From These Roots: The Ideas That Have Made Modern Literature

From These Roots: The Ideas That Have Made Modern Literature

From These Roots: The Ideas That Have Made Modern Literature

From These Roots: The Ideas That Have Made Modern Literature

Excerpt

FOR AT LEAST one hundred and fifty years criticism has been increasingly operative on literature, yet, as a literary mode it is still in its infancy, though, as Anatole France predicted, it may end by swallowing up all the others. When George Sand wrote to Flaubert, on the death of Sainte-Beuve, that she believed criticism had come to an end, Flaubert, a man of enormously penetrating perceptions, answered, "I think, on the contrary, that it is at most only at its dawning. They are on a different tack from before, but nothing more. At the time of La Harpe they were grammarians; at the time of Sainte-Beuve and Taine they were historians. When will they be artists--really artists?" In these few words Flaubert, who, like Anatole France, was a fine critic himself though he expressed that talent chiefly in his correspondence, stated a truth not even now generally recognized. Literary criticism is now only at its dawning in spite of great and transforming critics like Taine and Sainte-Beuve, whom Flaubert erred in not recognizing as artists.

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