The Critic in the Modern World: Public Criticism from Samuel Johnson to James Wood.pdf

The Critic in the Modern World: Public Criticism from Samuel Johnson to James Wood.pdf


The Critic in the Modern World is an exceptionally intelligent and well-written study, showing how some of the greatest English-language critics have engaged with literature and the world. Like the critics he writes about, Ley is addressing not the specialist but the generally educated reader, and anyone who cares about the tradition of criticism will find him a rewarding and enlightening guide. -- Adam Kirsch

James Ley is the Editor of the Sydney Review of Books. His work as a literary critic has appeared in numerous publications, including The Age, Australian Book Review, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian and the Times Literary Supplement.

Introduction 1. A Degree of Insanity: Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) 2. Fire from the Flint: William Hazlitt (1778-1830) 3. A Thyestean Banquet of Clap-Trap: Matthew Arnold (1822-1888) 4. The Principles of Modern Heresy: T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) 5. 'I do like the West and wish it would stop declining': Lionel Trilling (1905-1975) 6. The Secular Wood: James Wood (1965- ) Postscript Bibliography Index

The Critic in the Modern World explores the work of six influential literary critics-Samuel Johnson, William Hazlitt, Matthew Arnold, T.S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling and James Wood-each of whom occupies a distinct historical moment. It considers how these representative critics have constructed their public personae, the kinds of arguments they have used, and their core principles and philosophies. Spanning three hundred years of cultural history, The Critic in the Modern World considers the various ways in which literary critics have positioned themselves in relation to the modern tradition of descriptive criticism. In providing a lucid account of each critic's central principles and philosophies, it considers the role of the literary critic as a public figure, interpreting him as someone who is compelled to address the wider issues of individualism and the social implications of the democratising, secularising, liberalising forces of modernity.


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