Round-up: Classics of Literary Criticism

I threw the question out on Twitter, “is Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1953) the greatest single work of literary criticism ever written?” I think it probably is, but I was hoping some other readers might contradict me or suggest some other worthy candidates for the distinction. Then I thought about it some more. So here’s some whoppers of literary criticism; I’ve read only a handful of these, and I’m sure as hell missing a lot in the few years between 335 B.C. and 1930 A.D. So, as always, comments are welcome and encouraged, below or on Twitter (@jsief).

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Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature (1953)  Erich Auerbach

History of English Prose Rhythm (1912) – George Saintsbury

Orality and Literacy (1982) – Walter J. Ong

Anatomy of Criticism (1957) – Northrop Frye (suggested by @bswbarootes)

The Novel: An Alternative History, 2 vols. (2010) – Steven Moore

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony (1989) – Roberto Calasso (trans. Tim Parks)

Seven Types of Ambiguity (1930) – William Empson (suggested by @JustinPfefferle)

The Well-Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947) – Cleanth Brooks (suggested by @bswbarootes)

The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and Critical Tradition (1953) – M.H. Abrams

Biographia Literaria (1817) – Samuel Taylor Coleridge

The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) – Wayne C. Booth

The Sense of an Ending (1967) – Frank Kermode

The Counterfeiters, The Stoic Comedians, The Mechanic Muse (1968-1987) – Hugh Kenner

The Banquet Years (1955) – Roger Shattuck

Classical English Rhetoric (2010) – Ward Farnsworth

2 Comments


  • I agree about Mimesis. I’ve read it perhaps six times and each time is as stimulating as the first time more than 40 years ago. I just got the 50th anniversary edition with an introduction by Edward W. Said as well as Auerbach’s response to critics.

    Reply

  • Said’s Orientalism impacted the discipline (and many others) more than any of the books on this list. How about Eve Sedgwick?

    Reply

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