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The Frontiers of Criticism Author(s): T. S. Eliot Source: The Sewanee Review, Vol. 64, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1956), pp.

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SK

THE FRONTIERS
By T.

OF CRITICISM*

S. ELIOT

THE

thesis of this paper is that there are limits, exceeding which in one direction literary criticism ceases to be lit
erary, and exceeding which in another it ceases to be criti

cism.

Having decided that this was what I wanted to talk to you about, I turned to see what I had said in an essay called The Function of Criticism, published in 1923. I must have thought well of this essay ten years later, as I included it inmy Selected I did not, on re-reading, Essays, where it is still to be found. on the other hand I was glad to find it at all helpful, though find nothing positively to contradict my present opinions: I was merely rather bewildered, wondering what all the fuss had been
about. about aside For, leaving inner voice"?a "the a wrangle dispute with Mr. in which Middleton I recognize Murry the old

found it im aporta of Authority vs. Individual Judgment?I possible to recall to mind the background of my outburst. I had
made warmth; or more did be. not a number and of it would statements seem with that assurance have to myself and had considerable in mind one I must senior

well-established

critics

whose criticism or

satisfy my But I cannot

of what requirements literary recall a single book or essay,
the auspices of tinder on April of Minnesota, the 30, Gideon 1956.

writings should of

the name
Memorial

*This lecture was given at the University Foundation,

Seymour (Ed.)

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expand Some years of meaning the present century to the had taken place owing day." My copy of Richards's Principles of Literary Criticism is of the first edition. provide to the contemplation of art its own categories of ap tion brings own own has makes and its its demands upon art. more or and more of was for but upon imposed being supplied the evolution of the term follow If we could the population.526 a single criticism The attention critic. we would find something ago I drew attention the word education from "literary to the steady sixteenth the This content downloaded from 169. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . they differ from each other.229. does. recognize distinguished critics of today. which THE as FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM kind years of of the representative ire thirty-three aroused my impressionistic ago. literary for. literary criticism in the same way. paper was written out in several has developed and branched directions. this essay in mentioning point only to the extent to which what I wrote is to call now. than fact that the an important content of work the of term literary criticism can criticism" change in to deal more masterpieces its attitude bore upon the in mind and alter itself. am sure uses for art. a change which more and more not only comprised fact that education subjects. The term "The New Criticism" is often employed by people what a variety it comprehends. on this subject in 1923 is "dated. which was published in 1925.136 on Sat. than those which number of influences by a greater I had But I whether doubt the generation previous. A great deal has happened in literary criticism since this influential book came Criticism out 5 and my two years earlier. without but its currency realizing more I that the the fact think.32." When I that I had this statement I made Many in mind I had a good in mind the changes of taste and fashion: at at least the fact that each generation. all from the critics of a previous must out that every years ago I pointed generation as own I "each its genera criticism. said. looking in is affected of the past in a different perspective. preciation. however widely differ in some significant way generation.

as precarious is as it must be.229. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . take the same and interest semantics. literature the two main time. really critical interesting today is the work of men of letters who have found their way scholars whose And this classroom.32. that of few. of English and American deed in our schools. S. Compare a critical masterpiece like John son's Lives of the Poets with the ntxt great critical work to follow it. were would. in the is one of criticism of light of one or more causes of the transformation other attention in our cause has not been to the study given universities and in in which I critics many am far from criticism literary in our The The fully recognized. The is due difference to the scope more and saying. this situation: deploring into universities. who he alive now. first exercised and in the of are increasing literature led to a situation are the teachers most of critics.T. ELIOT 527 similar happening. It is not merely that Johnson represents a literary tradition to the end of which he himself belongs. I have the This content downloaded from 169.136 on Sat. different different impression literary journalism of support for all it means that the contact with audience from is an but critic as well the world. a somewhat have today may and be writing for a somewhat his predecessors. may be said to be in direct descent from Coleridge. while Coleridge is defending the merits and criticizing pertinent the weaknesses to what I have of a new been style. inadequate. future critics could ignore them only at their own risk. variety his of the interests which Coleridge of poetry. Coleridge's Biographia Literaria. The criticism of today. and once Coleridge had introduced these disciplines into literary criticism. To appreciate an effort of historical is needed imagination 5 a modern Johnson critic can find much in common with Coleridge. He established brought the to bear on relevance of discussion philosophy. I am sure. the social sciences and that he The these of so took in the sciences of consideration studies. has and many teachers. a very has been activity when serious nowadays. in in the study available of language to him. indeed. aesthetics and psychology -. means Only.

