Essay on The Importance of Distinction in Literary Theory and Criticism

Essay on The Importance of Distinction in Literary Theory and Criticism

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It has been said,
From the hour of the invention of printing, books, and not kings, were to rule the world. Weapons forged in the mind, keen-edged, and brighter than a sunbeam, were to supplant the sword and battle-axe. Books! lighthouses built on the sea of time! Books! by whose sorcery the whole pageantry of the world's history moves in solemn procession before our eyes. From their pages great souls look down in all their grandeur, undimmed by the faults and follies of earthly existence, consecrated by time (Whipple 386).
This particular description on the importance of books, fantastic as it is, can also easily be applied to the broader spectrum that books belong to, literature. Thus, it is easy to understand why such emphasis is placed on the “exegesis, interpretation, and evaluation, [of literature]” otherwise called literary criticism and/or theory (Groden , Kreiswirth and Szeman). The boundaries between the two, criticism and theory, blur according to Groden et al, however the boundary between their approaches is much more distinguishable. New Criticism and Marxist theory are examples of two different approaches to literary criticism. Both approaches share the same objective, in that they look to better understand literature, but their paths diverge on how exactly they go about this. It is the disparity between the ‘how’s’ that is so crucial to point out in literary criticism and if it is not made the entire subject becomes unorganized and much less effective. A perfect representative of this disparity can be seen with a comparison of the New Criticism and Marxist theories. A thorough understanding of the differences, similarities, strengths and weaknesses of the two approaches allows anyone studying literary criticism to...

... middle of paper ...

...pproaches and consequently literary criticism as a whole.

Works Cited
Barry, Peter. Beginning Theory: An Introduction To Literary And Cultural Theory Third Edition. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009.
Groden , Michael, Martin Kreiswirth and Imre Szeman. "The Johns Hopkins Guide To Literary Theory And Criticism." 2005. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Website. 24 March 2012. .
Lisman, C. David. "Marxist Literary Theory: A Critique." Journal of Aesthetic Education (1988): 73-85.
Spurgin, Tim. "Contemporary Critical Theory." 3 October 1997. Lawrence University. Website. 27 March 2012.
Wellek, Rene. "The New Criticism: Pro and Contra." Critical Inquiry (1978): 611-624.
Whipple, Edwin Percy. Gilbert, Josiah Hotchkiss. Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers. New York: W.B. Ketcham, 1895. 386.

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