Literary Criticism

The four stages of literary criticism according to M. H. Abrams are as follows:

1. Mimetic Stage:

    Art + Universe.

    Locates literary work in the nature it copies.

    Poem seen as imitation.

    Exhibits itself in Classical (5th Century BC) thinkers like Plato and Aristotle.

2. Didactic/Pragmatic Stage:

    Art + Audience.

    Locates literary work in the audience it finds.

    Poem seen in the moral message it leaves the reader.

    Exhibits itself in Renaissance (16th/17th Century) thinkers like Sir Philip Sidney.

3. Expressive Stage:

    Art + Artist.

    Locates literary work in the author.

    Poem seen as an expression of the author's thoughts.

    Exhibits itself in Romantic (19th Century) thinkers like William Wordsworth.

4. Formal Stage:

    Art alone.

    Locates literary work in its own verbal structure.

    Poem seen as an object.

    Exhibits itself in Modern thinkers like Henry James.