Friday, December 28, 2012

Criticism Lectures: 1st Lecture - Third Year

                                                    3RD year
The First Lecture                       Mis. Marwa Medhat
Criticism                                     Wed. 24/9/2008

This year we study Criticism in detail in chronological order starting from Plato to right before the Victorian Age. We will focus on certain important critics. For every one, we will take not only his background but also ideas about him and extracts from their works. These critics are Plato, Aristotle, Sidney, Pope, Coleridge and Wordsworth.

We are responsible for what is said in the lecture only and certain sections.

The Definition of Criticism
  • It is "the way of judging on a literary work to sec if it is good or bad,"
  • It is "evaluation and analysis of a work of literature."
  • It deals with "the form that the writer writes in or classification." 
  • It includes "different points of view about literature."
  • It is decided according to criteria.
  • The critique comments on the form (like figures of speech) and content (what is the theme and message).
  • A full definition might be "a literary criticism is the systematic classification, justification, and definition putting criteria for evaluation,"
Who decides the genre of a work is the critique according to certain criteria or rules.
Justification means "explaining and give reasons or excuse when something is accused." Why there is attack on literature and the different defenses of it is one of the themes in this course. One of the certain concerns is defending poetry.

The aims of criticism are: 1-to define  2- to create a system of classification   3- to put criteria for evaluation.
Also, it concerns with whether the content is more important than the form or vice versa.

This rules have effects over several periods .In the beginning, it was not a big discipline like in this age. We will study criticism in the Western culture, more specifically in English literature. The history of literary criticism starts with Greek and Roman civilization which is the classic in this culture. It is a great starting point for studying humanities, o Humanities are "the fields of study that are not scientific and concerns with intangible objects like history, archaeology and sociology."


Plato was an All-Rounder Man with deep knowledge in many fields including philosophy, literature and oratory. 

Oratory was important because most of knowledge was communicated from one person to another orally. Writing was very few before the press, The idea literacy of literacy was very elite and exclusive. The percentage of the literate people was less than one percent of any society. Hence, oratory was important commodity. Likewise, poetry was important because it is easier to memorize poetry. In this age, philosophers' work was to lead rulers as teachers of them.

Socrates was one of the most important philosophers in the Western World. Ironically, he never wrote a word, but his students memorized his words.

Plato's main concern was philosophy. When he wrote or talked about literature, he talks about it in relation to philosophy. Aristotle was the first one to write a whole book on literature n his work Poetics. Plato's Republic is not a work on literature but it puts the foundations of later study. It was originally written in Old Greek, so there are different translations of it.

Plato concerns with many ideas. The questions he concerns with in his work are: 
  1. The utopia or the ideal world. 
  2. The idea of the origin of the world.
  3. How we know thing, understand objects, learn right and wrong and sense.
  4. The concept of beauty, justice and god. The book is written in a time before Christianity. Most of Greeks had many gods. When Plato refers to God or gods, he means Zeus, Hera, Poseidon....etc.
Plato's work influences different writers. The majority of his ideas about literary is in The Republic. This work is divided into several books and remains his best known work on philosophy. Mainly, it is written in the form of dialogue (conversation form) which is an extending conversation between two people. He chose this form because it is more suitable to show a debate or an argument. In it, one person tries to converse with another. It is also more interesting and a good means of convincing. It includes different points of view.

They are imaginary conversations, but Plato gives the characters in his dialogues the names of real people like Socrates and his two brothers. Of course, it is not the words of Socrates, but he did this to give his work credibility. By adopting the ideas of Socrates as a mouthpiece, he gives his work authority and expresses the position of the author.  However, this form makes it b difficult to pinpoint what he thinks of. This is why he is still controversial, and writers go back to his works.

In The Republic, Plato deals with two ideas; imitation and idealism vs. reality .From the beginning. Plato represents a trend in philosophy known as idealism while Aristotle represents in general a different direction in philosophy and literature which is realism. Mainly, Plato was a great idealist. We are going to look for these ideas in the text Likewise, we concerns with why he banishes poets from his Republic and his ideas of dictated literature.

Plato's most important ideas and his summary of imitation is in The Republic. It summarize his whole philosophy.

The selections we will study are:
  • BOOK II ; p.3 'Poetry shall present god as he is' ; p. 18 'Shall imitation be allowed in the city? ; p.23 The influence of beauty and virtue.'
  • Book X; p.24 ‘Imitation is dangerous.' ; p.29 'The poet's knowledge.' ; p.39 'The poet must he banished.'