Literary Critics, Then and Now

The modern literary critic characteristically inhabits a university. He studies printed books, and writes others of his own, passing on the fruits of his labours, as he hopes, to a wider audience of intelligent readers than he commands among his own pupils. If he is a popular reviewer, he may have a very large readership indeed. Such a figure, however familiar to us today, was more or less unknown before, say, 1900, and finds no counterpart whatever in the ancient world. Higher education did not then concern itself with literature for its own sake, but with philosophy and rhetoric. If there were any professional critics, they contributed nothing to the distinguished critical literature whose peaks are arranged in the present volume. That was largely a side-product of the work of poets, philosophers, and historians who saw that literature was a crucial part of a world they wished to describe, reflect, and even reform.

—D.A. Russell and Michael Winterbottom, Classical Literary Criticism

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2 comments on “Literary Critics, Then and Now

  1. Legendumst says:

    Hey, I think I own this book! Classical literary criticism is really rather fascinating, especially in how its understanding of what constitutes “good” literature differs from our own. Plato, in particular, in his “Republic” presents a surprisingly narrow view of what literature should be doing, and in “Ion” he basically concludes that all poets are good-for-nothing nutjobs.

  2. Stefanie says:

    Oh, this sounds like a fun book!

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