Monday, July 6, 2009

Notes on The Theory of Criticism from Plato to the Present: A Reader

This just in from Dr. Nabil al-Nasnimi:


It’s me again, Nabil al-Tasnimi. I have another favor to ask. I’m to give a lecture tomorrow in Cairo on the history of Western literary theory. I’ve assigned Raman Selden’s The Theory of Criticism from Plato to the Present: A Reader (1988). Problem is, I still haven't read it, so I was hoping you could put something together for me. Your services will be remunerated. Thank you, Nabil al-Tasnimi

I’ll lend you my notes from last year (see comments 1 to 8 below). There’s surely not enough here for a lecture (it’s mainly just a list of names and terms), so I strongly advise against using this as a substitute for doing the readings yourself. I shouldn’t have to tell you this, Dr. Nabil al-Nasnimi. -Beholdmyswarthyface


Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part I: Representation


Structuralist (Wittgenstein, Derrida, etc.) rejection of claim that the word represents any outer thing, since language works not by symbolizing things, but by producing “differences.”
Representation, in some form or another, accepted till recent age. Zola’s naturalism.

Six Modes of representation (first 3 Aristotelian, last 3 Platonic)

Naturalism (literal, scientific representation of natural objects and social life);
Classicism (“generalized representation of nature or the human passions”);
Pre-modern criticism (representation of classicism, subjectively viewed);
German Romanticism (representation of ideal forms in nature and in the mind);
Neoplatonic Idealism (“representation of transcendental ideal forms”);
Art-for-art’s-sake (Representation of Art’s own world, “Heterocosm”)

Chapter 1: Imaginative Representation

Plato, Plotinus (founder of neo-Plato school)
German Idealism (Kant, Schelling, Schlegel)
Coleridge (transmitter of German theories to England; contrast w/Shelley)
Yeats, Stevens, R.G. Collingwood, Coleridge reject “common-sense tradition of empiricism”; “fresh vision of reality,” a “reconstruction”; W. Stevens’s “The Necessary Angel” (1951)

Chapter 2: Mimesis and Realism

Plato’s low regard for mimesis.
Aristotle’s high regard. Renaissance “mimesis” (though they didn’t have Aristotle’s text). Zola. George Lukacs.
Aristotle’s 3 components of mimesis: Means (words, paint, sound); Object (people’s actions, nature’s sounds, a landscape); Manner (fictional modes, authorial presence, absence, dramatic scene). Mimesis and Unity together most important!

Aristotle’s Poet (Universal, general, also the probable and possible) vs. Historian (particulars, fact)

Naturalism, Realism: Donatus, Zola, Brecht-Lukacs debate.
Brecht advocates the breakdown of illusion of reality on stage; vefremdung “alienation effect”) vs. Aristotelian Strindberg

Erich Auerbach: “Mimesis”: only aristocrats portrayed in serious works until recently (exception is the Jesus story).
Robbe-Grillet: first stage, ultimate realism (“chosisme” “thingism”). Ultimately doomed to fail. De-humanify the visual world. Second stage: ultimate subjectivity, no things, only perception of things. Third stage: “obliteration of both things and perceptions.” Only language left. Narrative refers to nothing in reality.

Chapter 3: Nature and Truth

In mid 18th century: Art as imitator of Nature/Truth conception changed. Interpretation of Aristotle by Robortello and Castelvetro into rulebooks, and by French critics. “correctness” in art extracted. Rene Rapin of France, Thomas Rymer in England: rulebooks based on Aristotle (unity, probability, etc.). reaches new fascist heights.
Dryden’s “Essay on Dramatic Poesy”: what is proper relation between nature and art? His character Neander (slightly disguised self?) defends eccentricities, heterodoxy of English theater, mocks tedious French). Defends rhyme: art is to elevate nature!

Pope’s “An Essay on Criticism”: Nature is “at once the source, and end, and test of art.”
Blake’s “Marginalia” attacks neoclassical theories of generalities, Universals, advocates highly particular Imagination.
Wordsworth’s generalities, emotions, ordinary rustic life.

