E23F HISTORY OF CRITICISM: TOPICS COVERED IN MODULE THREE: CRITICAL THEORY OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (AND AFTER)

THEORISTS

AUTHOR

(the expressive approach)

REPRESENTATION

(the mimetic approach)

READER

(the pragmatic or reader-response approach)

TEXT

(the objective or formalist approach)

GENERAL COMMENTS

Shelley

A Defense of Poetry [1821]

U

 

Poetry is the "expression of the imagination" of the poet;

 

NB his account of the creative process

 

NB his account of the difference between the reason and the imagination

 

!

 

Poetry is the main "portal of expression from the caverns of the spirit . . . into the universe of things", i.e. the poet, through his imagination, intuits the world of Ideas; poetry is, therefore, not ultimately about the physical world

!

 

Responds to Plato’s invitation to defend poetry by arguing that poet has a beneficial emotional impact on the reader: by appealing to the emotions, his moral character can be moulded (compare to Wordsworth’s argument)

!

 

Poetry is deeply symbolic, alluding indirectly to otherworldly ‘realties’ which the poet only glimpses and which he must render via worldly objects (e.g mountains)

Influenced by German Idealism (especially Kant, Hegel)--believed in a transcendental self

 

The quintessential Romantic theorist of literature

Taine

History of English Literature [1863]

U

 

Literature expresses not the author’s individual uniqueness nor some putative immaterial soul but his culture (race, surroundings, epoch), the latter ‘speaking’ through the former;

 

Authenticity (trueness to one’s self) is, thus, the key test of art

 

What matters, therefore, is not the works of an individual, but the collective works of a culture (e.g. English literature as w hole) through which English cultural identity is expressed

     

Influenced by Herder’s model of cultural identity

 

Perhaps the earliest discussion of ‘literary history’ (i.e. the history of literature and the study of literature in relation to its socio-historical context)

 

Offers an author-oriented model of literary history

Arnold  

"The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" [1864]; "The Study of Poetry" [1880]

 

   

U

 

Advocates a ‘disinterested’ (i.e. neutral, objective) model of reading, the goal of which is to establish the indisputably classic character (or not) inherent in a given work (to this end, advances a ‘touchstone’ method of reading)

 

Influenced by Kant’s quest for objective knowledge of worldly phenomena;

 

Opposes to Taine’s author-oriented model of literary history his own reader-oriented model (i.e. his assessment of English literary history is not based on the cultural identity of the authors but an allegedly objective assessment of the classic quality of a work)

Zola The Experimental Novel [1880]

 

U

 

The ‘experimental novel’ offers an objective and scientifically accurate representation of human beings who are accordingly depicted as the products partly of heredity (biology) and partly their surroundings (i.e. social environment)--these are the primary determinants of human nature;

 

It is indispensable for the author to efface his subjectivity if such objectivity of representation is to be attained.

 

!

 

The style (language) of the novelist is merely a superficial ornament. Far more important is his ‘method’--Z. advocates a scientific or ‘experimental’ method which presents observations of human behaviour followed by an attempted explanation of this

Influenced by Kant’s quest for objective knowledge of worldly phenomena;

 

This is a key statement on ‘Naturalism,’ an important variant of Realism, in its heyday in the nineteenth century; reflects the scientific positivism then also in its heyday then.

Brathwaite "The African Presence in Caribbean Literature" [1970]

U

 

Caribbean literature, or at least, Afro-Caribbean literature expresses an African presence (or essence) which is the measure of its authenticity

   

!

 

The African presence manifests itself in 4 ways, the formal contours of the work being shaped by the contours of this cultural identity which it expresses.

Currently, an enormously influential model of Caribbean literature and culture (sometimes called Afrocentrism)

 

B. claims that such emphases are ‘corrective.’

Ramchand

 

The West Indian Novel and its Background [1970]

 

U

 

The West Indian novel represents the West Indian as the product of several objective socio-historical determinants.

"Concern for Criticism" [1970]

 

U

 

Advocates an Arnoldian ‘disinterestedness,’ exemplified by F. R. Leavis in his study of Swift; this approach is the corollary of his views on the West Indian novel.

The West Indian Novel and its Background [1970]

 

!

 

The form of the West Indian novel, not least its diction, must reflect the realities of West Indian social life

Seeks to offer an alternative which does not privilege one ethnic group to Brathwaite’s Afrocentric approach.

 

Is Ramchand’s approach as objective as he would like to assert?

Achebe

 

"An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad's Heart Of Darkness" [1975]

 

U

 

Colonialist novels contain racist stereotypes which are negative distortions of the true Africa and of Africans.

"The Novelist as Teacher" [1965];

"The Duty and Involvement of the African Writer" [1968]

 

U

 

The African and, by extension, Post-colonial writer has a duty to counter in his own work harmful negative and often racist stereotypes of Africans and other colonised persons found in colonial literature: the novelist is a teacher responsible for the welfare of his society.

   

U indicates that this concept (e.g. the author) is a major concern of the theorist in question;
!
indicates that this concept (e.g. representation) is a minor concern of the theorist in question;
A blank indicates that this concept is of little or no concern to the theorist in question.