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criticism

criticism, the interpretation and evaluation of literature and the arts. It exists in a variety of literary forms: dialogues (Plato, John Dryden), verse (Horace, Alexander Pope), letters (John Keats), essays (Matthew Arnold, W. H. Auden), and treatises (Philip Sydney, Percy Bysshe Shelley). There are several categories of criticism: theoretical, practical, textual, judicial, biographical, and impressionistic. However, as the American critic M. H. Abrams has pointed out in The Mirror and the Lamp (1953), all criticism, no matter what its form, type, or provenance, emphasizes one of four relationships: the mimetic, the work's connection to reality; the pragmatic, its effect on the audience; the expressive, its connection to the author; and the objective, the work as an independent, self-sufficient creation.

From its beginning criticism has concerned philosophers. Plato raised the question of the authenticity of poetic knowledge in the Ion, in which both poet and performer are forced to admit ignorance about the source of their inspiration and the function of their craft. In his Poetics, Aristotle focused on tragic drama to discover its effect—the purgation of the audience's emotions (see tragedy). Roman civilization produced two critics who were poets rather than philosophers. Horace declared in the Ars Poetica (c.13 BC) that poetry must be "dulce et utile" — "sweet and useful." In his On the Sublime (1st cent. AD) the Greek Longinus presented the view that poetry must be the divinely inspired utterance of the poet's impassioned soul. Interestingly, each of these pronouncements was an accurate description of the author's own work rather than a set of rules for all poetry. Thus, the ancients can be credited with delineating the two major types of criticism: theoretical, which attempts to state general principles about the value of art (Plato, Aristotle), and practical, which examines particular works, genres, or writers in light of theoretical criteria (Horace, Longinus).

Textual criticism, the comparison of different texts and versions of particular works with the aim of arriving at an incorrupt "master version," has been perhaps most familiar over the centuries in biblical criticism. Textual critics of note include St. Augustine and St. Jerome (the Bible), and later, Samuel Johnson and H. H. Furness (Shakespeare).

Renaissance critics ignored their recent heritage—the medieval attitude toward art as a form of prayer—and looked to the classics, Aristotle's works in particular, for usable models. Philip Sydney maintained in his Defense of Poetry (1595) that poetry must engage and uplift the emotions of its audience with "heart ravishing knowledge." In his Poetics (1561) the Italian critic Julius Caesar Scaliger transformed Aristotle's description of the dramatic unities of time, setting, and plot into exigencies, which were strictly adhered to by the neoclassical dramatists of 17th-century France and England. In his Essay on Criticism (1711) Alexander Pope added an important section on the criticism of critics: those who do their job best always "survey the Whole, not seek slight faults to find." Because the general tone of criticism of this period was prescriptive, it is called judicial criticism.

Samuel Johnson's Lives of the Poets (1779–81) was the first thorough-going exercise in biographical criticism, the attempt to relate a writer's background and life to his works. The revolution from neoclassicism to romanticism is seen in the works of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who emphasized the importance of emotion and imagination in literature. In his Preface to the Second Edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth described the lyric as "emotion recollected in tranquility," and Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria (1817), defined imagination as "the repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation," rather than as a mere mechanical flight of fancy. The radical shift in emphasis was further delineated by John Keats in his letters and by Percy Bysshe Shelley in his Defense of Poetry (1821)— "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world." Some critics celebrated art for art's sake, with no moral strings attached, such as Arthur Symons in The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899). Henry James, an important novelist and critic of the novel, stressed the possibilities of point of view for further developing the narrative form in his essay "The Art of Fiction" (1893). The emphasis in criticism of this period on the reaction of the critic to the work under scrutiny led to the use of the term impressionistic criticism.