Chapter 4: Language and Representation

Wittgenstein: “Philosophical Investigations”: attack on Augustine’s view of language (“picture view” of each word having corresponding picture).
J.L. Austin’s “speech acts”: “constative” (referential) and “performative” types of speech.
De Saussure: Language precedes and creates thought, e.g., without language there is no thought.
Bacon’s “Advancement of Learning” attack on Cicero’s rhetoric
Ben Johnson; Locke; Descartes; Post-Kantian Cassirer

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part II: Subjectivity

3 aspects of subjectivity: 1) reader’s role, 2) subjective processes in texts, 3) author

Romantic movement: early days Longinus (genius), Coleridge (imagination), Wordsworth (Genius, emotion, ego)
Phenomenology, psychoanalysis are modern day modes of Romanticism.

Ch. 1: Wit, Judgment, Fancy and Imagination

Plato (exception: Ion), Horace, classical authorities: art imitates life
Discipline of art: rhetoric (inventio-subject, dispositio-pre-ordained form, elocution-expression). This continued until 17th century w/ modern psychology of art in Hobbes (Leviathan: explores depths of subjective through control of “fancy and judgment” in best poets. Treats it as mechanism); Joseph Addison;

Scottish common-sense school (Hutcheson, Adam Smith, Thomas Reid, Dugald Stewart— “reason can control associations!)
English associationism: David Hartley, Archibald Alison, Alexander Gerard, Abraham Tucker—take “associationism” to limits. Reason can’t control it! Coleridge a student of this group, though insists man is more than a “passive victim of mechanical process.” Combines association and sensory perception w/ German “organic” philosophy (Schelling); sensory perception interacts with imagination! Coleridge influences New Critics, intuitive approach, IA Richards. Organic theory of imaginative poetry to unity the “welter of disconnected impulses” (Richards).

Ch 2: Genius, Nature, Art

Plato’s Ion: genius as “divine frenzy”
Longinus: On Sublimity: hypsos and megalopsychia, divine trance
Romantics: “originality” emphasis on individual, not collective
Boileau, Pope
“Inspiration” rejected by 17th century poets—associated with crazy Puritans of Civil War
Samuel Cobb
Edward Young imitation, flux originality
William Hazlitt, Coleridge on Genius

Ch. 3: Emotive Theories

Longinian form of emotive criticism, sensory Romantic readings. “On the Sublime” (3rd century AD, Ch. 8, 39: poetry with great ideas or great emotion).
John Dennis Grounds of Criticism (1704): emphasis on strong passion poetry! Follow Dryden’s “instruct and please” motto; both achieved through “exciting passion.” More violent the better! (compare with Plato’s fear of strong emotion in poetry).

Joseph Warton, Study of Pope (1756): emotion=sublimity. Pope a “poet of reason,” not of heat. An Essay on the Genius of Pope: “a man of wit, a man of sense, and a true poet.”

Wordsworth: scientific and poetic collaboration; feeling (tempered) advocacy. “preface to Lyrical Ballads” (1800).
JS Mill’s: restates Wordsworth’s thesis in “Autobiography” (1875): Wordsworth’s poems “as medicine”; “What is Poetry” (1833), “2 Kinds of Poetry” (feeling vs. thought).

IA Richards: science has “statements,” poetry has “pseudo-statements” (Science and Poetry, 1926), Principles of Literary Criticism (1924).
W.K. Wimsatt’s “The Affective Fallacy” (1949): reader’s emotional response not object of critical study.

Ch. 4: Subjective Criticism and the Reader Response

“purgation” (in audience),
“purifaction” (Rene Rapin, Reflections on Aristotle’s . .” (1674): calm us down; Dryden’s “Defense of the Epilogue” (1672) on conversation; GE Lessing: purification through pity in Letter to nicolai” (1756)
or “clarification” (outside audience, in play: New Critics: clarification of pity and fear in play).

