Monday, August 04, 2008

Seaton, James. "When Lit-Crit Mattered." WALL STREET JOURNAL August 2, 2008.

Davis, Garrick, ed. Praising It New: the Best of the New Criticism. Athens: Ohio UP, 2008. Some of the critics of the period -- figures such as Lionel Trilling and Edmund Wilson -- emphasized the connections between a writer's life and his work or between the work and the political and cultural world of which it was a part. Other critics focused on close studies of "the work itself," a phrase that became a motto of what came to be called the New Criticism. In Praising It New, Mr. Davis collects the essays of several New Critics, reminding us of the intensity of their readings and the insights that close attention to a poem or novel -- to "the work itself" -- can bring. It is a good time for us to be reminded, since so many writers with literary pretensions are now hyped beyond their merits or neglected in spite of them. In the universities, meanwhile, "cultural theory" -- concerned mostly with race, gender, class, linguistics and colonialism -- plays a major role in the way that literature is taught. . . . Read the rest here:

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