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Literary Criticism from Plato to the Present: An Introduction

ISBN: 978-1-4051-6034-6
310 pages
January 2011, Wiley-Blackwell
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Literary Criticism from Plato to the Present provides a concise and authoritative overview of the development of Western literary criticism and theory from the Classical period to the present day
  • An indispensable and intellectually stimulating introduction to the history of literary criticism and theory
  • Introduces the major movements, figures, and texts of literary criticism
  • Provides historical context and shows the interconnections between various theories
  • An ideal text for all students of literature and criticism


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Table of Contents



Part I Classical Literary Criticism and Rhetoric.

1 Classical Literary Criticism.

Introduction to the Classical Period.

Plato (428–ca. 347 BC).

Aristotle (384–322 BC).

2 The Traditions of Rhetoric.

Greek Rhetoric.

Roman Rhetoric.

The Subsequent History of Rhetoric: An Overview.

The Legacy of Rhetoric.

3 Greek and Latin Criticism During the Roman Empire.

Horace (65–8 BC).

Longinus (First Century AD).


Part II The Medieval Era.

4 The Early Middle Ages.

Historical Background.

Intellectual and Theological Currents.

5 The Later Middle Ages.

Historical Background.

Intellectual Currents of the Later Middle Ages.

The Traditions of Medieval Criticism.

Transitions: Medieval Humanism.

Part III The Early Modern Period to the Enlightenment.

6 The Early Modern Period.

Historical Background.

Intellectual Background.

Confronting the Classical Heritage.

Defending the Vernacular.

Poetics and the Defense of Poetry.

Poetic Form and Rhetoric.

7 Neoclassical Literary Criticism.

French Neoclassicism.

Neoclassicism in England.

8 The Enlightenment.

Historical and Intellectual Background.

Enlightenment Literary Criticism: Language, Taste, and Imagination.

9 The Aesthetics of Kant and Hegel.

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804).

Hegel (1770–1831).

Part IV Romanticism and the Later Nineteenth Century.

10 Romanticism.





11 Realism, Naturalism, Symbolism, and Aestheticism.

Historical Background: The Later Nineteenth Century.

Realism and Naturalism.

Symbolism and Aestheticism.

12 The Heterological Thinkers.

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860).

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900).

Henri Bergson (1859–1941).

Matthew Arnold (1822–1888).

Part V The Twentieth Century: A Brief Introduction.


13 From Liberal Humanism to Formalism.

The Background of Modernism.

The Poetics of Modernism: W. B. Yeats, Ezra Pound, and T. S. Eliot.


Russian Formalism.

The New Criticism.

14 Socially Conscious Criticism of the Earlier Twentieth Century.

F. R. Leavis.

Marxist and Left-Wing Criticism.

The Fundamental Principles of Marxism.

Marxist Literary Criticism: A Historical Overview.

Early Feminist Criticism: Simone de Beauvoir and Virginia Woolf.

15 Phenomenology, Existentialism, Structuralism.





16 The Era of Poststructuralism (I): Later Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Deconstruction.

Later Marxist Criticism.



17 The Era of Poststructuralism (II): Postmodernism, Modern Feminism, Gender Studies.

Jurgen Habermas (b. 1929).

Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007).

Jean-Fran¸cois Lyotard (1924–1998).

bell hooks (Gloria Jean Watkins; b. 1952).

Modern Feminism.

Gender Studies.

18 The Later Twentieth Century: New Historicism, Reader-Response Theory, Postcolonial Criticism, Cultural Studies.

The New Historicism.

Reader-Response and Reception Theory.

Postcolonial Criticism.

Cultural Studies.

Epilogue New Directions: Looking Back, Looking Forward.


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Author Information

M. A. R. Habib received his doctorate from the University of Oxford. He is the author of seven books, including the highly acclaimed A History of Literary Criticism: From Plato to the Present (2005) and Modern Literary Criticism and Theory (2008). A book of his poetry, Shades of Islam: Poems for a New Century, will appear in September 2010.
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"Habib aims to offer a concise, authoritative overview of literary criticism and theory in the West via an in-depth examination of its key movements, figures and texts." (Times Higher Education Supplement, 24 February 2011)

"Rafey Habib's book carves out a distinctive niche in this lately much-discussed but still strikingly eventful and rewarding history of thought."
Christopher Norris, Cardiff University

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