Literary Criticism in Antiquity, a Sketch of Its Development

Literary Criticism in Antiquity, a Sketch of Its Development

Literary Criticism in Antiquity, a Sketch of Its Development

Literary Criticism in Antiquity, a Sketch of Its Development

Excerpt

This attempt at recalling the views on literature current in ancient Greece and Rome is intended not so much for classical specialists as for that larger body of readers, students of English literature among them, who, interested primarily in the critical activities of more modern times, may yet find a discussion of origins not without its value. This at least is the aim that animates this present work; and it accounts for certain features with which a severer scholarship would doubtless have dispensed, the lists of translations, for instance, the frequent references to modern literature, or again, the efforts made to supply some sort of intellectual background to the narrative. At the same time it is hoped that the treatment has not suffered greatly in consequence. At any rate no pains have been spared to embody the best of what has been thought and said by established authorities on the subject, as well as the findings of more recent workers in the field of classical scholarship. So that this much at least may be said, that the endeavour throughout has been to render the survey as complete as possible within the prescribed limits.

With regard to the plan adopted, which is to some extent an innovation, a word of explanation is perhaps needed; for an attempt has here been made to approach the critical activities of antiquity from a purely historical standpoint, to view them, that is, as one continuous and unbroken movement, and not, as they are generally regarded, as two separate contributions--"Greek criticism" and "Latin criticism"--grouped in accordance with the language employed. That the linguistic classification has disadvantages is clear when the works of such writers as Dionysius of Halicarnassus and "Longinus" are considered. With them the choice of medium is comparatively unimportant, the key to their understanding lying mainly in the problems with which they deal, and which are obviously problems of the first century A.D or thereabouts. So that to detach these Greek critics from their Roman contemporaries is . . .

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