Essays in Criticism and Research

Essays in Criticism and Research

Essays in Criticism and Research

Essays in Criticism and Research

Excerpt

The essays here collected divide themselves into several categories: I intend to describe what the essays in one or two of these categories are attempting.

Certain essays are engaged in attacking received opinions on literary figures and periods, in attacking opinions received as true by the textbooks and by the incurious generally. Such attacks are usually made by fanatics, whose propaganda is considered to demand of its readers too sweeping a conversion: textbooks and general opinion do not get an author as wrong as all that. What has been needed most, however, at certain points on the curve of a literary reputation, is not a wise and final statement but rather a horn blown in an unexpected key. Only such a blast will shiver the smug Doric pillars between which so many earnest stu dents plod in and out of the airless sanctuary.The essay on Bacon and the former essay on Pope attempt to shake the uprights of dull estimates. As final summaries of Bacon and Pope they are inadequate. But it is hoped that they let a fresher air into the temple.

In some essays I have attempted to be more comprehensive.

II

There are other things, too, which some of these essays are attempting. They are attempting to see the full value of the material manifestation of literature, its embodiment in words. They are written on the assumption that the face of literature is also its spirit. To study the configurations of the flesh is, I claim . . .

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