Literary Criticism of John Dryden

John Dryden (1631–1700) occupies a seminal place in English critical history. Samuel Johnson called him “the father of English criticism,” and affirmed of his Essay of Dramatic Poesy (1668) that “modern English prose begins here.” Dryden’s critical work was extensive, treating of various genres such as epic, tragedy, comedy and dramatic theory, satire, the relative virtues… Read More Literary Criticism of John Dryden

Experimental Form in Victorian Poetry

In 1844, Elizabeth Barrett Browning wanted to write “a poem of a new class,” one that included “[conversations & events” and “philosophical dreaming & digression.”1 She also wanted to purify George Gordon Byron‘s sexually contentious poetry, to write “a Don Juan, without the mockery & impurity.” But this moral aim, while acknowledging her wish to elude the… Read More Experimental Form in Victorian Poetry

The Literary Criticism of Matthew Arnold

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), English poet, literary critic, and essayist, perceived reformative tendencies accompanying the burgeoning development of industrial society in nineteenth-century England that threatened the wavering hegemonic apparatus of secular and ecclesiastical order, and hindered the appreciation and expression of cultural ideals that would access a smoother course for personal and social advancement in troubled… Read More The Literary Criticism of Matthew Arnold

Key Theories of Lionel Trilling

A writer of significance in the history of American letters, even at the height of his fame Lionel Trilling (1905–1975) was considered ‘a critic without portfolio’. What this means for the contemporary reader, used to critical categories, theories and factional groups, is that a historical understanding of Trilling’s role is as necessary as an intellectual… Read More Key Theories of Lionel Trilling

Moral formalism: F. R. Leavis

F. R. Leavis became the major single target for the new critical theory of the 1970s. Both Raymond Williams in Politics and Letters (1979) and Terry Eagleton in Literary Theory: An Introduction (1983) bear witness to his enormous, ubiquitous influence in English Studies from the 1930s onwards. Apropos of Leavis’s The Great Tradition (1948), Williams remarks that by the early 1970s, in… Read More Moral formalism: F. R. Leavis