Benedetto Croce's Poetry and Literature: An Introduction to Its Criticism and History

By Benedetto Croce; Giovanni Gullace | Go to book overview

I
Poetry and Literature
In the esthetic experience of our times there has
been a growing awareness of the profound difference
between "poetry" and "literature." This difference,
strongly felt during the romantic period, was scarcely
perceived in previous times, including the Greco-Ro
man era. But it has now taken the form of a conflict
in which "literature," having only a few defenders
among those who are not afraid of appearing retro
grade and reactionary, is regarded with some scorn.
Although the conflict and the scorn cannot logically
be justified and although the reasons for the distinc
tion are not always well founded, that is, not proved
to correspond to truth, the difference between "po
etry" and "literature" does exist, nevertheless. The
vigorous assertion of this difference in our days proves
its importance and effectiveness in our effort to arrive
at a sound critical judgment and to remove difficulties
and dispel confusions which would otherwise continue
to puzzle our mind.
But what, in fact, is literature? What is its defini
tion, that is, its nature, its origin in the human mind,
and, finally, its function? I have searched in many
books, and in nearly all of those on esthetics, poetics,
and rhetoric; but (perhaps because I did not search
well) I found either no answers at all or only unsatis
factory answers to my question. I even came to realize
that for a long time, in my studies of poetry and lit
erature, I used the distinction without ever trying to
explain it thoroughly and thus to clarify matters to
myself. To have a concept and to be fully aware of it
are two different things, for to be fully aware of a con
cept means to rediscover and redefine it satisfactorily
whenever new difficulties and objections arise. This is
what man is forced to do, for, being dissimilar from
animals and gods, he is condemned to think.

-5-

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Benedetto Croce's Poetry and Literature: An Introduction to Its Criticism and History
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Translator's Preface vii
  • Translator's Acknowledgments xi
  • Translator's Introduction xiii
  • Foreword 3
  • I - Poetry and Literature 5
  • II - The Life of Poetry 84
  • III - Criticism and History of Poetry 119
  • IV - The Formation of the Poet and the Precepts 175
  • Bibliography 203
  • Index 207
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