ROMANTIC LITERARY CRITICISM
Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often informed by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of its methods and goals. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
Whether or not literary criticism should be considered a separate field of inquiry from literary theory, or conversely from book reviewing, is a matter of some controversy. For example, the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary Theory and Criticism draws no distinction between literary theory and literary criticism, and almost always uses the terms together to describe the same concept. Some critics consider literary criticism a practical application of literary theory, because criticism always deals directly with particular literary works, while theory may be more general or abstract.
English literary criticism of the Romantic era is most closely associated with the writings of William Wordsworth in his Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1800) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in hisBiographia Literaria (1817). Modern critics disagree on whether the work of Wordsworth and Coleridge constituted a major break with the criticism of their predecessors or if it should more properly be characterized as a continuation of the aesthetic theories of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century German and English writers.
In 1800, in the Preface to Lyrical Ballads, Wordsworth issued his famous proclamation about the nature of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” With this statement, Wordsworth posited a very different view of poetry than was standard at the time, shifting the center of attention from the work as a reflection or imitation of reality to the artist, and the artist's relationship to the work. Poetry would henceforth be considered an expressive rather than a mimetic art. Although the analogy of art as a...