The 20th cent. has been called the Age of Criticism. Such major disciplines as psychology and anthropology, and such ideologies as Christian theology and Marxist dialectic, were found to have valid application to works of literature. Freudian analysis became a tool for literary biographers. Carl Jung's theory of the collective unconscious also became a tool, along with anthropological methodology, for critics like T. S. Eliot (in The Sacred Wood, 1920) and Northrop Frye (in Anatomy of Criticism, 1957), who sought to trace similarities of pattern in literatures of disparate cultures and ages. By means of the so-called New Criticism—the technique of close reading, which largely ignores biographical and historical concerns—such critics as Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate, and Lionel Trilling revived the notion of a poem as an autonomous art object. Notable among academic and journalistic critics who used a combination of critical approaches to enlighten their readers are Edmund Wilson (in such works as The Triple Thinkers, 1938), W. H. Auden (in The Dyer's Hand, 1962), and George Steiner (in Language and Silence, 1970). Feminist and multicultural literary criticism also were important forces throughout the second half of the 20th cent. Structuralism in its literary critical form was a dominant theory from the 1960s into the 1970s, largely due to the work of French theorists Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. During the 1980s and into the 1990s deconstruction, influenced by such figures as Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man, dominated academic criticism. In addition, the historical approach of such New Historicists as Stephen Greenblatt also found a number of adherents. In general, a critical eclecticism characterized literary criticism at the end of the 20th cent.

There have been a variety of critical trends in music and art criticism also. The approach has ranged from practical to theoretical, from G. B. Shaw's music reviews in the London press of the 1880s to treatises like Alfred Einstein's Mozart (1945) and Charles Rosen's Classical Style (1971). From the 1960s to the end of the 20th cent. new genres of music criticism emerged that took for their subject jazz, rock, ethnic, and other specialized forms of music. The spectrum of art criticism includes such works as Robin George Collingwood's Principles of Art (1938), André Malraux's Voices of Silence (1952), the writings of Harold Rosenberg and Clement Greenberg, and the more recent criticism of such figures as Michael Freed, Barbara Rose, and Adam Gopnik. Newer areas for critical scrutiny include film, architecture, and urban planning. Notable film critics include James Agee, Andre Bazin, Pauline Kael, and Janet Maslin. Architectural criticism by Ada Louise Huxtable and others and studies of the city by Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs broke new ground for critical scrutiny.

Bibliography

See G. Saintsbury, A History of Criticism (3 vol., 1961); R. Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism (4 vol., 1955–65); W. C. Greene, The Choices of Criticism (1965); P. Barry, Issues in Contemporary Literary Theory (1987); B. Bergonzi, Exploding English (1990).

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Criticism

104. Criticism

See also 249. LITERATURE ; 312. PHILOSOPHY

anagraph
a review or critique.
Aristotelian criticism
a critical theory, doctrine, or approach based upon the method used by Aristotle in the Poetics, implying a formal, logical approach to literary analysis that is centered on the work itself. Cf. Platonic criticism .
chorizontist
Rare. a critic of Homeric literature who claims the Iliad and the Odyssey had different authors.
contextualism
a school of literary criticism that focuses on the work as an autonomous entity, whose meaning should be derived solely from an examination of the work itself. Cf. New Criticism . contextualist , n., adj.
empirio-criticism
the type of criticism whose aim is the reduction of knowledge to descriptions of pure experience and the elimination of such aspects as metaphysics. empiriocritical , adj.
epicrisis
a detailed criticism of a book, dissertation, or other writing.
exegesis
a critical interpretation or explication, especially of biblical and other religious texts. exegetic, exegetical , adj.
formal criticism
a critical approach, doctrine, or technique that places heavy emphasis on style, form, or technique in art or literature, seeing these as more important than or even determining content.
formalism
a critical emphasis upon style, arrangement, and artistic means with limited attention to content, formalist , n. formalistic , adj.
Freudianism
the application of the theories of the personality developed by Freud to the development of characters and other aspects of artistic creation. Cf. psychoanalytical criticism . Freudian , n., adj.
genre criticism
a critical approach, doctrine, or technique that emphasizes, in evaluating a work, the genre or medium in which it can be placed rather than seeing it entirely as an autonomous entity.
hypercriticism
the practice of unreasonable or unjustly severe criticism; faultfinding. hypercritic , n., adj. hypercritical , adj.
Jungian criticism
a critical approach, doctrine, or practice that applies the theories of Jungian psychology to works of art and literature, especially with regard to Jungian theories of myth, archetype, and symbol. Cf. mythic criticism .
mimesis
an imitation, used in literary criticism to designate Aristotles theory of imitation. mimetic , adj.
mythic criticism
a critical approach or technique that seeks mythic meaning or imagery in literature, looking beyond the immediate context of the work in time and place. Cf. Jungian criticism .
New Criticism
a critical approach to literature that concentrates upon analysis and explication of individual texts and considers historical and biographical information less important than an awareness of the works formal structure. New Critic , n.
new humanism
an American antirealist, antinaturalist, and anti-Romantic literary and critical movement of circa 1915-1933, whose principal exponents were Babbitt, More, and Foerster, influenced by Matthew Arnold, and whose aims were to show the importance of reason and will in a context of rectitude and dignity. new humanist , n., adj.
Platonic criticism
a critical approach or doctrine based upon and applying the ideas and values of Plato and Platonism, implying a literary analysis which finds the value of a work in its extrinsic qualities and historical context, as well as in its non-artistic usefulness. Cf. Aristotelian criticism .
practical criticism
a practical approach to literary criticism, in which the text is approached in universal terms with little recourse to an elaborate apparatus of reference outside the text. Cf. theoretical criticism .
psychoanalytical criticism
an approach to criticism or a critical technique that applies the principles, theories and practices of psychoanalysis to literature, both in the analysis of the work and of the author. See also Freudianism .
purism
in criticism, rigid or strict evaluation of a work of art or literature in terms of a code of standards of the critic or of a school of style or criticism related to or distinct from the critic, artist, or writer. See also 23. ART ; 236. LANGUAGE ; 249. LITERATURE . purist , n., adj.
self-criticism
the action of finding ones own faults and shortcomings. self-critical , adj.
textual criticism
the close study of a particular literary work in order to establish its original text. textual critic , n.
theoretical criticism
a critical approach or doctrine that examines a literary work in the light of certain theories of literature or uses the text as a support for the development of literary theory. Cf. practical criticism .
Zoilism
the practice of making bitter, carping, and belittling critical judgments. Zoilus, Zoili , n.

