Critical Pasts: Writing Criticism, Writing History

Critical Pasts: Writing Criticism, Writing History

Critical Pasts: Writing Criticism, Writing History

Critical Pasts: Writing Criticism, Writing History


This volume assembles new thinking on the theory, practice, and cultural value of the history of literary criticism. Focusing on a theme that has attracted relatively little developed theoretical commentary hitherto, the authors of these essays draw on specialist areas of critical history - and different kinds of problems - to illustrate the paradoxes that attend any attempt to write the history of critical writing. dimension of restoration criticism, the relations between poetry and criticism, and a test case in eighteenth-century criticism's reception aesthetics. Other essays consider relations between eighteenth-century critical and literary history, between romanticism and New Historicism, and the various ways in which present and past criticism is interrelated. In an introduction to the volume, the editor calls for a clearer confrontation with the representational issues of critical history by those who write about the critical past.


Problems and
in the History
of Criticism

Philip Smallwood

History being, properly speaking, nothing but a Rehearsal of things past,
and in the same order as they came to pass, ought also to be a continued
Narration. Therefore, as it hath nothing more essential than the knowing
how to relate well, so, nothing is more difficult. For it is a great Art to fix
an unconstant and fickle Reader’s mind. What wisdom does it not require to
mannage every where those colours that are necessary to give the
resemblance to things, and to mix constantly with them those features,
those light touches, those graces, that warmth, that quickness, which hin
ders a Narration from languishing.

The Modest Critick: or Remarks upon
the Most Eminent Historians Ancient and Modern
René Rapin, trans. “A. L.” (1689)

“THERE IS A WIDESPREAD ASSUMPTION AMONG NEW HISTORICISTS and Cultural Materialists,” write the editors of Neo-Historicism, “that older forms of historical thinking, at least in literature departments, were naïve and unsophisticated, and that it took ‘the clarity of focus provided by the new critical paradigms of our own day’ … to make us aware of the problems involved in reconstructing the past.” In the wake of the theoretical work of eminent historical and literary theorists such as . . .

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