After the New Criticism by Frank Lentricchia

By Frank Lentricchia

This paintings is the 1st background and review of latest American severe concept inside of its eu philosophical contexts. within the first half, Frank Lentricchia analyzes the influence on our serious considered Frye, Stevens, Kermode, Sartre, Poulet, Heidegger, Sussure, Barthes, Lévi-Strauss, Derrida, and Foucault, between different, much less imperative figures. In a moment half, Lentricchia turns to 4 exemplary theorists at the American scene—Murray Krieger, E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Paul de guy, and Harold Bloom—and an research in their careers in the lineage tested partially one.

Lentricchia's serious goal is in facts in his sustained assault at the kind of hidden formalist premises inherited from the recent severe fathers. Even within the identify of old awareness, he contends, modern theorists have usually minimize literature off from social and temporal tactics. by means of so doing he believes that they have got disadvantaged literature of its suitable values and grew to become the educating of either literature and idea right into a rarefied task. All alongside the way in which, with the aid of such assorted thinkers as Saussure, Barthes, Foucault, Derrida, and Bloom, Lentricchia exhibits a method through which destiny serious theorists could withstand the mandarin attitudes in their fathers.

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Even in the penultimate phase of symbolic structure, the archetypal, where we enter the literary universe proper-poems imitate other poems-we yet must assume, Frye points out, the unity of nature and its phasal structure. It is not until the final "anagogic phase" is reached that the shackles of circumstance and all constraints are thrown off, as time and nature are consumed in an apocalyptic conflagration which reminds us (if ever we needed reminding) of Frye's Blakean commitments. The self, which was" circumstanced"- I shall insist, with the help of Robert Frost, on the image buried in the adjective-the self which was "contained" by time and the natural order, that self suddenly achieves an unconditional freedom: not freedom "from" but freedom "pure," a freedom no longer qualified by the presence of an exterior and potentially coercive order.

And yet for all the familiar romantic, dualizing habits of mind (the source of his elitism) that we can find in Frye, at the base of the system we can locate a powerful monistic urge, as Meyer Abrams noted in a review of the Anatomy,77 a monism which emanates from Frye's center of all centers: human desire. Anterior to all discourse, desire is the motivation of our impulses to make form, not just in literary ways, but in all the ways that we attempt to humanize our inhuman environment. 78 The primal human act in Frye's system, and a model for all human acts, is an "informative," creative act which transforms a world that is merely objective, set over against us, in which we "feel lonely and frightened and unwanted," into a home.

41 More specifically, his conception of generic history, though it highlights the constraints imposed upon, say, Ezra Pound (who would, by attempting the long poem, necessarily be imposed upon by Homer, Virgil, Milton, and other athletes of epic intention), ignores the more immediate and local constraints (imagism, economics) pressuring Pound's writing. Frye's system predisposes the critic not to perceive the freshness of transformation; it has difficulty accounting for individuality in expression, for ruptures and discontinuities; and it refuses without qualification to recognize the constraining and determining effect of nonlHemry forces upon the literary universe.

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