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:
Locates literary work in its own verbal structure.
Poem seen as an object.
Exhibits itself in Modern thinkers like Henry James.