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part II Subjectivity (Continued)

. . . IA Richards, W. Empson, Jonathan Culler and New Critics interested in psychology of reading.
Pope’s “Dunciad”: urban culture of London vulgar; Greece and Rome refined. “Epistle to Augustus”
Mukarovsky: aesthetic ideas always socially determined.
Hans Robert Jauss (Literary History as a Challenge to Literary Theory): literary work’s meaning—“collective interpretation of successive generations of readers”—influenced by Hans-Georg Gadamer and Heidegger, who emphasize meaning as historical reception of text.

Paul Ricouer: Heidegger, Freud, Marx mix. “Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences” (1981).
ED Hirsch (The Aims of Interpretation (1976)): critical of historicists. Uses Edumund Husserl (of Geneva School, George Poulet) phenomenology arguments. Meaning (author-intended) vs. significance. (historically determined)

Wolfgang Iser: most eclectic of “receptionist” theorists. Infl. By Roman Ingardes (Husserl disciple; The Literary Work of Art (1931).

Stanley Fish; Norman Holland, 5 Readers Reading (1975). Identity
David Bleich: identity theme. All knowledge is “made by people and not found.” Observing alters the objet. All knowledge serves community. Spontaneous response vs. objective statements of reader.
Leo Spitzer: Linguistics and Literary History (1948)
George Poulet: Criticism: the Experience of Interiority (1966): reader the subject of book.
Wolfgang Iser: The Art of Reading (1976)

Ch. 5: Unconscious Processes

Freud, Psychopathic Characters on the Stage, 1905. art as projection of artist’s subconscious.
Jung, Psychology and Literature (1930): collective unconscious
Maud Bodkin, Archetypal Patterns in Poetry (1934). Universal collective conscious.
Ernest Jones, Hamlet and Oedipus (1949). Parricide and incest combined. Lacan, Desire and Interpretation of Desire in Hamlet (1959), using Saussure’s model (phallus/etc) of signs/signifieds; adopts Jakobson’s distinction between metaphor/metonym dimension of language.

Julia Kristeva: The Speaking Subject: semiotic structures, syntax.Northrop Frye.

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part III: Form, System, and Structure

Early predecessors: Aristotle’s Poetics, classical rhetoric, Renaissance genre theory, Renaissance Rhetoric studies, in modern period New Critics, Erich Auerbach, Ernst Curtius (though in historical context), linguistic and philosophy-centered approach (to discover “nature” of literary language; ancients studied how to improved effectiveness).

Break between Art and World/Author/Audience came with Kant: from “Critique of Judgment” (1790). Lays foundations along with Hegel and Schelling for the art-for-art’s-sake (coined by Gautier) movement. “Judgment of taste is . . not a judgment of condition, and is consequently not logical but aesthetical.” It is not the Understanding, but rather Imagination (“as a productive faculty of cognition”) that makes aesthetic judgments. It is a purely subjective process (which is an answer to the question: “does it please me?”). However, “aesthetic satisfaction is ‘entirely disinterested’ and therefore potentially universal” (Intro). “Art creates a second (independent) nature” (Intro), which is to be judged on its own merits, rather than by its relation to what it represents (Nature). The idea of Art as Imitation of nature is mocked after Kant. Prague School, Jan Mukarovsky (Prague Linguistic Circle): sociological theory of “aesthetic function,” attacks Clive Bell’s assertion that aesthetic qualities are to be found in the art; rather, they are ever-shifting socially determined—no Ideal Beauty.

Fredric Jameson: author’s retreat into style.
Russian Formalism (linguistic approach important).
Pater, Huysmans, Wilde, Bradley, Bell, Jameson on Hemingway in “Marxism and Form”

1. The Aesthetic Dimension

Walter Pater: The Renaissance (1873, “Conclusion”). No, Kant, there are no objective universals. Purely subjective!
Karl Huysman (1884), Against the Grain.
Oscar Wilde: Decay of Lying, from Intentions (1891)
Benedetto Crice?, Aesthetic (1902)
AC Bradley “Poetry for Poetry’s Sake” from Oxford Lectures on Poetry (1909)
Clive Bell, Art (1914)
Jan Mukarovsky “Aesthetic Function, Norm, and Value as Social Facts” (1936)
Fredric Jameson “Marxism and Forms” (1971)