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Criticism

141. Criticism

  1. Blackwoods Magazine Scottish literary magazine founded in 1817, notorious for its Tory bias and vicious criticism. [Br. Lit.: Benét 111]
  2. Bludyer, Mr. a slashing book reviewer with savage humor. [Br. Lit.: Pendennis ]
  3. Bolo, Miss looked a small armoury of daggers at those who made mistakes. [Br. Lit.: Pickwick Papers ]
  4. Dutch uncle strict elder who scolds and moralizes. [Br. Slang: Lurie, 122123]
  5. Edinburgh Review influential literary and political review, founded in 1802, inaugurating new literary standards. [Br. Lit.: Barnhart, 375]
  6. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar rebuke Job for his complaints. [O.T.: Job 431]
  7. Essay on Criticism didactic poem on rules by which a critic should be guided. [Br. Lit.: Pope Essay on Criticism in Magill IV, 287]
  8. Joab admonishes David for ingratitude to troops and servants. [O.T.: II Samuel 19:18]
  9. Michal Davids wife; castigates him for boyish exulting. [O.T.: II Samuel 6:20]
  10. Monday morning quarterback football spectator who, in hind-sight, points out where team went wrong. [Am. Sports and Folklore: Misc.]
  11. Sanballat and Tobiah jeered Jews attempt to rebuild Jerusalems walls. [O.T.: Nehemiah 4:13]
  12. Theon satirical poet of trenchant wit. [Rom. Lit.: Brewer Dictionary, 1073]
  13. Zoilus malicious and contentious rhetorician; Homers scourge. [Gk. Hist.: Brewer Dictionary, 1175]

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criticism

crit·i·cism / ˈkritəˌsizəm/ • n. 1. the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. 2. the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work. ∎  an article, book, or comment containing such analysis. ∎  the scholarly investigation of literary or historical texts to determine their origin or intended form.

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critic

critic XVI. — L. criticus — Gr. kritikós, sb. use of adj. f. kritḗs judge, rel. to CRISIS; see -IC.
So critical XVI. f. L. criticus. criticism XVII. criticize XVII. critique criticism, esp. a critical review XVII. later form of †critic(k) XVII, alt. after F. critique, the orig. source, which is based on Gr. (hē) kritikḗ the critical art.

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critic

crit·ic / ˈkritik/ • n. 1. a person who expresses an unfavorable opinion of something. 2. a person who judges the merits of literary, artistic, or musical works, esp. one who does so professionally: a film critic.

