American Critical Essays, XIXth and XXth Centuries

American Critical Essays, XIXth and XXth Centuries

American Critical Essays, XIXth and XXth Centuries

American Critical Essays, XIXth and XXth Centuries

Excerpt

In the year 1904, in the first, volume of his long series of Shelburne Essays, Paul Elmer More chose for his motto Lowell's declaration that 'Before we can have an American literature, we must have an American criticism'. In the year 1927, in the Revue de Paris, Mr. More was already in a position to assert that a group of American critics was doing 'altogether the most original and aggressive work we can show to the world, -- a work more noteworthy, I make bold to say, than anything of its kind now done in England and equal to anything produced in France'. And the following year, Van Wyck Brooks, a critic in another camp, maintained that 'the critical movement is undoubtedly the most significant movement in our literature during the last decade or so'. In proportion as the realistic movement in our creative literature deliquesces, the critical movement is attracting more and more writers and readers to the effort to achieve an 'intellectual situation' capable of sustaining a new creative movement. If a revision of the Cambridge History of American, Literature were being planned to-day, it would certainly give an honorable place to a subject omitted from that useful work: American criticism.

The general reader need not concern himself with the critical writings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nor even with those essays of the early nineteenth century with which American criticism properly begins -- the contributions of Bryant and of Richard Henry Dana to the North American . . .

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