Evolution and possibilities of literary criticism

Literary criticism is defined as the study and interpretation of literature. There are many schools of literary criticism, including medieval, Renaissance, 19th century, and new criticism. Literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory; however, literary critics have not always been theoretical.

Whether to delimit literary theory and criticism remains a matter of controversy. For example, the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Thought and Criticism uses both the terms literary theory and criticism to describe the same concept. Another school of thought is that while the theory is abstract or general, it deals specifically with a particular job and is more specific. The critique could be published in the form of essays or books which are often published in academic journals and popular newspapers.

Classical and medieval criticism is believed to be as old as literature itself, and Aristotle’s description of literary forms with specific commentary dates back to the 4th century BC. Plato’s criticism of poetry and Bharata Muni’s literary criticism of ancient Indian literature in his famous book Natya Sastra are some of the other examples of classical criticism.

It is interesting to note that most of the medieval criticism focused on religious texts, from Jewish Christian and Islamic literature. A strong application of literary criticism is evident in Arabic literature and Arabic poems of the 9th century; particularly by Al-Jahiz in his al-Bayan wa-‘l-tabyin and al-Hayawan and by Abdullah ibn al-Mu’tazz in his Kitab al-Badi.

During the Renaissance era, literature evolved to become the core of culture, so both the poet and the author were equally involved in the preservation of literary traditions. Some of the first evidence of literary criticism dates back to 1498 with Giorgio Valla’s Latin translation of Aristotle’s Poetics.

The early 19th century heralded the British Romantic movement, which unleashed new aesthetic ideas in literary study that suggested that works of literature do not always have to be beautiful, perfect, or romantic, and can cover any subject that might interest readers. German Romanticism, which evolved later, also focused on other attributes such as wit or humor in literary works. The late 19th century saw the rise of many authors who were held in high esteem for their criticism rather than for their own literary creations.

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