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critic

criticachromatic, acrobatic, Adriatic, aerobatic, anagrammatic, aquatic, aristocratic, aromatic, Asiatic, asthmatic, athematic, attic, autocratic, automatic, axiomatic, bureaucratic, charismatic, chromatic, cinematic, climatic, dalmatic, democratic, diagrammatic, diaphragmatic, diplomatic, dogmatic, dramatic, ecstatic, emblematic, emphatic, enigmatic, epigrammatic, erratic, fanatic, hepatic, hieratic, hydrostatic, hypostatic, idiomatic, idiosyncratic, isochromatic, lymphatic, melodramatic, meritocratic, miasmatic, monochromatic, monocratic, monogrammatic, numismatic, operatic, panchromatic, pancreatic, paradigmatic, phlegmatic, photostatic, piratic, plutocratic, pneumatic, polychromatic, pragmatic, prelatic, prismatic, problematic, programmatic, psychosomatic, quadratic, rheumatic, schematic, schismatic, sciatic, semi-automatic, Socratic, somatic, static, stigmatic, sub-aquatic, sylvatic, symptomatic, systematic, technocratic, thematic, theocratic, thermostatic, traumatic •anaphylactic, ataractic, autodidactic, chiropractic, climactic, didactic, galactic, lactic, prophylactic, syntactic, tactic •asphaltic •antic, Atlantic, corybantic, frantic, geomantic, gigantic, mantic, necromantic, pedantic, romantic, semantic, sycophantic, transatlantic •synaptic •bombastic, drastic, dynastic, ecclesiastic, elastic, encomiastic, enthusiastic, fantastic, gymnastic, iconoclastic, mastic, monastic, neoplastic, orgastic, orgiastic, pederastic, periphrastic, plastic, pleonastic, sarcastic, scholastic, scholiastic, spastic •matchstick • candlestick • panstick •slapstick • cathartic •Antarctic, arctic, subantarctic, subarctic •Vedantic • yardstick •aesthetic (US esthetic), alphabetic, anaesthetic (US anesthetic), antithetic, apathetic, apologetic, arithmetic, ascetic, athletic, balletic, bathetic, cosmetic, cybernetic, diabetic, dietetic, diuretic, electromagnetic, emetic, energetic, exegetic, frenetic, genetic, Helvetic, hermetic, homiletic, kinetic, magnetic, metic, mimetic, parenthetic, pathetic, peripatetic, phonetic, photosynthetic, poetic, prophetic, prothetic, psychokinetic, splenetic, sympathetic, syncretic, syndetic, synthetic, telekinetic, theoretic, zetetic •apoplectic, catalectic, dialectic, eclectic, hectic •Celtic •authentic, crescentic •aseptic, dyspeptic, epileptic, nympholeptic, peptic, proleptic, sceptic (US skeptic), septic •domestic, majestic •cretic •analytic, anchoritic, anthracitic, arthritic, bauxitic, calcitic, catalytic, critic, cryptanalytic, Cushitic, dendritic, diacritic, dioritic, dolomitic, enclitic, eremitic, hermitic, lignitic, mephitic, paralytic, parasitic, psychoanalytic, pyritic, Sanskritic, saprophytic, Semitic, sybaritic, syenitic, syphilitic, troglodytic •apocalyptic, cryptic, diptych, elliptic, glyptic, styptic, triptych •aoristic, artistic, autistic, cystic, deistic, distich, egoistic, fistic, holistic, juristic, logistic, monistic, mystic, puristic, sadistic, Taoistic, theistic, truistic, veristic •fiddlestick •dipstick, lipstick •impolitic, politic •polyptych • hemistich • heretic •nightstick •abiotic, amniotic, antibiotic, autoerotic, chaotic, demotic, despotic, erotic, exotic, homoerotic, hypnotic, idiotic, macrobiotic, meiotic, narcotic, neurotic, osmotic, patriotic, psychotic, quixotic, robotic, sclerotic, semiotic, symbiotic, zygotic, zymotic •Coptic, optic, panoptic, synoptic •acrostic, agnostic, diagnostic, gnostic, prognostic •knobstick • chopstick • aeronautic •Baltic, basaltic, cobaltic •caustic • swordstick • photic • joystick •psychotherapeutic, therapeutic •acoustic • broomstick • cultic •fustic, rustic •drumstick • gearstick • lunatic

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