Literary criticism: Theoretical criticism,practical criticism, Impressionistic criticism, Judicial criticism

Literary criticism Theoretical criticismpractical criticism Impressionistic criticism Judicial criticism
Literary criticism: Theoretical criticism,practical criticism, Impressionistic criticism, Judicial criticism
Literary criticism: Theoretical criticism,practical criticism, Impressionistic criticism, Judicial criticism 3

Literary criticism: Theoretical criticism,practical criticism, Impressionistic criticism, Judicial criticism

Literary criticism is a broad field of study that encompasses various approaches and methods aimed at understanding, analyzing, and evaluating works of literature. It involves the application of theoretical frameworks, the examination of literary techniques and themes, and the interpretation of literary texts in order to gain insights into their meaning, significance, and artistic value.

Theoretical criticism forms the foundation of literary criticism by providing explicit theories and principles that guide the analysis and evaluation of literary works. It establishes a framework of terms, distinctions, and categories that help identify and analyze different aspects of literature. Moreover, it sets forth criteria or standards by which works of literature and their authors can be assessed.

One of the earliest and most significant works of theoretical criticism is Aristotle’s “Poetics,” written in the fourth century BC. In this influential treatise, Aristotle explores various aspects of drama, including plot, character, and spectacle, and offers insights into the nature and purpose of tragedy. His ideas continue to shape literary criticism to this day.

Throughout history, numerous theorists and critics have made notable contributions to the field of literary criticism. Longinus in Greece, Horace in Rome, Boileau and Sainte-Beuve in France, Baumgarten and Goethe in Germany, Samuel Johnson, Coleridge, and Matthew Arnold in England, and Poe and Emerson in America are among the influential figures who have significantly impacted the study of literature.

In the first half of the twentieth century, several landmark works furthered the development of theoretical criticism. I. A. Richards’ “Principles of Literary Criticism” (1924) explores the psychological and linguistic aspects of literature. R. S. Crane’s edited volume “Critics and Criticism” (1952) features essays by various critics discussing the nature and purpose of criticism. Kenneth Burke’s “The Philosophy of Literary Form” (1941, revised 1957) delves into the relationships between language, symbolism, and art. Northrop Frye’s “Anatomy of Criticism” (1957) presents a comprehensive framework for understanding and interpreting different literary genres. Erich Auerbach’s “Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature” (1953) examines the ways in which literature reflects and represents reality.

These works, among others, have shaped the trajectory of literary criticism by providing theoretical foundations, methodologies, and perspectives for analyzing and evaluating works of literature. The field of literary criticism continues to evolve and expand as new theories, approaches, and interpretations emerge, allowing for ongoing engagement with and exploration of literary texts.

practical criticism or applied criticism

In the realm of literary criticism, practical criticism, also known as applied criticism, focuses on the analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of specific works and writers. Unlike theoretical criticism, which establishes overarching principles, practical criticism often leaves theoretical considerations implicit or only brings them into play as necessary for the particular analysis at hand.

Impressionistic criticism is a mode of practical criticism characterized by a subjective and personal response to a work of literature. It emphasizes the critic’s emotional and aesthetic reactions, focusing on the immediate impact of the text on the reader. This approach seeks to convey the critic’s impressions and experiences, often employing vivid and evocative language to describe the effect of the work.

Judicial criticism, on the other hand, takes a more objective and analytical stance. It aims to evaluate a work of literature based on established criteria and standards. This approach involves a systematic and reasoned examination of the text, considering elements such as structure, themes, characterization, and language. Judicial criticism seeks to provide a balanced and well-reasoned judgment of the work’s artistic merit and literary value.

Throughout history, numerous influential works of practical criticism have emerged in both England and America. In Restoration England, the literary essays of Dryden offered insightful analyses and evaluations of contemporary works and writers. Dr. Johnson’s “Lives of the English Poets” (1779-81) provided biographical and critical accounts of notable poets, shaping their reputations and influencing subsequent assessments.

Coleridge’s writings, including his chapters on the poetry of Wordsworth in “Biographia Literaria” (1817) and his lectures on Shakespeare, offered practical criticism that delved into the intricacies of specific authors and works. Hazlitt’s lectures on Shakespeare and the English poets in the nineteenth century, as well as Arnold’s “Essays in Criticism” (1865) and subsequent writings, contributed to the development of practical criticism by examining and evaluating literary texts.