not long ago by an observation of Mr. . healing so to I wonder be whether really reversed. may and yet criti justification. . Even of perfect of normality?a functioning. by psychiatrist. if he so desires. But just asWestern psychiatry. Aldous a to the English in of The Supreme translation Huxley preface on a a French book Dr. If so. observation Huxley's responded to the impression which I had myself received from that remarkable book when I read it in the original edition. and its attitude the weakness is for.32. Benoit.229. as to what is not an uncertainty criticism of modern needs have perhaps obscured and variety critic may have his eye on a definite needs no its ultimate is confused or mistaken as to what criticism is for? As to what benefit it is to bring. and to whom? Its very richness purpose. to prepare himself. .136 on Sat. Every on a task which be engaged cism for goal. that no student has the This content downloaded from 169.528 that serious THE criticism not FRONTIERS now OF CRITICISM for a different. . this is not surprising: itself may be lost as to its aims. than was public a more that of limited though the nineteenth I was struck is being written a smaller necessarily century. but the fundamental Order of . of Zen Buddhism. Hubert Wisdom. But there is another kind Things . 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . is comparing Western psychiatry with the discipline of Huxley as the East found inTau and Zen: The aim of Western psychiatry [he says] is to help the troubled individual to adjust himself to the society of less who are observed to be troubled individuals?individuals well adjusted to one another and the local institutions. that the sciences and even the is it not now a commonplace. the psychology Mr. The applicability of this to my present matter is not immediately obvious. from a Zen Buddhist point of view. a at in development which there have reached humanities point is so much to know about any specialty. normality a can a man who to is perfectly adjusted deranged society about whose adjustment no enquiry is made. to become adjusted to the Nature of Things.

or a prolongation own verse.T. influenced my found of my that I see own. ELIOT 529 time to know much about anything else? And the search for a curriculum which shall combine specialized study with some general cussed We surely in our universities. of my poets whose about work had and with whose poetry I had become thoroughly before I desired them. I think that I should. "I only the American critics. However.229. My criticism has this in common with that of Ezra This content downloaded from 169. or some of it. poetry-workshop private went into the formation that I wrote best about to write It is a by-product of In the thinking retrospect. S. indicate what I con sider my from sing own contribution to literary criticism to have been. to justify this apparent modesty. go education has been one of the problems most dis back to the universe cannot go back of Aristotle to the state or of of St. and what are its limitations. who Thus in a book which critic. something critical activity. cannot.136 on Sat. is criticism to save ourselves by from being continually criticism But perhaps we can do not literary asking but something the ancestors overwhelmed by our own as: when such a question else? I have been somewhat bewildered that I am regarded as one of to find. and we literary criticism before Coleridge. of course.32. Thomas Aquinas. so sharply the whole critical ment that derives from T. he says. long the occasion to do so. though I hope that as an editor I gave the New Criticism. I if too old to be a modern I read mean recently not by an author critic myself. The best of my literary criticism?apart a few success notorious have had a truly embarras phrases which in the world?consists of essays on poets and poetic dramatists who had influenced me. S." author should isolate me I don't understand why the from the American criticsj but on the other hand I fail to see any critical movement which can be said to derive from myself. of modern a modern criticism. Eliot." by which. or had familiar. move is certainly but find a reference to "The New Criticism. from time to time. encouragement and an exercise ground in The Criterion. -. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .

when about for talking criticism. provide who was criticism?one differences the various ment cism between interesting subject neither the consider poet nor novelist?to the ways in which the critic must approach of literature. unchanged. In poetry. The criticism generalizing of prose fiction is of comparatively recent and I am institution. The Spirit of Romance. that inspires an early book which remains one of the best of Pound's literary essays. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . But it is the love of young poet style certain poets who had influenced him. is outside of his competence. This kind of criticism of poetry by a poet.229. was primarily the was whose still unformed.136 on Sat. to the poet's own work. outside pretty about is antipathetic limitation of have workshop criticism is that the critic's judgment may be unsound of his constant a number not My of poets remained life 3 in particular.530 THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM Pound. In Pound's criticism there is a more didactic motive: the reader he had in mind. valuations has one obvious limitation. talking is the criticism of poetry. is what most had in mind when about literature. or what called has no workshop relation criticism. own art. and (as I said of myself) a prolongation of his own thinking about his work. this that what I have in mind. require a some as I am what different set of weights an and measures from poetry. nearer it might seem that is every makes the reason that its formal qualities lend themselves most readily to generalization. simply needed.32. my throughout my opinions of living poets have remained It is. as a matter of critics in the past have Poetry. not qualified to discuss seems me it to but to it. but the illusion that in to a purely aesthetic experience come This content downloaded from 169. that its merits and its limitations can only be fully ap preciated when it is considered in relation to the poetry I have written myself. might. style thing. today about criticism. poetry That we is far from being true. for some critic It of indeed. and between the kinds of equip genres But poetry is the most convenient object of criti to have in mind. only for however. or what Another I have What to him. I think. fact. in reason.

