[PDF Notes] Short notes on the trends in modem criticism

Criticism is becoming more and more a kind of laboratory for the study of the ‘intellectual activity which gives birth to the works themselves’. Not that the modern critics are more brilliant or more sensitive to literature than their predecessors but certainly their approach to literature and to the problems it deals with is radically different from and more varied than theirs.

The major influences in this field have been those of Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud. A central doctrine of the New Critics asserted that content and form are inseparable-that the content of a poem could be located only in the specific dynamics of the form.

In general, they seem to believe that ‘criticism can or should become an impersonal technique approaching the precision of science’. The Psychological School aspires to render criticism more ‘scientific’ by an increased application of psychological knowledge to its problems.

It is argued that the Freudian approach of criticism makes possible a deeper and better understanding of many a work of literature. However, Freud has said that psychoanalysis ‘neither can do nothing towards elucidating the nature of the artistic gift, nor can it explain the means by which the artist works -artistic technique.’

Almost as significant as Freudian or psycho-analytical school of criticism is the social or sociological criticism which took its inspiration from Marxism. It establishes relation of literature to a given social situation, to an economic, social and political system. The sociological critics are not only students of literature and society but prophets of the future, monitors, propaganda and they have difficulty in keeping these two functions separate.

Critics like Sir Herbert Read have tried to evolve a new type of criticism which is known as Ontogenetic Criticism. It seeks a synthesis between the psychological criticism and the sociological criticism.

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