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part III Form, System and Structure (Continued)

2. Unity and Literariness

Unity emphasis of Romantics, Formalists, New Critics.
Shklovsky (Russian Formalists): defamiliarization. Famous essay on “Tristam Shandy”; literariness (draw attention to devices).
Aristotle, “Poetics” (Ch. 7, 8, 23)
Coleridge “Biographia Literaria” (1817) (ch. 14)
Viktor Shklovsky “Art as Technique” (1917); Sterne’s Tristam Shandy (1921)
T.E. Hulme, Speculations (1924)
John Crowe Ransom “Criticism, Inc.” from “The World’s Body” (1937)
Allen Tate “Tension in Poetry” (1938)
Cleanth Brooks “Metaphor and Tradition from Modern Poetry and the Tradition” (1939)
Mark Schorer “Technique as Discovery” (1948)

3. Ambiguity and Polysemy (Dante, Bakhtin, Empson, Brooks, Barthes)

Dante: “Letter to Can Grande” (1319). On the two types of meaning: literal and allegorical (or mystical). E.D. Hirsch similarities (meaning (intention) vs. significance)

Empson: “Seven Types of Ambiguity” (1930). Use ambiguity appropriately!

Bakhtin: “Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics” (1929). Dostoevsky the creator of the “polyphonic” dialogical novel (contrasted with homophonic novels of Europe). Hero’s consciousness a “foreign consciousness,” though without being objectified.

Cleanth Brooks: “The Well-Wrought Urn” (1947). “positive unity”; “achieved harmony” “paradox” “primacy of the pattern”; structure-content overlap.

Roland Barthes: “S/2” (1970). Structuralist becomes post-structuralist (the “person” of artist is replaced by “subject”; the “codes” (Derrida builds on these)). 3 claims: criticism is same species as literature; “writerly text” plurality and unlimited meanings; subjectivity of reader “no less plural than text”

4. Impersonality and the “Death” of the Author

Keats’s letters (Dec, 1817-Feb 19, 1818, Oct 27, 1818). Negative capability (“capable of being in uncertainties,” OK with half-truths). 2nd letter: let us be passive, ineffectual Flowers, not Bees! 3rd letter: amoral, aesthetic no-self (“I have no nature”) contrasted with Wordsworthian “egotistical sublime”

Pound’s “A Retrospect” (1918), “The Serious Artist” (1913)

Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919), “Hamlet” (1919)

W.K. Wimsatt: “The Intentional Fallacy” (1946): meaning derived only from poem itself! Completed poem no longer property of poet; Like a machine, a poem should work.

Susanne Langer: “Philosophical Sketches” (1962). Expression 1 (self-expression, informal); Expression 2 (presentation of idea, formal). Neo-Kantian. Emotional world, which art is the best representation of, is not irrational.

Roland Barthes: “The Death of the Author” (1968). Text: non-linear open space.

5. Rhetoric, Style and Point of View (Cicero, Putttenham, H. James)
Rhetoric: art of public speaking.
Cicero’s treatise on oratory “Orator” (46 BC). 3 styles: grand style (for swaying); plain style (for conveying info); middle-tempered style (for giving pleasure). “attic” oratory.

Ernst Curtius. Marlowe and Kyd’s Elizabethan plays attacked by Ben Johnson and others for grandiloquence; Johnson advocates plain language.

George Puttenham, Art of English Poesie (1589)
Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (1946): unfolding of realism from Homer to Woolf; great sublime figures always of lower ordinary status in Judeo-Christian tradition;

Richard Ohmann, Speech, Action, and Style (1971): on J.L. Austin’s speech-act theory.
Henry James “Preface to the Princess Casamassima (1886); Preface to Golden Bowl

Wayne Booth: Rhetoric of Fiction (1961): neo-Aristotelian Chicago school: “telling” can be as good as “showing”; “author” vs. “implied author”

6. Structure and System (Plato, Aristotle, de Saussure, Jakobson, Lodge)
7. Structure and Indeterminacy (Nietzsche, Derrida, de Man, Barbara Johnson)

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part IV: History and Society: History (Universe)-text relationship

