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Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism

Literary Criticism is the discussion of literature,
including description, analysis, interpretation, and
evaluation of literary works. Like literature, criticism is
hard to define. One of the critic's tasks is to challenge
definitions of literature and criticism that seem too
general, too narrow, or unworkable for any other
reason. Whatever it is, literary criticism deals with
different dimensions of literature as collection of
texts through which authors evoke more or less
fictitious worlds for the imagination of readers.
We can look at any work of literature by paying special
attention to one of several aspects; its language and structure; its intended purpose; the information and worldview it conveys; or its effect on an audience
Most good critics steer clear of exclusive interest in a
single element. In studying a text's formal
characteristics, for example, critics usually recognize
the variability of performances of dramatic works and
the variability of readers' mental interpretations of
texts. In studying an author's purpose, critics
acknowledge that forces beyond a writer's conscious.
intentions can affect what the writer actually
communicates. In studying what a literary work is
about, critics often explore the complex relationship
between truth and fiction in various types of
storytelling. In studying literature's impact on its
audience, critics have been increasingly aware of how cultural   expectations shape experience.

Because works of literature can be studied long after their first publication, awareness of historical and theoretical context contributes to our understanding,
appreciation, and enjoyment of them. Historical
research relates a work to the life and times of its
author. Attention to the nature, functions, and
categories of literature provides a theoretical
framework joining a past text to the experience of
present readers. The tradition of literary criticism
surveyed here combines observations by creative
writers, philosophers, and, more recently, trained
specialists in literary, historical, and cultural studies.


How To Criticize a poem ?

        To criticize a poem, one has to follow a number of steps. These are, of course preliminary
steps: but they are quite important to follow at the beginning.

a.            An explanation of the general idea to be
found in the poem, showing if this theme is a
suitable subject for poetry and why it is so.

        If other poems  dealing with that same
theme are found, they should be named and compared with the poem given.

    b. The form (kind of poetry, of poem, of stanza
        and the measures) used as a framework for
        this theme, showing if it suits the theme.

b.           The language and figurative images used.

Example (a):
The world is too much with us: late and soon.
 ما أكثر ما تستغرقنا الدنيا ‘ آجلا وعاجلا ‘
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
 نكسب وننفق ‘ فنهدر قواما‘
Little we see in Nature that is ours.
 نكاد لا نبصر شيئا في الطبيعة التي حدثت لنا
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
لقد اضعفنا قلوبنا وقدمناها عطية خسيسة


This sea that bears her bosom to the moon,
  ربة البحر هذه التي تكشف صدرها المقمر ‘
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
  الرياح التي تشاء أن تعوي في كل حين
And are up-gather'd new like sleeping flowers;
  والتي تجمعت كأنها كالزهور النائمة
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
  لهذه ولكل شيء نحن نغمة ناشزة
It moves us not. ــــGreat God! I'd rather be
  إنها لا تهز مشاعرنا ـــ يا الهي ! افضل ان اكون
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
 وثنيا رضع ديناً بالياً –(زائفا)
So might I' standing on this pleasant lea,
  فكذلك ‘ وانا واقف علي هذا المرج البديع ‘
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
   فقد تأتيني ومضات تقلل من وحشتي ‘


Have sight of Proteus rising the sea;
  قد أري ’بروتيوس‘ وهو يصعد من البحر
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
 أو أسمع ’تريتون‘ الهرم ينفخ بوقة المتوج بالزهور

(William Wordsworth, 1770 – 1850)

a)            The theme of this poem is very clearly
expressed in the opening words "the world is
too much with us". The poet W. Wordsworth
means that we are never alone with nature
and that we are too occupied with our
******  needs to enjoy what is beautiful and great in the world, we are "out of tune" with

     This is what is expressed in the first eight
lines; the rest – the remaining six lines -


expresses a note of rebellion. The poet
prefers to be a pagan to enjoy the ecstacy
that runs through life by means of pagan

   This theme is better suited to verse as
it expresses the inner revolt of the
community against the encroaching of
modern conditions on the old free life of the
spirit.  Wordsworth has successfully
reproduced that spirit of revolt in his poem.
The subject has been 'dealt with by other
poets; Arnold's poem "Dover Beach. " is an


b)           The poet has expressed his idea in a poem of
14 lines. He has expressed the idea in the
first eight lines, and reacted against this
 idea in the following six lines.

        This leads us to classify the poem
among the sonnets, and precisely among the
Petrarchan Sonnets. Generally, the Sonnet is
a stanza of fourteen line, usually in iambic
pentameter. It forms a complete poem by

        In spite of mere fourteen lines,
Wordsworth has succeeded in expressing his
philosophy quite vividly. He could not, in
such limited space expatiate on his


philosophy at length, but he succeeded in
covering his meaning by swift images and
vivid expressions.

       Here, he uses the form skillfully, mixing
iambics with trochees in lines 2 and 3, thus
giving a sort of natural conversation; it
makes us feel that the poet is sincere.

