, and his prodigious literary output, particularly for a literary...

    : The Dialectics of Poetic Tradition; Poetry, Revisionism, Repression
  • Chinua Achebe
    Chinua Achebe
    Albert Chinụalụmọgụ Achebe popularly known as Chinua Achebe is a Nigerian novelist, poet, professor, and critic...

    : Colonialist Criticism
  • Stanley Fish
    Stanley Fish
    Stanley Eugene Fish is an American literary theorist and legal scholar. He was born and raised in Providence, Rhode Island...

    : Normal Circumstances, Literal Language, Direct Speech Acts, the Ordinary, the Everyday, the Obvious, What Goes Without Saying, and Other Special Cases; Is There a Text in This Class?
  • Edward Said
    Edward Said
    Edward Wadie Saïd was a Palestinian-American literary theorist and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was University Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University and a founding figure in postcolonialism...

    : The World, the Text, and the Critic; Secular Criticism
  • Elaine Showalter
    Elaine Showalter
    Elaine Showalter is an American literary critic, feminist, and writer on cultural and social issues. She is one of the founders of feminist literary criticism in United States academia, developing the concept and practice of gynocritics.She is well known and respected in both academic and popular...

    : Toward a Feminist Poetics
  • Sandra Gilbert
    Sandra Gilbert
    Sandra M. Gilbert , Professor Emerita of English at the University of California, Davis, is an influential literary critic and poet who has published widely in the fields of feminist literary criticism, feminist theory, and psychoanalytic criticism...

     and Susan Gubar
    Susan Gubar
    Dr. Susan D. Gubar is an American academic and Distinguished Professor of English and Women's Studies at Indiana University. She is co-author with Dr. Sandra M. Gilbert of the standard feminist text, The Madwoman in the Attic and a trilogy on women's writing in the twentieth century.Her book...

    : Infection in the Sentence; The Madwoman in the Attic
  • Murray Krieger
    Murray Krieger
    Murray Krieger was an American literary critic and theorist. He was a professor at the University of Iowa from 1963, and then the University of California, Irvine.He was born in Newark, New Jersey...

    : "A Waking Dream": The Symbolic Alternative to Allegory
  • Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze
    Gilles Deleuze , was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus and A Thousand Plateaus , both co-written with Félix...

     and Felix Guattari
    Félix Guattari
    Pierre-Félix Guattari was a French militant, an institutional psychotherapist, philosopher, and semiotician; he founded both schizoanalysis and ecosophy...

    : Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia
  • René Girard
    René Girard
    René Girard is a French historian, literary critic, and philosopher of social science. His work belongs to the tradition of anthropological philosophy...

    : The Sacrificial Crisis
  • Hélène Cixous
    Hélène Cixous
    Hélène Cixous is a professor, French feminist writer, poet, playwright, philosopher, literary critic and rhetorician. She holds honorary degrees from Queen's University and the University of Alberta in Canada; University College Dublin in Ireland; the University of York and University College...

    : The Laugh of the Medusa
  • Jonathan Culler
    Jonathan Culler
    Jonathan Culler is a class of 1966 Harvard graduate and Professor of English at Cornell University. He is an important figure of the structuralism movement of literary theory and criticism.- Background and career:...

    : Beyond Interpretation
  • Geoffrey Hartman
    Geoffrey Hartman
    Geoffrey H. Hartman is a German-born American literary theorist, sometimes identified with the Yale School of deconstruction, but also has written on a wide range of subjects, and cannot be categorized by a single school or method.-Biography:...

    : Literary Commentary as Literature
  • Wolfgang Iser
    Wolfgang Iser
    -Biography:He was born in Marienberg, Germany. His parents were Paul and Else Iser. He studied literature in the universities of Leipzig and Tübingen before receiving his PhD in English at Heidelberg with a dissertation on the world view of Henry Fielding...

    : The Repertoire
  • Hayden White
    Hayden White
    Hayden White is a historian in the tradition of literary criticism, perhaps most famous for his work Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe...

    : The Historical Text as Literary Artifact
  • Hans-Georg Gadamer
    Hans-Georg Gadamer
    Hans-Georg Gadamer was a German philosopher of the continental tradition, best known for his 1960 magnum opus, Truth and Method .-Life:...

    : Truth and Method
  • Paul Ricoeur
    Paul Ricoeur
    Paul Ricœur was a French philosopher best known for combining phenomenological description with hermeneutic interpretation...

    : The Metaphorical Process as Cognition, Imagination, and Feeling
  • M. H. Abrams
    M. H. Abrams
    Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. Under Abrams' editorship, the Norton Anthology of English Literature became the standard text for undergraduate survey courses across the U.S...