Ernst Robert Curtius: “topos” more fruitful than “influence.” Eliot: rejects “narrowly chronological conception of history.” Claudio Guillen and Harold Bloom revise “Tradition” in Structuralist, Freudian terms. Julia Kristeva: “intertextuality”—all texts are “transpositions of other texts (literary and non-literary). Hegel. Comte: “determinist” ideas. Unifying principles that link together texts from different eras, places. Taine, Lovejoy, Tillyard: provide various “unifying notion” (soul of race, etc). Raymond Williams: “art-society” distinction false. Art=culture (society) a “total expression of a way of life.” New Historicists: Stephen Greenblatt, Jonathan Dollimore, Alan Sinfield: challenge this “unified notions” theory, focus on contradictions, etc (following in footsteps of E.P. Thompson, Raymond Williams). “Sociology of Literature”: media, artists’ role in society, etc. Ideology (Marxist critics, etc).

1. Tradition and Intertextuality (Eliot, Bloom, etc.)
Coleridge-Bosanquiet- FH Bradley- to Eliot’s “ideal order” and “simultaneous order” of tradition (“Tradition and the Individual Talent”). Ernst Curtius’s “timeless present” and Claudio Guillen in “Literatre as System” claims only the literary historian can bring everything together. Raymond Williams, radical, opposes the Eliot view on tradition in “The Long Revolution” (there is no tradition!) and “Marxism and Literature” (1976).

Bloom’s “Anxiety of Influence” (1973) and “A Map of Misreading” (1975): Freud analysis (poet of new generation must destroy father, etc.), theory of tropes, cabbalistic mysticism.

Julia Kristeva’s semiotic theory, intertextuality: “The Revolution in Poetic Language.”
ER Curtius, European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages (1948, ch.1-2)

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part IV History and Society (Continued)

2. History

Dr Johnson’s view that great lit is universal, timeless—this view challenged.
Karl Popper’s “historicism”: any study of history on basis of “laws” or “patterns.”
Comte’s “positivist historicism” and “value-free” empiricism.

1st sense of history: Hippolyte Taine 1st to advocate study of “strictly deterministic history of literature,” national histories (spirit of the race), etc., creation of ideal man.
2nd sense: Hegel, German Romanticism: History as “development of “spirit” in time” and “self-realization of the human spirit”; dialectical view of change and development. The English are skeptical of this view.

H.A. Taine—History of English Literature (1864, 6)
EMW Tillyard, Elizabethan World Pictures (1943)
A.O. Lovejoy, “unit ideas”—ideology of age presented as it is in minor writers; great writers present ideology as contested, questioned within work (Great chain of Being, 1936).

Raymond Williams- acknowledges social, historical influence; denies that art is only superficial reflection of it (denies base-superstructure notion)—rather, culture is “a whole way of life” (The Long Revolution, 1961).

Lucien Goldmann, Towards a Sociology of the Novel. Structuralist-influenced historical readings, influenced by Lukacs “History and Class Consciousness” (1922).
Claudio Guillen, Literature as System. Interaction or dominance—through which mode to cultures interact?
Louis Althusser—Marxist, but challenges Hegel legacy in Marxism.
Foucault, “Nietzsche, Geneology, History” (1971)

3. Society (Marx, Benjamin’s “The Flaneur”, Malcolm Bradbury’s “Social Context of Modern English Literature”, Dennis)

Three categories: 1, socio-historical perspective of criticism (R. Williams’s “county and the city”; M. Bradbury’s “Social Context Forms”. 2, literature as social document (Lewis Coger). 3. sociology of writers, book production, etc (Robert Escarpit).

