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Literary Criticism

A New History

Gary Day

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

A THE Book of the Week

Did you know that Aristotle thought the best tragedies were those that ended happily? Or that the first mention of the motor car in literature may have been in 1791 in Boswell's Life of Johnson? Or that it was not unknown in the nineteenth century for book reviews to be 30,000 words long? These are just a few of the fascinating facts to be found in this absorbing history of literary criticism. From the Ancient Greek period to the present day, you learn about critics' lives, the times in which they lived and how the same problems of interpretation and valuation persist through the ages.


1. Polemical Introduction
2. Greek and Roman Criticism
3. Medieval Criticism
4. Renaissance Criticism
5. Restoration and Enlightenment Criticism
6. Romantic and Victorian Criticism
7. Twentieth and Twenty First Century Criticism

About the Author

Gary Day is Principal Lecturer in English at De Montfort University. His previous publications include Re-Reading Leavis: Culture and Literary Criticism (1996) and Class (2001). He has contributed to The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism and for a number of years has had a satirical column in the Times Higher Education.


Literary Criticism is remarkably extensive in terms of its range... [It] makes the convincing case that the co-existing tendencies of rhetoric and grammar serve to structure the whole field of literary criticism
- Literature and History
Day is exuberantly readable; his synthetic competence seems informed by the skills of a good teacher... He is impatient with designer theory, and his lightness of touch is heroic in the presence of hugely intractable and diverse material from the past. With these qualities he has constructed a book that will appeal to students and scholars alike, one that will make much visible that was previously shrouded in the occult art of telling the truth about the critical past – as far as such truth can be told.
- Philip Smallwood, Times Higher Education
This heavyweight study reminds us that theories of literature have been around for as long as literature itself – from the Greco-Roman classics onwards.Anyone with a serious interest in literary criticism will find this a stimulating antidote to contemporary silliness.
- Mantex
[Literary Criticism] is an insightful, absorbing and provocative account of the development of theories in the West in the last twenty-four centuries... This book is written in an engaging style and it is enlivened by interesting tidbits about critics and their times. It provides a comprehensive bibliography of both primary and secondary sources chapter-wise... of immense use to students who want to pursue their inquiry further.
- East West Journal of Humanities