Problems and Methods of Literary History: With Special Reference to Modern French Literature; a Guide for Graduate Students

Problems and Methods of Literary History: With Special Reference to Modern French Literature; a Guide for Graduate Students

Read FREE!

Problems and Methods of Literary History: With Special Reference to Modern French Literature; a Guide for Graduate Students

Problems and Methods of Literary History: With Special Reference to Modern French Literature; a Guide for Graduate Students

Read FREE!

Excerpt

To justify the existence and the methods of literary history is entirely superfluous nowadays, and it is no less superfluous to dwell upon the differences and likenesses between it and literary criticism. Our common sense tells us, if we do away with prejudices and futile scholarly discussions, that literary history, working in its own field, is trying neither to replace nor to oppose literary criticism. Literary history thinks that it can help literary criticism; can clear a path for it; can lighten its task of understanding, judging, and classifying literary works and the great movements of human thought. It offers its services as a devoted auxiliary, modest and self-effacing. It has no imperialistic designs: it covers enough territory already to have no need to encroach on that of a neighbor. It prepares the material for the critic but puts no restrictions on the way he should use it. If he has faith in impressionistic criticism, if he believes that the literary critic should surrender himself to the emotion produced by the book he is studying and then should express this emotion with precision and delicacy, he is free to do so. Literary history asks him only to base his personal reaction on facts that have been historically verified, to define his position clearly, and, when communicating a purely personal reaction . . .

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