Etymology 1580s: Critic is "one who passes judgment," from M.Fr. critique (14c.), from L. criticus "a judge, literary critic," from Gk. kritikos "able to make judgments," from krinein "to separate, decide." Meaning "one who judges merits of books, plays, etc.“ 17th and 18th centuries: the critic was considered a judge who finds the faults and merits of a literary work.
“The art of interpreting art” (Walter Pater)The critic is “An interpreter between the inspired and the uninspired” (Thomas Carlyle)“A disinterested endeavour to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world” (Mathew Arnold)“The good critic is he who narrates the adventure of his soul among masterpiece” (Anatole France)
Different critical approaches are like different lensesthat critics use to view and talk about art andliterature. These different lenses allow critics toconsider works of art based on certain assumptions.Criticism can help form judgments about literatureand help readers appreciate and enjoy a literary work.
Natural aptitude Freedom from bias and prejudice Knowledge (including knowledge of literatures in other languages) Training and technical skill
The critical faculty is not lower than the creative. The critic was considered a disappointed teacher who can teach but cannot do. A piece of criticism can be superior to the work that prompted it. Tradition vs innovation and experiment. The harmful effect of prescriptive criticism. Ben Jonson and William Shakespeare The Romantic poets and the negative critics. Genius always succeeded, and literature triumphed over criticism.
Plato Art must play a role in the perfect Greek Republic.Poets may stay as servants of the state if they teach pietyand virtue, but the pleasures of art are condemned ascorrupting to citizens. If art does not teach morality andethics, then it is damaging to its audience. Plato’s ideasabout art and literature are classified as moral criticism.
Aristotle Aristotle’s Poetics is the earliest work of literarytheory. Tragedy stimulates the emotions of emotions of pityand fear, as the audience identify with the plight of theprotagonist. The resultant effect is that of purgation, orwhat he calls Catharsis.
Sir Phillip SidneySidney wrote Apology for Poetry in about 1580.The function of poetry is to teach and delight.Literature has the primary aim of giving pleasure.
It dominated Europe during the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It started in Italy, then spread to France and England. It emphasized the role of criticism as judgment. Right judgment leads to right enjoyment. It stressed the rules of the ancients codified by Aristotle and his followers. Aristotle’s Poetics was considered the master key to literary treasures.
“Aristotle is our emperor, the perpetual dictator ofall the fine arts.” (Scaliger) Be Homers Works your Study, and Delight, Read them by Day, and meditate by Night, (Alexander Pope)
Neo-Classical criticism advocates judgment based on standards. It resists the free play of the critical faculty. It controlled the imagination of writers for a long time.
During the Neo-classical age(Augustan), literature was subservient tocriticism. Literature suffered from therestrictions imposed upon it by the criticalconventions of that time. Literaturewritten in conformity to a definite code willreveal lack of freedom and spontaneity.
John Dryden (1631-1700): The first modern English prose. The first systematic application of critical standards to the enjoyment of literature He accepted the Classical tenets which were generally accepted in the Continent. His test of literary worth was conformity to the practice of Greece and Rome as illustrated in Aristotle’s Poetics and Horace’s Ars Poetica.
Alexander Pope (1688-1744) & Samuel Johnson (1709-1784): They maintained the classical position, according to which literature is to be judged by the rules. Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets and Prefaces to Shakespeare are the first instances in English practical criticism. He was the first to offer detailed commentaries on particular authors. The rules are not artificial; they are derived from nature: Those rules of old discovered, not devis’d, Are nature still, but nature methodis’d. (Alexander Pope)
It flourished at the beginning and the end of the 18th centuries. It was a revolution against Classical criteria. It emphasized the value of a literary work in itself, apart from any external standards. It ascertains the viewpoint and intentions of the writer. It ignored ancient authorities and the doctrines of Aristotle in assessing a literary work.
Romantic criticism is entirely subjective. The critics expresses what he feels about the work, regardless of what others say about it. The romantic critic imposes new readings that cause readers to see the literary work in new lights. He can even create it anew. Its extreme subjectivity, not guided by objective rules, can lead to extreme and misleading views.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850): Freedom from submission to the classics. Criticism seeks what the author has to give, judging him on his own ground instead of applying a “foreign measure to his genius. In Preface to Lyrical Ballads, he attacks the Neo-classical poetic diction. “every author, as far as he is great and at the same time original, has had the task of creating the taste by which he is to be enjoyed.”
Matthew Arnold (1822 – 1888): Arnolds most significant literary thinking is contained in theessays The Function of Criticism at the Present Time and The Study ofPoetry. Arnold says that criticism should be a means of learning thegreat values, or the “dissemination of ideas, a disinterested endeavourto learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in theworld.” He considered the most important criteria used to judge thevalue of a poem were “high truth” and “high seriousness”. Arnold advocated scientific objectivity in the study ofliterature. He sought for literary criticism to remain free of any externalconsiderations outside the work itself. The appreciation of a literarywork should be of “the object as in itself it really is."Psychological, historical and sociological background are irrelevant. Knowledge of the literature of the past is a valuable means ofmeasuring and assessing the literature of today. Arnold advises that weshould have always in mind lines and expressions of the greatmasters, and apply them as a touchstone to other poetry. He suggeststhat his touchstone method should provide the basis for a real ratherthan an historic or personal estimate of poetry.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the key critical names in Britain were F. R. Leavis, T. S. Eliot, William Empson, and I. A. Richards.T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965) Eliots most significant and enduring contribution to critical ideas is the notion of the of poetic “impersonality”, developed in his essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent.” The idea of impersonality was partly Eliots way of rejecting the idea of poetry as mere self-expression. Eliot attacks the ideas of originality, self-expression, and the emphasis on the individual, which derived from Romanticism. Poetry, for Eliot, is not a pouring out of personal emotion and personal experience, but a transcending of the individual by a sense of tradition which speaks through, and is transmitted by, the individual poet. The best parts of a poets work, he says, are not those which are most original, but those in which the voice of his predecessors can be most clearly heard speaking though him. Hence, there is a large distinction to be drawn between the mind of the individual, experiencing human being, and the voice which speaks in the poetry.