Best Literary History & Criticism in 2022

The Field of Literary History and Criticism

The field of Literary History and Criticism includes a variety of disciplines and methods. Among them are Comparative criticism, Nonhistorical criticism, Russian Formalism, and New Historicism. A brief discussion of each will be included. But before we begin, let's consider a few basic principles of literary history and criticism. In addition to the history and critical theory discussed here, there are also several types of historical criticism.

Comparative criticism

A journal of comparative literature and cultural studies, Comparative Criticism publishes articles examining differences and similarities in different genres and literary traditions. Articles may focus on the history of ideas, literary movements, genres, and forms, relations between authors, and the foundations of literary criticism. In addition, comparative studies may also focus on the use of language and culture in literature and the development of new interpretations of works.

The comparative method seeks to derive the characteristics of the literary works of a given culture from a sufficiently large number of specimens. For example, Carriere's study of tragedy focuses on inductive comparisons by studying the dramas of many nations. Freytag's inquiry into tragedy relies on induction from all works of art, such as Aristotle's Poetics. In literary criticism, the historical sequence is just as important as comparison by cross sections.

The field of comparative literature has a long history. California began offering courses in the subject in the 1890s under special designations. Harvard began recognizing the importance of literature at large as early as 1892, although the department didn't adopt the term until 1899. By the 1890s, Columbia was recognizing the study of literature as a whole but not under the title of Comparative Literature until it established its department in 1895.

Traditionally, comparative literature was limited to Western Europe and Anglo-America. The field was primarily concerned with English, French, and German literature, though occasional forays into Spanish and Italian literature were made. In addition, Erich Auerbach specialized in the study of realism in texts. The five-volume set includes more than 11,000 articles on literary history and criticism from around the world.

Nonhistorical criticism

The most basic definition of nonhistorical criticism is based on its inconsistency and lack of a historical perspective. It refers to the view that literature is timeless. For example, T. S. Eliot, who has had a huge impact on our time, sees all literature as eternal, and compares the works of various countries and periods. This method allows readers to reach general conclusions about the nature of literature.

In addition to these general principles, Dilthey's approach takes into account the historical concerns of the writers. They reflect the concerns of their contemporaries while engaging in dialogue with the past. His book, Das Erlebnis und die Dichtung, is a great example of this method. It outlines Dilthey's method in a number of works, including studies of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, Friedrich Holderlin, and G. E. Lessing.

The historical-critical method is used in biblical studies. This method analyzes texts from the first century to the fourth century, and compares them to contemporaneous artifacts. The Book of Revelation, for example, has been studied in a 1st century historical context in modern biblical scholarship. In other words, historical-critical methods are based on the history of the time and place where the text was written.

The theory of modern historical criticism begins in the Enlightenment, when Giambattista Vico distinguished the humanities and social sciences, and outlined the principle of verum factum. The theory of verum factum stated that the closest knowledge of something is through its origin. It also presented a theory of cultural development, and the use of poetic logic. Aside from these theories, the modern historical-critical approach to literary criticism has evolved remarkably since Vico's time.

New Historicism

A New Historicist critic views a literary text as more than just a work of art. He attempts to understand the text's historical context, thereby analyzing its cultural value. In this sense, a New Historicist is not the same as a postmodernist. However, New Historicists often use the text of the period to discuss broader cultural and historical issues. Here, we'll look at the most notable examples of New Historicist criticism.

Stephen Greenblatt coined the term "New Historicism" in his 1996 book, The Power of Forms in the English Renaissance. Many New Historicist critics have used Shakespeare's play The Tempest to examine the British Empire's colonial expeditions to the New World. Others have studied the work from the viewpoint of King James I's rule, during which absolute authority was promoted.

The New Historicist focuses on the historical context of literature, analyzing both its text and its surrounding cultural and social context. They emphasize that the author's audience had access to the texts at the time they were written and that the author may have also read them. New Historicist critics often acknowledge that a text's meaning is influenced by its contextual conditions. For instance, contemporary cultural and social contexts affect the author's intent and tone.

The term "New Historicism" was coined by Stephen Greenblatt, an American scholar born in 1943. It became dominant in Anglo-American literary analysis by the twentieth century. Greenblatt, a scholar of Shakespeare, was the first to apply this term to literary criticism. His work on the Renaissance inspired many scholars to use similar terms and concepts to study it. Its postmodern approach to history exemplifies this approach.

Russian Formalism

The concept of "Russian Formalism" focuses on the linguistic devices and the autonomous nature of literature. In its early phases, Russian Formalists tended to ignore the author, biography, and cultural context of literature. They also gave emphasis to metaphor. Formalism has been considered the forerunner of Structuralism. In the Anglo-American tradition, Formalism has also been linked to the idea of literary history.

Although it began as a conservative approach to literature, it evolved over time due to a variety of pressures from the Stalinist government. The later phase of Formalism incorporated ideas about literary renewal, evolution, and dynamism into the study of literature. The focus of the later phase was on the process of literary change and how it is shaped by other aspects of culture. Although this view is still widely popular in the West, it is not universally held.

New Criticism, which drew heavily on Russian Formalism, tended to favor the text. They focused on the text itself without any emphasis on the author's intention, historical conditions, or ideological demands. While the New Criticism tended to borrow from Formalist ideas, they departed from them in many ways. In addition, they are influenced by poststructuralist theory and practices. And Russian Formalism influenced many writers who later shaped the world of literary criticism.

Russian Formalism in literary history and criticism emphasized the importance of artistic instruments in the creation of the literary works. The term "deformation" was originally used by Roman Jakobson in 1921, and it is still used by formalists to describe a poem's elements. Consequently, it is used in a positive sense by Russian Formalists. 'Deformation' refers to the changes imposed to the material of the poem and the aesthetic effects.

Book history

In the twentieth century, literary history lost theoretical ground in the academy. With the rise of New Criticism, literary studies began to emphasize the work itself rather than the author. This approach, known as New Historicism, has returned to the field in recent years, but has some differences. According to Lois Tyson, literary texts are cultural artifacts that tell us something about the interplay of discourses and the web of social meanings in which they are embedded.

In the wake of the French Revolution and the German idealist philosophy, literary history expanded. The philosopher G. W. F. Hegel conceived of the history of art as a dialectical progression between the individual Geist and the collective Zeitgeist. Hegel analyzed the evolution of the language, culture, and art in three movements, or stages. In particular, he distinguished three historical periods: the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the early modern eras.

Modern literary historians also use literature to explore contemporary life issues. For example, Thomas Carman, a prominent writer in the early nineteenth century, uses fiction to make a point about how our society has changed. Literary critics likewise engage in case studies about oil extraction in the Niger Delta. A lifelike literature engenders a meditative form of outrage. However, this approach is dangerous to the critical self.

While the discipline of literary criticism has always been rooted in its origins, it has developed as an academic discipline. The practice of traditional literary criticism included establishing canons, tracking influence, and clarifying historical context and allusions in a text. Other methods of literary criticism included aesthetic and moral criticism, which are similar to those developed by the Leavis School in Britain. Genre studies were also influential. The goal of traditional literary criticism was to develop a consensus on the canon.

Abby Hussein

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