I.A. Richards’ “Practical Criticism” (1930) focused on the close reading and analysis of specific texts, while T.S. Eliot’s “Selected Essays” (1932) provided practical criticism that combined theoretical and applied perspectives. Virginia Woolf, F.R. Leavis, and Lionel Trilling also made significant contributions through their critical essays, offering practical assessments of various authors and works.

Cleanth Brooks’The Well Wrought Urn” (1947) is an exemplar of the “close reading” approach associated with the American New Criticism. This mode of practical criticism involves a detailed and careful examination of individual texts, emphasizing the interplay of language, structure, and meaning.

For a practical example of criticism applied to a specific poetic text, Stanley Fish’s “Surprised by Sin: The Reader in Paradise Lost” (2nd ed., 1998) provides a detailed analysis and interpretation of John Milton’s epic poem.

In summary, practical criticism encompasses the detailed analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of specific works and writers. It includes both impressionistic and judicial approaches, with critics offering personal responses and subjective impressions alongside more objective and reasoned assessments of literary texts. Various influential critics and their works have contributed to the development and practice of practical criticism throughout history.

Impressionistic criticism in literary analysis aims to convey the subjective and immediate responses evoked by a particular passage or work. It seeks to capture the emotional and aesthetic qualities of the text and express the critic’s personal impressions or feelings. This mode of criticism focuses on the critic’s intuitive and sensory experience of the work, often relying on vivid and evocative language to communicate the impact of the text on the reader.

William Hazlitt, in his essay “On Genius and Common Sense” (1824), emphasized that impressionistic criticism is rooted in feeling rather than reason. He argued that the critic’s judgment is based on the impression created by a variety of elements in the work, even if the critic cannot explicitly analyze or explain each individual aspect.

Walter Pater further developed the notion of impressionistic criticism, suggesting that the critic’s first step toward understanding the object of analysis is to discern and clarify their own distinct impression. Pater believed that by recognizing and articulating their personal response, the critic gains deeper insights into the work. He posed the essential question, “What does this song or picture mean to me?” as a way of uncovering the individual’s subjective experience with the artwork (as expressed in the preface to “Studies in the History of the Renaissance,” 1873).

In its extreme form, impressionistic criticism can be characterized as the “adventures of a sensitive soul among masterpieces,” as Anatole France put it. This suggests that the critic’s exploration of artworks becomes a deeply personal and subjective journey.

In contrast, judicial criticism seeks to go beyond conveying impressions and aims to analyze and explain the effects of a work through a more objective lens. This approach involves examining the work’s subject matter, organization, techniques, and style. Judicial criticism strives to provide a reasoned and analytical assessment of the literary excellence of a work, often employing specific criteria or standards.

While these two modes of criticism are not always strictly distinct in practice, there are notable examples that primarily embody each approach. Greek writer Longinus, in his treatise “On the Sublime,” provides an impressionistic characterization of Homer’s Odyssey. Hazlitt and Walter Pater, as previously mentioned, also offer examples of impressionistic criticism in their writings, with Pater’s description of Leonardo’s Mona Lisa being a well-known example from “The Renaissance” (1873). In the twentieth century, E. M. Forster and Virginia Woolf also contributed to impressionistic criticism in some of their critical essays.

In summary, impressionistic criticism aims to convey personal impressions and immediate responses to a work, emphasizing the subjective experience and emotional impact. Judicial criticism, on the other hand, seeks to analyze and explain the effects of a work through objective analysis and evaluation, often relying on specific criteria of literary excellence. While these modes of criticism may intersect, they offer different perspectives and approaches to understanding and evaluating literature.

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2 comments on “Literary criticism: Theoretical criticism,practical criticism, Impressionistic criticism, Judicial criticism

    Harlow Bernard

    • February 28, 2024 at 10:37 pm

    We just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge all the hard work and effort you’ve been putting in lately. Keep up the amazing job, you’re doing great!


      • February 28, 2024 at 10:49 pm

      Thank you for your valuable feedback Mr. Harlow Bernard.

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