Forces in American Criticism: A Study in the History of American Literary Thought

Forces in American Criticism: A Study in the History of American Literary Thought

Forces in American Criticism: A Study in the History of American Literary Thought

Forces in American Criticism: A Study in the History of American Literary Thought

Excerpt

Some years ago I became interested in finding out to what degree one could relate the history of American literature to the history of American life. It occurred to me that the real link in that relationship is the attitude toward literature that men have had under varying circumstances--the ideas they have had regarding its value and purpose and the way its excellence or lack of it may be determined. In other words, literary criticism seemed to me more clearly related to social history than are poetry and fiction.

It proved to be a missing link. There were, of course, a few essays on our critical history, and since then a few more have been published. But there is still no systematic study of the subject, and nothing at all that treats of it from the point of view in which I am interested, although the need for it has long been felt.

This volume is an attempt to survey the field. It is neither a formal nor a complete history of American critical writing. I am keenly aware that there are lines of inquiry I have not pursued, that there are critics I have not mentioned, that there are others I have dealt with inadequately, and that I have not touched on many aspects of those I have dealt with at length. All that I have tried to do is to indicate the main currents and to sketch the principal figures. The definitive work in the field remains to be done. It must be done in several volumes--when there are more special studies and monographs than are now available--by someone who has more leisure than I have had during the past eight years.

It is a work worth doing. The history of our literary thought is a significant thread in the history of our culture. We cannot . . .

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