The Outline of Liberal Humanism
The definition of Humanism: It’s a form of philosophy concentrated on the perfection of a worldly life, rather that on the preparation for an eternal and spiritual life. The beginning of humanism- the benefits of humanism.
How literature moved from personal activities to academic study- the limitation of education in England before 1826.
The ten characteristics of literature in humanism theory.
Literary theories that came and support liberal humanism.
Liberal humanism in Practice.
The theories that came after the liberal humanism in 1960’s – 1990’s aiming against universality.
Some recurrent ideas in critical theory.
The Ten Characteristics of literature in humanism theory:
Timeless: Valid for all ages universally.
Logical: The meaning within the text itself does not contain any background of politics, history, and autobiography.
Human nature: Human nature is unchanging everywhere anytime.
Isolate the text: Read the text itself and don’t depend on sources or backgrounds.
Individuality: The text should speak to unique human without influences through the environment “ social, education, politics” bear in mind this unique self cannot change and develop.
Literature should always be disinterested, and it should never have an overt agenda of trying to change someone.
Form and content are combined together.
Sincerity: Literature should be true to experience and human condition.
Value of literature: It shows readers the truth about nature and nature of society and shows conflict, character and events rather than lecturing and explaining which is more interesting.
Critics: They interpret the text so that readers can understand and get more out of the text
Peter Barry: Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary Theory and Cultural Criticism
Literary theorizing from Aristotle to Leavis – some key moments
Aristotle’s Poetics: earliest work of theory: (21)
- Defines tragedy
- Argues that lit is about character
- Argues that action reveals character
- Explains plot
- Reader-oriented approach noticed in his term catharsis
Sidney’s ‘Apology of Poetry’ in 1580: first English critical theory: (22)
- Refers to Ovid: mission of lit is to teach by delighting
- Refers to Horace: a poem is a speaking picture aimed to teach and delight
- Pleasing reader is primary aim of literature, primary to moral element
Johnson’s Lives of the Poets & Prefaces to Shakespeare: 18th century practical criticism: (22)
- Extends practical criticism beyond study of Bible and religious texts
- Wordsworth’s Preface to the Lyrical Ballads: with Coleridge: ordinary poetic diction (23)
- Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria: breaks with Wordsworth: aesthetic value of poetic language is its ‘fictive’ quality (23)
- Shelley’s A Defence of Poetry (1821) anticipates Russian ‘defamiliarization’ (poetry ‘strips the veil of familiarity) & Eliot’s ‘impersonality’ (separates author from writer) (24)
- Keats’s ‘negative capability’ anticipates Freudian notion of the unconscious (25)
- Arnold: literature should be ‘disinterested’ or politically detached & lit of past should be used as Touchstones to measure contemporary lit (inspired close reading) (26)
20th Cent: Leavis, Eliot, Empson, Richards
- Eliot’s ideas: (27)
- Dissociation of sensibility: 17th cent idea of dissociating through from feeling
- Impersonality as a way of moving away from Romantic idea of poetry as pouring out of emotions, towards idea that best poetry is one that revives poet’s predecessors,
- Objective correlative: express emotion indirectly through a vehicle
- Leavis rejects politicizing lit & looked for system of analyzing lit (29)
- Empson’s close reading of ambiguities in lit; verbal difficulties as language is a slippery medium (setting the stage for post-structuralism) (29)
- Richards’ decontextualization dominates Britain from 1930s to 1970s as practical criticism, & as New Criticism in America (30)
Liberal humanism in practice
Liberal humanist approach to Poe’s ‘The Oval Portrait’: artist feeding on energies of sitter = debased art that is only aesthetic. Moralist approach focuses on content over structure (32)
The transition to theory (32)
1960s revival of Marxist & psychoanalytic, linguistic & feminist attack liberal humanism
1970 structuralism & post-structuralism from France lead to crisis in English by early 1980s
1980s return to history in new historicism (US) & cultural materialism (Britain)
1990s post-colonialism rejects universality of people, postmodernism stresses fragmented experience, feminism dissolves into gender studies, gay & lesbian studies, black feminism