Definition of Literary Criticism
Eliot, like the New Critics, distinguishes among types or classes of criticism, isolating (as the lecture's title suggests) a certain area for literary criticism. Also like the New Critics, he allows that there is merit to such studies. He credits Coleridge with bringing other disciplines (e.g., philosophy, psychology) into the field of literary study. Eliot defines specifically literary criticism as criticism written in order
to help his readers to understand and enjoy . . . .
We can therefore ask, about any writing which is offered to us as literary criticism, is it aimed towards understanding and enjoyment? If it is not, it may still be a legitimate and useful activity; but it is to be judged as a contribution to psychology, or sociology, or logic, or pedagogy, or some other pursuit—and it is to be judged by specialists, not by men of letters. (116-17)
The argument of the essay is for a strongly individualist criticism, made clear by the frequent references to the author's own works. "The best of my literary criticism . . . consists of essays on poets and poetic dramatists who had influenced me" (106). In this, Eliot has something in common with the style of literary criticism expounded by Matthew Arnold, known for its emphasis on reading in order to make oneself a better writer.
Famous quotes containing the words definition of, criticism, definition and/or literary:
“Beauty, like all other qualities presented to human experience, is relative; and the definition of it becomes unmeaning and useless in proportion to its abstractness. To define beauty not in the most abstract, but in the most concrete terms possible, not to find a universal formula for it, but the formula which expresses most adequately this or that special manifestation of it, is the aim of the true student of aesthetics.”
—Walter Pater (18391894)
“A tailor can adapt to any medium, be it poetry, be it criticism. As a poet, he can mend, and with the scissors of criticism he can divide.”
—Franz Grillparzer (17911872)
“... if, as women, we accept a philosophy of history that asserts that women are by definition assimilated into the male universal, that we can understand our past through a male lensif we are unaware that women even have a historywe live our lives similarly unanchored, drifting in response to a veering wind of myth and bias.”
—Adrienne Rich (b. 1929)
“A guide book is addressed to those who plan to follow the traveler, doing what he has done, but more selectively. A travel book, in its purest, is addressed to those who do not plan to follow the traveler at all, but who require the exotic or comic anomalies, wonders and scandals of the literary form romance which their own place or time cannot entirely supply.”
—Paul Fussell (b. 1924)