Literary Critic History


Philip Sidney

1554 - 1586
  • Courtesan, according to the theories of Baldassar Castiglione (translated in English by Thomas Hoby)
  • Large knowledge of Classical and Italian Literature
  • Most famous work is Astropher and Stella, collection of sonnet in the style of Petrarca.
  • Started the theme of Arcadia

The Defense of Poesy - Written

  • Prose, refined and elegant style

FG: Horsemanship lesson metaphore
MG: Defense of Poetry
BG: XVI century cultural and religious struggles, Stephen Gosson's The School of Abuse

The Defense of Poesy - Published


Alexander Pope

1688 - 1744
  • Born in a Catholic family
  • Home instruction, learned Latin and Greek on his own
  • Worked for The Spectator, gaining fame as poet
  • The Rape of the Lock: 1712
  • Offered the translation of the Ilyad

Samuel Johnson

1709 - 1784
  • Born in wellbeing tory family
  • Attended Oxford one year, before his family bankrupted
  • Married a rich widow, opened a school with her
  • Moved to London after the school failed
  • Started his work as literary critic for The Gentlemen's Magazine
  • Worked on the Dictionary of English Language between 1746 and 1755
  • Renowned critic and one of the most eminent literate of English History

Essay on Criticism

  • Heroic Couplets

FG: Recognition of the existence of bad poets and bad critics
MG: Comparison between good and bad critics
BG: Arcadism, Augustan Age, Newspaper, John Dennis' criticism

Preface to Shakespeare

  • Essay, introduction to Johnson's edition of Shakespeare's plays

FG: What makes a classic a classic?
MG: Why Shakespeare is a classic, praises and flaws.
BG: Empirical criticism, changing mentality, Voltaire's definition of Shakespeare's plays as "aborts that does not respect Aristotle's Poetic"

William Hazlitt

1778 - 1830
  • Born in a radical family, father strong supporter of American Revolution
  • Supporter of French Revolution, wrote a praising biography of Napoleon
  • Started his career as a painter, encouraged in this by Wordsworth and Coleridge
  • In 1812 started his career of essayist and critic for The Morning Chronicle and The Edinburgh Review

Edgar Allan Poe

1809 - 1849
  • Born from two actors, adopted by the Allans when orphan
  • Attended University of Virginia, but was expelled for financial problems
  • Attended an Academy, but was expelled for gambling
  • Started a career as poet and literary critic,

On Fashion

  • Essay, rough and instinctive prose

FG: What is Fashion?
MG: Fashion is not a garancy for virtue, Art is not democratic
BG: Revolution and its ideals, Romanticism, spreading industrialization making easier to follow fashion, dresscode no longer a social indicator of class

Walter Pater

1839 - 1894
  • Studied and became professor at Oxford
  • Career as a professor and essayist.
  • Friend of unconventional victorians, Wilde, Ruskin.
  • Published the History of Renaissance, in 1873, explaining how Italian Renaissance used to mix and unite Christianity and Paganism
  • Fired because of his revolutionary ideals, moved to London with sister Clara
  • Readmitted to Oxford

  • More concerned in FORMAL aspect of art, and on aestheticism

Philosophy of Composition

  • Essay, prose

FG: Charles Dickens' note about how Godwin wrote a book starting from the end.
MG: Explanation of the correct composition method of a good poem, following the example of the composition of The Raven
BG: Romanticism ideals, poets (Wordsworth, American Transcendentalists) boasting to compose poetry out of pure and sole inspiration from Nature.

Virginia Woolf

1882 - 1941
  • Daughter of sir Leslie Stephen, author of the National Biography
  • Avid reader since childhood, she had free access to the library of her father (unabridged!)
  • When Leslie died, she moved with sister Vanessa and brother Adrian in Bloomsbury
  • Founded the Bloomsbury Group
  • 1912: married Leonard Woolf
  • 1917: Moved to Richmonf with Leonard, they bought a printing press and founded the Hogarth Press
  • Wide career as a printer, essayist, novelist and critic, she earned a living through her writing
  • Nervous breakdowns, badly treated.
  • In 1940, her brother Adrian adviced she and Leonard that they were probably on nazi prescription lists. They tried to kill themselves with gasoline, but didn't succeed because of rationing.
  • Moved back to Sussex, she drowned herself in the Ouse in 1941.

On Style, Written

  • Prose, very refined style

FG: The traditional division of purposes and beauty between prose and poetry is a nonsense.
MG: What makes a good literary work.
BG: Revival of antiquity in the second half of XIX century, discussion of Victorian ideals.

On Style, Published


A Voyage Out


First Virginia Woolf's novel

Night and Day


Critic of biogarphy

Jacob's Room


Mrs Dalloway


To The Lighthouse




A Room of One's Own

  • Long essay, divided in six chapters.

FG: Conference about Women in Fiction.
MG: Why there are not so many women in literature.
BG: Modern Era, new gender roles and women rights, and reactions of literates (virility values, dictatorships)

Woody Allen

1935 - Present
  • American writer, playwriter, comedian, actor, director
  • Rejected from private and public New York Colleges, made his career in television and cinema.
  • Master of pastiche and parody, is perfectly able to mimick styles with irony

John Sutherland

1939 - Present
  • Worked as an academists and newspaper writer
  • Teaches Modern English Literature at University College, London.
  • Most famous work: the Longman Companion to Victorian Novel

Angela Carter

1940 - 1992
  • Big name in the field of women studies
  • Part of post-war criticism
  • Questioned gender roles, adding language of psychology and the theories of Freud
  • Free, dissacrating and earthly voice

Getting Even

  • Divided in 17 small essays, parodic prose, mimicking other authors and critics. Published first in The New Yorker.

FG: Metterling's laundry list
MG: Critic of criticism, and of editory, only wanting to make money publishing EVERYTHING irrelevant.
BG: Capitalist America, economic boom

Poets in a Landscape

  • Short essay, very harsh and frank tone and voice.

FG: Poets went to the Lake District only because they were on drugs.
MG: Figure of Dorothy Wordsworth as an example of female submissive role.
BG: Women Studies, '68 movement, feminism, post-war criticism.

Nothing Sacred

  • Collection of essays of Angela Carter

Is Heathcliff a Murderer?


Can Jane Eyre Be Happy?

  • Part of omonymous essay collection.

FG: Margaret Smith's critical edition and highlighting of the influence acting on Charlotte Bronte.
MG: The true inspiration for Mr Rochester was actually Bluebird. Contradictions and immoralities.
BG: Modern criticism, analyzing idiosyncrasies and unclear particulars, new perspectives on the past.