I will explain that it is a fascinating piece of detection. poetic The originality And Lowes and unlikely is quite con transformed original way of assembling a new whole. and all. a I do not mean that they are both books with they are bad which everyone books. that many of instance. material vincing. read it.32. good at which deal I shall mention rather On bad the contrary: two books which have had. very James Joyce was citation here of book which I recommend Wake?a read?at scholar. be acquainted. For those who have never read The Road to Xanadu. ELIOT 531 literature to keep in mind poetry when A we the most are convenient genre of itself. is largely every an book of travels upon which he could lay his hands. reasons to feel a personal grateful. discussing of criticism point at that contemporary criticism. The private of genius. obscure once and The books forgotten for that Coleridge books?he read.136 on Sat. The first is John Livingston Lowes's The Road to Xanadu?a who has not to every student of poetry other is James Joyce's yet Finnegans book which I recommend of poetry student to every some pages least of.229.T. the most disparate and to make as evidence demonstration is digested of how material This content downloaded from 169. criticism of explanation To make clear what I mean by origins. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . showed. into be merges as the scholarship characterized may criticism. in this connection. one have a man Finnegans Wake is certainly in the mental. But the Road to Xanadu is neither in praise or dispraise of a book which of works that can be called monu category common obvious characteristic of The only and Finne gans Wake is that we may say of was each: one book like this is enough. and my friend. Lowes fer reted out all the books which Coleridge had read (and Coleridge an omnivorous and insatiable reader) and from which read were for he had borrowed images or phrases to be found inKubla Khan and The Ancient them Mariner. should influence. S. was a fine Lowes Livingston a good a man a lovable man and to whom I for teacher. originating criticism merges into and at which scholarship.

229. authors and Messrs. the poem an sup nor was more of investigation was. engaged on to make any better. 'rotten hippo' corpse like This sounds in raving." anything. possible in the least mad. after reading by the poetic genius. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . for writing nonsense beautiful out elaborate (very merely explanation.32. could No one. My grievance if master the author of that monstrous is against James Joyce. the frontier scraps poetry of an least Dr. [this was his interjection. of one such piece of work) have done an admirable job. How such material beyond as those into Coleridge's as much remains transmuted became reading as ever. touched in one corner of his head from having read The Road to Xanadu] "whether 'the dead cats of civilisation'. it of stretches a book such that large are. Lowes has fired such practitioners of herme neutics with emulative zeal. strictly speaking. "I wonder?it not of course" that I am mad. merely of course he was not slightly mine. with piece. Kurtz have some tenuous connection with 'that Now while Dr. investigation of literary Lowes's He intention was which criticism. gentleman is to me a year or more ago. This content downloaded from 169. I must hasten to explain that I am not deriding or denigrating the labors of those exegetists who have set themselves to unravel all the threads and follow all the clues in that book.136 on Sat. your garden'?" you planted an earnest seeker it is merely the allusions: unless you recognize and Land The Waste some connection between trying to establish of Darkness.532 THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM this book. Finnegans Wake has provided them with a model of what they would like all literary works to be. The Ancient Mariner pose that he understood it in the intelligible process. If Finnegans Wake is to be understood at all?and we cannot judge it without such labor?that kind of detection must Campbell any and Robinson (to mention the be pursued. Joseph Conrad's Heart last year and Mr. as poetry. of a mystery Yet of great a number of hopeful a clue evidence from scholars have seized upon the Lowes method to the understanding read of having wrote as offering Indiana any poem by any poet who gives a "I wonder.

not liked it. Indeed. Whatever am a not going to attempt final judgment (and I judgment) of the place of Finnegans Wake may be. though they were unconscious of the fact. And itwas evident that the writers did not resent the puzzle they thought I had set them?they the solution. but now thought be unstuck. Then. they invented the puzzle for the pleasure of discovering guiltless of having led critics into temptation. on one conspicuous occasion. when it came to print The Waste Land as a little book? for the poem on its first appearance in The Dial and in The Criterion was had no notes whatever?it so I set was discovered that short. gans Wake of mistaking with letters I suspect given the enigmas to the error. I do not think that most poetry (for it is a kind of vast prose poem) is written in that way or requires But have that sort of dissection that for its enjoyment provided and un by Finne derstanding. with of the bogus scholarship rid of these of getting had almost have They anyone to The back.32. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .229. than the poem itself? greater popularity notes of and found that the book poems. Perhaps the Joyce did not realize how obscure his book is. After the production the writers be of my play The Cocktail Party. Here I must admit that I am. solutions prevalent nowadays.T. to expand of pages printed matter. The notes to The Waste Land! I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations.136 on Sat. S. with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. explanation support for understanding. would his money Land were demand Waste I don't think that these notes did any harm to other But This content downloaded from 169. my mail was swollen for months offering surprising of what lieved to be the riddle of the play's meaning. ELIOT 533 beautiful indeed when recited by an Irish voice as lovely as that of the author?would that he had recorded more of it! ). inconveniently a few more in order to provide the that result they became that is still on view notes. remarkable exposition I have they sometimes can never to work the poem the notes. who today. bought my not in it.

