Literary Criticism

Authored by: Elaine Ho

The Routledge Companion to English Studies

Print publication date:  March  2014
Online publication date:  March  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415676182
eBook ISBN: 9781315852515
Adobe ISBN: 9781317918929


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The term “literary criticism” may be generally understood as the formal inquiry into works of imaginative literature, often, but not necessarily, accompanied by the practice of interpretation, scholarly argumentation and debate. In many UK, US and some English-language universities worldwide, the academic study of literature is considered as training in literary criticism, though how such training proceeds shows a great deal of open-ended variation. Whereas this training can be a preparation for non-academic writing about literature, literary criticism is usually distinguished from book reviews in newsprint, journalistic features on books and authors, and the general readers’ response to what they have read. The existence of this distinction is an integral part of the history of “literary criticism” in the academy and its professionalization in the twentieth century. It marks a self-conscious departure from earlier practices and continues to inscribe the tensions between professional and lay claimants to representing the subject of literature (see Chapter 1).

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