Home >> Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 8 >> County to Crome >> Criticism

Criticism

art, study, literature, judgment, critical, france and history

CRITICISM, the expression of a judgment concerning any subject; specifically the lating of opinions based upon certain principles, in matters of art, literature, philosophy, etc. Certain canons apply in a general way to all criticism, but each branch has its own particular methods and standards. In its narrow sense, the art of criticism is confined to the study of the beauties or defects of some particular work; in its broadest aspect it includes the establish ment as well as the application of principles, for the determination of which it must be largely indebted to philosophy. Aristotle was the first writer to develop a philosophy of criticism, ap plying it to the study of rhetoric and poetry. In connection with the truth that poetry deals more with and history with °par ticulars," he assigns a higher rank to the former and brings out a fundamental distinction point ing to the crucial test for any high performance in art or literature. A work cannot permanently contribute inspiration and enjoyment, without possessing those elements which arise from the essentially and universally human, as contrasted with individual or temporary, characteristics. The Augustan Age produced one critic that the world of letters could ill spare. To Horace the art of criticism owes much of permanent value and perennial charm. In the 3d century ap peared Longinus, whose refreshing enthusiasm for the beauty of letters places him above the mechanical student of forms and rules. Cicero and Quintilian have recorded observations on style that have been of permanent service. The traditions of culture, forgotten or dormant dur ing the Middle Ages, and revived by the leaders of the Italian renaissance and the humanists, for a long time produced little that was broad, fundamental or independent in criticism. In France, Boileau, Voltaire, Corneille, Diderot and others led the way; and Germany is in debted to Lessing for a remarkable impulse given to this province of intellectual effort. Goethe, Kant, Schiller and Schlegel and his brother continued the work. The critical method was effectively applied to history, phi lology and science. Without, however, dwell ing upon the array of profound and brilliant scholarship displayed in these departments of criticism, but confining the outlook to the field of literature and art, there may be noted among French writers, Taine, Sainte-Beuve and more recently Brunetiere; in England,— Pope, Sidney, Dryden, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Macaulay, Ruskin, Carlyle, Pater, Matthew Arnold and Saintsbury; and in America,— Emerson, Ripley, Child, Tick nor, Longfellow, Lowell, Curtis and Stedman.

Modern conditions have opened wider paths to criticism. The Greek and Roman critics had only their own work to study. To-day we have the dramas, the epics, the novels of many nations and ages. The study of comparative literature, now possible, opens up opportunities for tracing those influences which affected the literatures of all Europe, and affords the student the chance of building up from varying yet in terrelated sources a standard of criticism. The i differences due to national character and ndi- vidual genius will teach him the limitations of hard and fast formal rules, while his faith in the fundamental canons of great art can only be made firmer by such comparative study.

Criticism will be found of use as a method of judgment for the reader, rather than an in spiring guide to the past. It is thus a rational study of fitting construction and adequate ex pression. As the art of judgment concerning the fairest flowering of the human spirit, criti cism has one of the highest judicial functions; as the art of interpretation, admitting individual intuition and inspiring teaching, it has a crea tive function of wide and lofty worth.

Arnold, 'Essays in Criti cism' ; Butcher, 'The Poetics of Aristotle' (London 1898) ; Boileau, (L'art poetique' (1674) Coleridge,