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The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism
  • Volume 6: The Nineteenth Century, c.1830–1914
  • Edited by M. A. R. Habib, Rutgers University, New Jersey

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    The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism
    • Volume 6: The Nineteenth Century, c.1830–1914
    • Edited by M. A. R. Habib
    • Online ISBN: 9781139018456
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Book description

In the nineteenth century, literary criticism first developed into an autonomous, professional discipline in the universities. This volume provides a comprehensive and authoritative study of the vast field of literary criticism between 1830 and 1914. In over thirty essays written from a broad range of perspectives, international scholars examine the growth of literary criticism as an institution, and the major critical developments in diverse national traditions and in different genres, as well as the major movements of Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism and Decadence. The History offers a detailed focus on some of the era's great critical figures, such as Sainte-Beuve, Hippolyte Taine and Matthew Arnold, and includes essays devoted to the connections of literary criticism with other disciplines in science, the arts and Biblical studies. The publication of this volume marks the completion of the monumental Cambridge History of Literary Criticism from antiquity to the present day.


'… a model of how to present sharp, original thinking without scanting the responsibility to provide a usable map … This volume provides a series of helpful starting points for exploring the range of thinking about literature that [the] extraordinary growth in critical writing helped to stimulate.'

Stefan Collini Source: Modern Philology

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  • 6 - France: the continuing debate over Classicism
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    By the 1830s there was a significant number of quarterly reviews, together with monthly magazines and weekly papers that offered a range of criticism on literature. Female reviewers were in a minority in the world of the quarterlies and the monthly magazines from the 1830s through to the 1850s. The distinction between reviewer and critic was one that could only have been made in the second half of the century. The gradual abandonment of anonymity in favour of signed articles in the 1860s was linked to new attitudes to criticism and to the role of the critic. The conduct of a professional literary life, the process of establishing oneself as a reviewer and earning a living by it, evolved over the period. By the end of the nineteenth century, and even more certainly by 1914, the conditions and the contexts of literary criticism had been completely transformed.
  • 7 - England: Romantic legacies
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    English literary critics had long models from classical and modern continental literatures, and in the nineteenth century Thomas Carlyle and Matthew Arnold were only the two most prominent of many contemporary examples. The emphasis for elementary educationalists in the early nineteenth century was necessarily different. The pressing need to educate a growing urban population tended to shift pedagogical emphasis away from disinterested notions of individual development to more pragmatic ones related to social organization and economic planning. The late acceptance of the literary study of English by the ancient universities was matched by their tentativeness in embracing the teaching of modern European literature. In the two decades between the establishing of the Oxford English School and the beginning of the First World War, scholarly criticism in English was in a healthy position in universities. Literary and textual scholarships had established themselves strongly and were plainly thriving in the academic environment.
  • 8 - England: literature and culture
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    The critical performances of Martineau, Jameson, Fuller and Eliot, like those of de Staël and Sand, were inevitably marked by gender consciousness, because of nineteenth-century preconceptions about women as writers and intellectuals. The mid-century literary critic had an understandably complex relationship with the category of lady writer, which carried with it the expectation of difference and the assumption of inferiority. Martineau's Autobiography and Biographical Sketches are notable for their often sharp and self-serving comments on fellow writers, snapshots in a daguerreotyped age. Shakespeare was the figure who attracted the most critical attention during the Victorian period. His plays were, like novels, read aloud in domestic circles. Fuller was at her best in her longer works, which accommodated her learned, personal and often digressive style. In Woman in the Nineteenth Century, Fuller saw gender differences as both fixed and fluid.
  • 10 - Russia: literature and society
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    Critical reflection on literature became a vital part of the public culture. This chapter addresses some of the ways in which literature became not only a vehicle for the expression and circulation of nationalist ideas but also a measure of the nation. It pursues three broad areas of inquiry: first, the continuities and distinctions between contemporary nationalism studies and articulations of nationality in the history of ideas in the West; second, the development of national literary history as a synecdoche for the nation's history; third, the ways in which the failure of national literature was tied to the incomplete development or decline of the nation. The study of nationalism has largely been shaped by political science, sociology and history, and has focused on the conditions under which nationalism emerges. National literature became not merely an expression of the nation's character but also evidence of the nation's merit and even legitimacy.
  • 11 - Literary autonomy: the growth of a modern concept
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    Modernity took many of the traits of Classicism. There were numerous attributes that suggested traditional Classicism: restraint, simplicity, gravity, order, unity, reason, clarity, harmony, polish and precision. Mid-century critics thought Romanticism was little more than egotistic sentimentalism, while Classicism was virtually synonymous with formalism and precision. Realism raised a new set of demands, insisting on objective description of reality and scientific truth. The Classicism of Brunetière late in the nineteenth century had to do with language more than with particular models. He sought the linguistic core, devoid of idiosyncratic dialects, idioms, foreign words, provincialisms and pedantic neologisms. Jean Moréas, an expatriate Greek, was deeply involved with the Symbolists and their self-proclaimed leader. Isolated efforts that imitated the great works of Antiquity or of seventeenth-century France had little real effect in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries until they were integrated into the predominant aesthetic movements of the period.
