A Psychological Approach to Literary Criticism

A Psychological Approach to Literary Criticism

A Psychological Approach to Literary Criticism

A Psychological Approach to Literary Criticism

Excerpt

During my earliest readings in the history of critical theory I was considerably impressed with the conflicting and contradictory principles of literary criticism. Subsequent study in this field has strengthened this impression, bringing with it the realization that only a new, objective, and scientific approach to critical theory can ever bring anything significantly universal out of the present chaos. The traditional philosophic and æsthetic approaches to critical theory seem little more than earnest sophistry; both must depend upon psychology for their fundamental data, and neither is making any thorough effort to enlist the services of the psychologist. Why not, I asked myself, a purely psychological approach? My attempt at formulating such an approach was unsuccessful because my own command of experimental data was inadequate to solve my critical problems. A search for a more competent psychology indicated quite convincingly why so little had been accomplished toward formulating a psychological critical theory: there seemed to be no data pointedly pertinent to the solution of the problems in criticism.

During a discussion of Gestalt psychology with Dr. Maier one evening I sensed the possibility of making an application of it to the solution of certain critical problems. Subsequent discussions indicated that his experimental work on reasoning (productive thinking) would make a distinct contribution to establishing an objective critical theory. Criticism has always attempted to establish the nature and value of imaginative . . .

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