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The New Criticism

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Though the New Criticism had its origins in Britain in the criticism of T. S. Eliot, the theory of I. A. Richards and the practice of William Empson, its most powerful impact has been in America. John Crowe Ransom, who published a book entitled The New Criticism in 1941, was the leading American influence and he acknowledged a debt to Eliot and Richards. The other major American New Critics were Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren and W. K. Wimsatt. Indirectly related to the New Criticism are such important figures as Kenneth Burke and R. P. Blackmur. The early New Critics were politically conservative and their attitudes to literature were shaped by their opposition to certain twentieth-century tendencies of thought, such as Marxism.

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Further Reading

  • Cleanth Brooks, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (London, 1949).

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  • Kenneth Burke, The Philosophy of Literary Form (Berkeley, Calif., 1974).

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  • T. S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood (London, 1920).

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  • William Empson, Seven Types of Ambiguity (London, 1930).

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  • Gerald Graff, ‘On the New Criticism: Literary Interpretation and Scientific Objectivity’, Salmagundi, 27 (1974), pp.72–93. (A critical view)

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  • Murray Krieger, The New Apologists for Poetry (Minneapolis, 1956).

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  • John Crowe Ransom, The New Criticism (Norfolk, Conn., 1941).

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  • I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (London, 1924).

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  • William H. Rueckert (ed.), Critical Responses to Kenneth Burke (Minneapolis, 1969).

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  • René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism: 1750–1950: Vol. 6: American Criticism, 1900–1950 (New Haven, Conn., 1986).

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  • W. K. Wimsatt, Jr, The Verbal Icon: Studies in the Meaning of Poetry (New York, 1954). (Contains the essays ‘The Intentional Fallacy’ and ‘The Affective Fallacy’, written in collaboration with Monroe K. Beardsley.)

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© 1988 Macmillan Publishers Limited

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Newton, K.M. (1988). The New Criticism. In: Newton, K.M. (eds) Twentieth-Century Literary Theory. Palgrave, London.

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