    : How to Do Things with Texts
  • J. Hillis Miller
    J. Hillis Miller
    Joseph Hillis Miller, Jr. is an American literary critic who has been heavily influenced by—and who has heavily influenced—deconstruction.- Early life and education :...

    : The Critic as Host
  • Clifford Geertz
    Clifford Geertz
    Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

    : Blurred Genres: The Refiguration of Social Thought
  • Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
    Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
    Filippo Tommaso Emilio Marinetti was an Italian poet and editor, the founder of the Futurist movement, and a fascist ideologue.-Childhood and adolescence:...

    : The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism
  • Tristan Tzara
    Tristan Tzara
    Tristan Tzara was a Romanian and French avant-garde poet, essayist and performance artist. Also active as a journalist, playwright, literary and art critic, composer and film director, he was known best for being one of the founders and central figures of the anti-establishment Dada movement...

    : Unpretentious Proclamation
  • André Breton
    André Breton
    André Breton was a French writer and poet. He is known best as the founder of Surrealism. His writings include the first Surrealist Manifesto of 1924, in which he defined surrealism as "pure psychic automatism"....

    : The Surrealist Manifesto; The Declaration of January 27, 1925
  • Mina Loy
    Mina Loy
    Mina Loy born Mina Gertrude Löwry was an artist, poet, playwright, novelist, Futurist, actress, Christian Scientist, designer of lamps, and bohemian. She was one of the last of the first generation modernists to achieve posthumous recognition. Her poetry was admired by T. S...

    : Feminist Manifesto
  • Yokomitsu Riichi
    Yokomitsu Riichi
    was an experimental, modernist Japanese writer.Yokomitsu began publishing in dōjinshi such as Machi and Tō after entering Waseda University in 1916. In 1923, he published Nichirin , Hae and more in the magazine Bungeishunjū, which made his name popular...

    : Sensation and New Sensation
  • Oswald de Andrade
    Oswald de Andrade
    José Oswald de Andrade Souza was a Brazilian poet and polemicist. He was born and spent most of his life in São Paulo....

    : Cannibalist Manifesto
  • André Breton, Leon Trotsky and Diego Rivera
    Diego Rivera
    Diego María de la Concepción Juan Nepomuceno Estanislao de la Rivera y Barrientos Acosta y Rodríguez was a prominent Mexican painter born in Guanajuato, Guanajuato, an active communist, and husband of Frida Kahlo . His large wall works in fresco helped establish the Mexican Mural Movement in...

    : Manifesto: Towards a Free Revolutionary Art
  • Hu Shih
    Hu Shih
    Hu Shih , born Hu Hung-hsing , was a Chinese philosopher, essayist and diplomat. His courtesy name was Shih-chih . Hu is widely recognized today as a key contributor to Chinese liberalism and language reform in his advocacy for the use of written vernacular Chinese...

    : Some Modest Proposals for the Reform of Literature


History of the Book


Related to other forms of literary criticism, the history of the book
History of the book
The history of books follows a suite of technological innovations for books. These improved the quality of text conservation, the access to information, portability, and the cost of production...

 is a field of interdisciplinary inquiry drawing on the methods of bibliography
Bibliography
Bibliography , as a practice, is the academic study of books as physical, cultural objects; in this sense, it is also known as bibliology...

, cultural history
Cultural history
The term cultural history refers both to an academic discipline and to its subject matter.Cultural history, as a discipline, at least in its common definition since the 1970s, often combines the approaches of anthropology and history to look at popular cultural traditions and cultural...

, history of literature
History of literature
The history of literature is the historical development of writings in prose or poetry which attempts to provide entertainment, enlightenment, or instruction to the reader/hearer/observer, as well as the development of the literary techniques used in the communication of these pieces. Not all...

, and media theory
Media influence
Media influence or media effects are used in media studies, psychology, communication theory and sociology to refer to the theories about the ways in which mass media affect how their audiences think and behave....

. Principally concerned with the production, circulation, and reception of texts and their material forms, book history seeks to connect forms of textuality with their material aspects.

Among the issues within the history of literature with which book history can be seen to intersect are: the development of authorship as a profession, the formation of reading audiences, the constraints of censorship and copyright, and the economics of literary form.

The current state of literary criticism


Today interest in literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

 and Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

 coexists in university literature departments with a more conservative literary criticism which the New Critics would probably have approved of. Disagreements over the goals and methods of literary criticism, which characterized both sides taken by critics during the "rise" of theory, have declined. Many critics feel that they now have a great plurality of methods and approaches from which to choose.

