• Understanding New Criticism

    Understanding New Criticism


    There have been various movements in the field of literature that have always contributed something or the other in this world. Each movement brought with it a new idea that flourished for centuries to go and even later kept on inspiring the new writers.

    Earlier, literature flourished in England and other European countries but soon after colonization this field was taken up wherever the colonizers went. One such country was America, that after the process of colonization and its redemption, brought up new talents into the literary world. Various research paper writings have been formulated on the history of America and its development into one of the most powerful nations today.

    Developments in the literary world have also been put to analysis as to how they benefited from the English Literature. Therefore, it becomes important for Literature students to understand the American literature and its development. In this process the students may need assistance and sometimes even assignment help for the same.

    The term New Criticism was made known to the world through the work of John Crowe Ransom known as New Criticism. John came up with this work in 1941 and thereafter the term came to be applied to a theory and practice that remained prominent in the American literary criticism till the late 1960s.

    The further elements and parts to this movement were added from the critical essays of T. S. Eliot, from I. A. Richard’s Principles of Literary Criticism and Practical Criticism. It offered an absolutely different perspective to the field of literary criticism saying that the proper concern of literary criticism is not with the external circumstances or effects of historical position of a work but with the detailed consideration of the work itself as an independent entity.

    Thus, it opposed the prevailing interest of the scholars and critics in the literary histories, in the social context of literature or in the biographies of authors. This made the world see a different perspective of literary criticism and thus was known as New Criticism.

    The prominent critics in this field were Cleanth Brooks who wrote Understanding Poetry and Robert Penn Warren who wrote Understanding Fiction. Both their works made this New Criticism a predominant mode of teaching literature in the American colleges, for the next few decades.

    The English critic, F. R. Leavis shared some of the concepts of the new Critics and their analytic focus on words of the page, as he called it, while diverting his attention from the other aspects of a text like its sources, biography of the writer as well as its background towards only the in-depth analysis of a literary text.

    He differed from his American counterparts in the fact that he insisted upon great literary works being concrete and life-affirming enactment of cultural and moral values.

    He also stressed on the essential role of Great Tradition of English Literature in advancing forces of modern life, in education.

    As per Leavis’ observation, the New Critics shared the following concepts, which must be remembered by students for effective assignment help on the topic:

    1. Eliot was of the opinion that a poem should be treated only as a poetry and nothing else. It should be regarded as a self-sufficient and independent verbal object. Even Ransom said that the first law of criticism, is that it shall be objective and, in that way, shall the nature of the object and shall recognize that the work exists for its own sake and as an independent entity.


    These New Critics warn the reader against the critical practices which divert the attention from poem itself. While analyzing a participant piece of work, they deliberately abstain from referring to the biography and prose experiences of the author. They minimize recourse to any such subject that diverts attention from the piece of work. Thus, sometimes this New Criticism is also known as Formalism.


    1. There was a verbal approach to the principles of New Criticism. This meant that literature was considered to be a certain special form of language whose attributes are defined by the systematic opposition to the language of practical discourse or science for that matter.


    The sole purpose here is to analyze the meanings and interactions of words, symbols and figures of speech. The emphasis is laid on organic unity, the overall structure along with its verbal meanings, separation of which is the heresy of paraphrase as warned by Cleanth Brooks.

    1. Close reading or explication is the distinctive procedure of a New Critic. This implies an in-depth analysis of a literary text keeping in mind its ambiguities and interrelationships between the verbal and the figurative components of the work.
    2. Although the distinction between literary genres has been acknowledged but it does not play an essential role in the New Criticism. Whether narrative, lyric, dramatic, the essential components of all these literary works are words, symbols, images rather than thought, character, and plot. These elements are said to be woven around a central theme which is significant to the work.

    The form of work is said to be a structure of meanings, whether or not it has characters and plot. This structure evolves into an integral and freestanding unit mainly because of the lay and counterpart of symbolic action and thematic imagery.

    Murray Krieger defined contextualism as the claim that the poem is a tight and closed context, that prevents us from escaping into the world of reference and action beyond and requires us to judge the efficacy of the work as an aesthetic object.

    According to various research paper writings, by the 1960s, the movement lost its revolutionary thrust when it gave way to the various new theories of criticism. Nonetheless the movement has left an enduring and a deep mark in the field of criticism and even in the teaching of literature as it laid emphasis on the individual work as well as on the subtlety and variety of devices that made the analysis of a literary work possible.

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