Literary criticism is the diverse art of examining literature.
A literary critic or literary student (we are all students) can look at a piece
of writing and describe it it many ways, including:
- The merit of the writing as art. This usually involves a discussion of the
aesthetics, or beauty of the work.
- The place of the work in accepted, though perhaps arbitrary, categories such as:
- Canadian Literature
- Elizabethan Drama
- Great Works (or Classics)
- Modern Poetry
- Technical aspects of the writing, such:
- Use of language. For poetry, the study of versification is known as prosody.
- Thematic structure of the piece.
- Techniques of character development.
- Psychological of Philosophical aspects. including:
- Philosophical themes or major ideas.
- Psychological analysis of the characters (and sometimes the writer).
- Historical context of the writing, including:
- Major historical events of the time.
- Contemporary writers and thinkers.
- Values and living conditions of the time.
This list could go on forever because literary criticism is somewhat of a
creative process in itself.
Some of the best writing considered to be literary criticism has come from
novelists, playwrights, and poets reflecting on their craft. Some recommended readings
- Plato, The Poet in the Republic
- Henry James, The Art of Fiction
- Virginia Woolf, Mr. Bennet and Mrs. Brown
- T.S. Eliot, Hamlet and His Problems
- T.S. Eliot, "Ulysses," Order, and Myth
- Alexander Pope, An Essay on Poetry
- Percy Blysshe Shelley, A Defense of Poetry
- William Butler Yeats, The Tragic Theatre
An article from a critic on the role of the critic is provided by R. P.
Blackmur in A Critic's Job of Work.
Whatever your level of interest in literature, there are endless oceans of
writings and writings about writings to explore. Follow your own interests and you will
never be bored.
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Last Modified October 13, 2000