Marx: Theory of Surplus Value (1905)
John Donne: A Large Account of the Taste in Poetry . . (1702)
Horace desire to imposing order (decorum) in orderless post-Caesar Rome
Augusten poets refinement and Francophilia as reaction to vulgar Puritans.
Frankfurt School: privileged, elite art as escape from Fascism (compare to Tanizaki)
Walter Benjamin: reproduction media destroys religious aura of art. Shift from religiosity to mass political. (“Work of Art In Age of Mechanical. . .” ; The Flaneur)
Brecht: technical innovation as reaction to this new reproduction era.
M Bradbury: not so pessimistic: “fortunate disability” of modernity, alienation (Social context of Modern English Literature)

4. Ideology

(Blake’s “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell” (1790), Engels, Althusser, Eagleton). Gramsci (ideological domination). “vulgar Marxism” – all writing is ideology, “false consciousness.” Eagleton—not so simple. Althusser—we are all “subjects” of ideology, representation of “imaginary consciousness”; however, art is more than ideology, or at least between knowledge and ideology. Engels’ letter to Margaret Harkness – “avoid political tendentiousness” and seek “detachment in realism.” Pierre Machery’s “Theory of Literary Production” (1966): art enables us to see limits and imperfections of ideology (ideology is contained within art). Terry Eagleton’s “Criticism and Ideology” (1976): ideology (not reality) is material of novels, art.

Beholdmyswarthyface said...

Part V: Morality, Class and Gender

Morality tradition strong in Britian. F.R. Leavis’s “feel into” or “become” a work. Plato, Dr. Johnson condemning stories w/ immoral events. Sir Philip Sidney’s “Apology”: lit has “high moral purpose.” Shelley: poet as “lawgiver” and “seer” although no “moral aim.” Ruskin: art serves life, emphasizes moralism of Plato, down-to-earth pragmaticism. Zhdanov: writers are “engineers of human souls.” Even David Holbrook: dogmatic moralism: “truths of psychiatry.” Matthew Arnold, Henry James, DH Lawrence: fullness of life-moralism, attack moral prudishness of English, advocate direct impression of life. Arnold and F.R. Leavis: form=content. Moral greatness=creative powers. “deep seriousness” as moral vision, advocate covert not overt morals. Hoggart, Raymond Williams: class-oriented moralism. Elaine Showalter, Helene Cixous: Lacanian psychoanalytic feminism

1. Moralism

Plato’s “Republic” Bk2-3, education of the “guardians” (censors).
Post-Renaissance Puritanical moralism, anti-secular drama. Roger Ascham’s “Schoolmaster” (1570) and Stephen Gosson’s “School of Abuse” (1579).

Sir Philip Sydney defends poetry from Plato’s “illusionism,” but agrees that it should be moral and instruct: “An Apology for Poetry” (1595): 3 categories: Historian (“less fruitful” of three, he deals with empirical particulars only; Philosopher (deals only with precepts, Universals, rational a priori argument); and poet (superior since he “coupleth the general notion with the particular example” (i.e., he deals with both Particulars and Universals). The poet can also “move.” But he must be moral (“virtue exalted and vice punished”), which is different from History, where evil often goes unpunished. Poet’s task: to “maketh matter for a conceit” (i.e., make examples from the precept).
Responding to “imputations” against poetry (that there are “more fruitful knowledges”; that poetry is the “mother of lies”; and that poetry causes sin, he states that poets are the “least of liars”—“he nothing affirms, and therefore never Lieth” (compared with mistaken historians, astronomers, physicians, geometricians, who inadvertently lie. Poets, by contrast, tell only what should or should not be (“poems are but pictures of what should be.”)

Dr Samuel Johnson “Rambler: No. 4” (1750), worries about new 18th century novels, as Plato worried about Homer’s immoral stories. Johnson, moralist, prefers novels of Samuel Richardson to Henry Fielding.

Blake: moral customs of age come from imagination of great men.
Shelley agrees. “Defense of Poetry” (1821): the less poets “affected a moral aim,” and “the effect of their poetry is diminished in exact proportion to the degree in which they compel us to advert to this purpose.” Still, poetry has moral function, though in a different manner: “it awakens and enlargens the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought . . .. it reproduces all that it represents.” “A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.” Poetry alone, by “enlarging the circumference of the imagination,” can enable this.

Ruskin: moralism kept him unpopular in 20th century. Corrupt society can’t produce corrupt art. (Modern Painters, 1856).
Zhdanov and Union of Soviet Writers “Soviet Lit” (1934).