  • 12 - Hegel's aesthetics and their influence
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    The revolutionary philosophy of Kant and Hegel remained largely untranslated until mid-century, and much of the writings of the German Romantics, including Novalis, the Schlegels and Schleiermacher, remained so until the twentieth century. Perhaps the most unlikely German Romantic influence on critical thought in the English-speaking world was that of Johann Gottfried Herder. The most original piece of religio-poetic theory of the first half of the century, however, came from the best-selling poet of the century, John Keble. Poetry, for Keble, was the product of tension or repression, issuing in disguised or ironic utterance. Romantic historicization was never an absolute process, nor was it commonly a path to single grand-narrative interpretations. It might have delighted at least those Romantics addicted to the Middle Ages to think that it was more like a return to the polysemous narratives of that period.
  • 13 - Marx, Engels and early Marxist criticism
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    This chapter describes the authors of England, who were all literary critics. Some of them include: Thomas Carlyle, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, William Morris and George Bernard Shaw. Carlyle started as a literary critic and translator, but became a social critic and historian. German literature was little read in England, with the one exception of Goethe's Werther. Ruskin was the most highly theoretical of Victorian critics, as shown in his masterwork, Modern Painters, which established a theory of Beauty. Its appeal and influence continued well into the twentieth century. In his social and cultural criticism Ruskin emphasized the social and personal costs of industrial production, on the labourer or artisan turned into a machine, and also on the middle-class consumer. The second group of nineteenth-century critics might be seen as a second generation: Pater, Morris and Shaw were all exposed to the earlier writers in their youths.
  • 14 - Realism, Naturalism and Symbolism in France
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    The practice of literary criticism came to Russia in the eighteenth century as a part of the Westernizing reforms of Emperor Peter the Great and, Empress Catherine the Great. In the 1830s and 1840s, as literary criticism became a profession, literary discussion directed at a newly emerging reading public crucially contributed to a debate about national identity, which became known as the debate between the Westernizers and the Slavophiles. Westernizers such as Ivan Turgenev, the critic Vissarion Belinsky and the reformist thinker Aleksandr Herzen wanted to follow the European trajectory laid out by Peter the Great towards a Europeanized, secular culture. The account of Russian literary criticism differs from Soviet-era accounts in its vocabulary and in its greater emphasis on cultural and intellectual networks of people and ideas. Belinsky's view of literature as the bearer of enlightened social consciousness intensified throughout the 1840s, after his break with conservative Hegelianism in 1841.
  • 16 - Nineteenth-century British critics of Realism
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    The evolution and ideology of aesthetic autonomy through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be associated with religious, social and philosophical developments. With varying interests and emphases, writers namely Friedrich Schiller, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Matthew Arnold, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, Charles Algernon Swinburne, Walter Pater and Oscar Wilde derive from Immanuel Kant's philosophy the concept of organic form, of aesthetic disinterestedness, of aesthetic education, of art as subversive of instrumental knowledge, as independent from conventions of taste and as resistant to institutional and political coercion. In France, Kant's, Schiller's, Friedrich Schelling's, the Schlegels' and von Humboldt's writings on the aesthetic had been popularized by Germaine de Staël's immensely successful De l'Allemagne. Kant's subjective universality of taste, Schiller's beautiful appearance, Baudelaire's intimate correspondences, Mallarmé's supreme language, Wilde's immoral art, all seem to testify that the idea of literary autonomy can be maintained only as a contradiction.
  • 17 - American literary Realism
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    Hegel's philosophy in general stands at the centre of modern Western thought. Hegel's system integrates major intellectual developments, such as the various streams of Enlightenment and Romanticism, into its own formidable synthesis. Hegel sees human history as a movement of consciousness towards self-conscious freedom and rationality. Hegel's lectures on aesthetics were delivered in Berlin in 1823, 1826 and 1828-9. According to Hegel, art fulfils an important function in giving sensuous form to a concrete spiritual content, but philosophy constitutes a higher mode of representing spirit. Hegel explains that these three general forms of art, symbolic, classical and Romantic, are realized in the specific arts of architecture, sculpture, painting, music and poetry. The collision of actions in modern tragedy does not rest on conflicts extrapolated or introjected from the ethical order but is accidental, though substantive moral ends may be engaged in a contingent manner.
  • 18 - Decadence andfin de siècle
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    In 1971, Fredric Jameson, possibly the most influential Marxist critic of the late twentieth century, recommended 'a relatively Hegelian kind of Marxism' to the literary critical world. It is arguable that, in the twelve years remaining to him, Frederick Engels did considerably more than popularize the pre-existing conceptual and textual legacy Marx had bequeathed. It is surprising, given the fact that Marx and Engels spent most of the later parts of their lives in London, that only William Morris, in this period and from this part of the world, made a noteworthy and lasting contribution to Marxist aesthetics. Morris's plentiful writings on art and its problematics within capitalism are one indication that Marxism, even in the aesthetic field, had started to spread far beyond German borders. By the end of the century the epicentre of all Marxist debate, including that around aesthetics, was moving decisively to Russia.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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