Some critics work largely with theoretical texts, while others read traditional literature; interest in the literary canon
Western canon
The term Western canon denotes a canon of books and, more broadly, music and art that have been the most important and influential in shaping Western culture. As such, it includes the "greatest works of artistic merit." Such a canon is important to the theory of educational perennialism and the...

 is still great, but many critics are also interested in minority and women's literatures
Women's writing in English
Women's writing as a discrete area of literary studies is based on the notion that the experience of women, historically, has been shaped by their gender, and so women writers by definition are a group worthy of separate study...

, while some critics influenced by cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

 read popular texts like comic book
Comic book
A comic book or comicbook is a magazine made up of comics, narrative artwork in the form of separate panels that represent individual scenes, often accompanied by dialog as well as including...

s or pulp
Pulp magazine
Pulp magazines , also collectively known as pulp fiction, refers to inexpensive fiction magazines published from 1896 through the 1950s. The typical pulp magazine was seven inches wide by ten inches high, half an inch thick, and 128 pages long...

/genre fiction
Genre fiction
Genre fiction, also known as popular fiction, is a term for fictional works written with the intent of fitting into a specific literary genre in order to appeal to readers and fans already familiar with that genre....

. Ecocritics
Ecocriticism
Ecocriticism is the study of literature and environment from an interdisciplinary point of view where all sciences come together to analyze the environment and brainstorm possible solutions for the correction of the contemporary environmental situation...

 have drawn connections between literature and the natural sciences. Darwinian literary studies
Darwinian literary studies
Darwinian Literary Studies is a branch of literary criticism that studies literature in the context of evolution by means of natural selection, including gene-culture coevolution...

 studies literature in the context of evolutionary influences on human nature. Many literary critics also work in film criticism
Film criticism
Film criticism is the analysis and evaluation of films, individually and collectively. In general, this can be divided into journalistic criticism that appears regularly in newspapers, and other popular, mass-media outlets and academic criticism by film scholars that is informed by film theory and...

 or media studies
Media studies
Media studies is an academic discipline and field of study that deals with the content, history and effects of various media; in particular, the 'mass media'. Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass...

. Some write intellectual history
Intellectual history
Note: this article concerns the discipline of intellectual history, and not its object, the whole span of human thought since the invention of writing. For clarifications about the latter topic, please consult the writings of the intellectual historians listed here and entries on individual...

; others bring the results and methods of social history
Social history
Social history, often called the new social history, is a branch of History that includes history of ordinary people and their strategies of coping with life. In its "golden age" it was a major growth field in the 1960s and 1970s among scholars, and still is well represented in history departments...

 to bear on reading literature.

Questions to the value of academic criticism


The value of literary criticism has been questioned by some prominent artists. Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

 argued that good readers don't read books, and particularly literary masterpieces, "for the academic purpose of indulging in generalizations". Stephen J. Joyce
Stephen J. Joyce
Stephen James Joyce is the grandson of James Joyce and the controversial executor of Joyce's estate. He was born in France, the son of James Joyce's son Giorgio, and Helen Joyce née Kastor. Stephen attended Harvard University, graduating in 1958...

, grandson of James Joyce, at a 1986 academic conference of Joyceans in Copenhagen, said “If my grandfather was here, he would have died laughing ... Dubliners and A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man can be picked up, read, and enjoyed by virtually anybody without scholarly guides, theories, and intricate explanations, as can Ulysses, if you forget about all the hue and cry." And he questioned if anything is added to the legacy of Joyce's art, by the 261 books of literary criticism stored by the Library of Congress
Library of Congress
The Library of Congress is the research library of the United States Congress, de facto national library of the United States, and the oldest federal cultural institution in the United States. Located in three buildings in Washington, D.C., it is the largest library in the world by shelf space and...

; he summed up that Academics are "people who want to brand this great work with their mark. I don’t accept that."

See also


:Category:Literary critics
  • Comparative Literature
    Comparative literature
    Comparative literature is an academic field dealing with the literature of two or more different linguistic, cultural or national groups...

  • Genre studies
    Genre studies
    Genre studies are a structuralist approach to literary theory, film theory, and other cultural theories. The study of a genre in this way examines the structural elements that combine in the telling of a story and finds patterns in collections of stories...

  • History of the Book
    History of the book
    The history of books follows a suite of technological innovations for books. These improved the quality of text conservation, the access to information, portability, and the cost of production...

  • Poetic tradition
    Poetic tradition
    Poetic tradition is a concept similar to that of the poetic or literary canon...

  • Terry Eagleton
    Terry Eagleton
    Terence Francis Eagleton FBA is a British literary theorist and critic, who is regarded as one of Britain's most influential living literary critics...


External links