   The Iambicبحر الأيامب او بحر العميق  (-7) is the
foot تفعيلة شعر  consisting of one unaccented
(or short) syllable مقطع غير مشدد النطق (قصير)
followed by an accented (or long) one مقطع
مقطع مشدد النطق (طويل) : as inv'entor aw'ay. The Trochee بحر التروكيـه او الترويشـه (-7) is the foot
consisting of one accented (or long) syllable

followed by an unaccented (or short) one: as
in f'ather.

       The poet succeeds in making the
rhythm الايقاع  subtle and varied by frequently
changing the position of the caesura وقف عند
منتصف بيت الشعر , giving a feeling of indignation
when needed (line 4).

c)            There is a kind of rhetoric بلاغة
(extravagance or artificiality of language) in
the reference of the Poet to اشارة الشاعر الي آلهة البحر Proteus (a mythological Greek sea god
whose wisdom and oracles are of great
value) and Triton ( a lesser sea god). This
reference is not out of place ليس في غير موضعه


with the manifest simplicity of the poem. The
Personification of the sea تشخيص البحر (وكأنه انسان او امرأه) "baring her bosom to the moon"
and the simile "like sleeping flowers" (talking
about the winds) give power to the poem. As
 to the vocabulary, it is quite simple though
ornamented at the end.

Example (b)

The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers
   ترمي شجرة الكستناء بمشاعلها ‘

       Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away
   وتنساب الزهور من اشجار الزعرور البرى مع الرياح

The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers
  وتصفق الأبواب ‘ وتغطى الأمطار الشبابيك

Pass me the can lad, there's an end of May.


consciously affected and artistic, In form, the
expression would be elaborate, ornate, and
courtly or aristocratic. In theme, such writing
would deal with unrealistic or fantastic subject

Augustan Age, A period of high literary
attainment and general culture. So called because
the age of the Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar
(27 B.C. to 14 A.D.) was one of extreme cultural
attainment in Rome, including such notable
writers as Ovid, Vergil, Horace, Tibullus, etc.
Such a period is also known as a Golden age
(especially in  Spanish literature from about 1550- 1650). Both the Elizabethan age and the


age of Dryden, Pope, and the classical writers are
known as Augustan ages in English literature.

Ballad, A form of folk verse, usually always
narrative and employing a very direct and simple
metrical form. The popular or folk ballad was
composed to be recited or sung and treated some
dramatic or timely episode in the lives or fancies
of the common people during European Middle
Ages. Most English popular ballads were
produced from about 1250- 1550 and dealt with
themes of everyday life. They were transmitted
by oral tradition arid were memorized and
recited      as    individual     or   community
entertainment, by people who were free from the
more aristocratic literary influences. Few were


and Scotland (1577). The chronicle play often
departed considerably from its historical thread
and treated material that was purely fictional.
The most famous series of chronicle plays are
those of Shakespeare.

Classicism, As applied to literatures, the term
usually refers to the meaning attached to it
among the Renaissance writers, who considered
only the great works of Greek and Roman
literatures as being of sufficient importance to
imitate and emulate in their own efforts.
Therefore the form and content of those works
was classical and anything produced in imitation
of that form and content was also classical.
Therefore, from this angle, the term would mean


a return to the form and ideals of the ancients.
The term, then, would imply ",disciplined"
literature, emphasis on form rather than content,
technical perfection rather than experimentation,
precision   and   objectivity   over    emotional
expressiveness  and    individuality,     rational
thinking over imaginative and wild fantasy. The
style must be clear, lucid and restrained,
controlled   and  intellectual, moderated  and
         The modern works, thus produced on
ancient models, would then become "classics" in
themselves and later periods which imitated
either the modern or the ancient classics, would
also be termed classic, e.g., the period of
neoclassicism with Pope, Dryden, Swift, and


Johnson, Broadly, then, -the term would cover
any piece of literature which, in the opinions of
critics over the years, has achieved a solid and
recognized position for its excellent qualities.
This would be true even for romantic works.
       In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the
famous controversies of the "battle of the books"
variety, was centered on the question of the
values of classic versus modern writings. The
"modern" group maintained that the classic ideas
were unchristian, pagan, low, and vulgar. They
maintained that the ancients' style was obsolete
and that modern literatures should become less
interested in what the past did and be more
concerned with modern men, their thoughts and
feelings, expressed in new and brighter styles.

The "classic" group maintained, of course, that
the style and content of the ancients were
unsurpassed and that moderns could learn the
solid values only from them. It was thus a battle
between discipline and inspiration in literary
endeavor. This basic difference between the manner in which the human mind may approach
material for thought and expression is, of course,
always with us. It is only when large groups of
writers lean radically toward the classic or the
romantic extremes that such labels as
neoclassicism, romantic school, etc. are attached
to them.

Closed drama. This term is applied to drama
which is not written for the purpose of being