recognized truth (says Jung) at in two ways. P. off on to under I was pondering this question of the attempt a quota across a poem came I its by explaining origins. White. "both viewpoints the next paragraph: Psychology. Victor White. White between exposing O. pertinent.136 on Sat. struck me as having from C. are is from the first Contributions essay in the volume not quoted I add another sentence. Jung which The passage was quoted by Fr. as The the result of is conceived ?nergie view essence on the other hand the event is is in final. in his book it in the course of quotes and of Freud the method the method of Jung. no doubt. which opens of physical for the comprehension phenomena. be may explanation to understand But a necessary a poem prepar it is also This content downloaded from 169. a wild goose While stand tion but chase sent I regret having after Tarot cards and so many the Holy enquirers Grail. in phenomena basis of changes forms the essential be looked from and The quotation to Analytical by Fr.534 THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM poets: certainly I cannot think of any good contemporary poet who Moore.32. .) just. has abused her notes this same to poems give no practice. point on cause that energy the assumption effect to traced from .. . C. that It is a generally events can that physical is from the me The the ?nergie mechanistic standpoint. to the re whatever encouragement other to it is not because of my bad example No.229. am notes I it is because my stimulated poets that penitent: It was the seekers of sources. kind of interest among the wrong and delightful searcher of origins. brought ation for understanding. . ." can explain One as a suggestive I take this simply analogy. a cause. that I should pay my tribute to the work of Miss Jessie Weston. some relevance. are always (As for Miss Marianne conclu curious. of and the causes that it is made what a poem by investigating indispensable and it about. an event causal: from this standpoint is purely chanistic view . 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . sive. a radical difference Fr. God and the Unconscious.

a critical of a writer is a delicate task in itself j and the critic or the biog rapher brings quired and practising who. mingled an in different proportions for different readers. the danger of exces is greatest is the critical any assurance?endeavoring the form of criticism upon of causal explanation biography. to grasp what the poetry is aiming to be. It is generally agreed that the greatest I will give part of illustration. we that should one might terms with Perhaps sive reliance I should endeavor say?though instances still more say in most necessary. ELIOT 535 and necessary. important can be a complex in which experience are satisfaction and be mingled. might answer it not must but in particular generally in the case of one poet and For the enjoyment of poetry several forms of important in the case of another. especially external when the biographer suggest supplements his about the knowledge inner experience. the biographer of an author Furthermore. it is long since I have such employed to grasp in which its entelechy. some critical should possess a man he should be of taste ability. of And a man's the on work the of other should But the man hand be any expected biography whose critic to concerned with seriously know about the man's something work life. and must for it may be more instances. he biography and appreciative undertakes.32. they may less simple it for himself. judgment. of how the poetry answer far information is not so about psychologist. without being a trained to bear on his such analytical skill subject books written by reading by psychologists. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Nor is there any reason why of poets biographies should not be written. as he has ac may confuse the issues still further. facts with I do not psychological conjectures that the personality and scientist leads must him to be private life of a dead poet constitute sacred ground on which the must not tread. S.T.229.136 on Sat. This content downloaded from 169. The psychologist as such material his study curiosity at liberty to investigate?so long as the victim is dead and the laws of libel cannot be invoked to stop him. The question to understand Each reader the poet as one us helps think.

love with his poems. standing even as am to suggest I the of poetry poetry. to understand the Lucy poems a poem is not too much poem: even break my than I did before? For myself. his inspiration dried up. about which information had at that written time come a book to light. of the springs which released the may towards understanding the origins of the poem I can only say that a knowledge necessarily information contact with feel no need for any light upon the Lucy poems beyond radiance I am shed by the poems themselves. I is: does for himself. must Wordsworth this account help answer me he may be right: his argument question. real Lucy sister Dorothy. is also of considerable does he to under help that maintains Read fell in interest (his chapter stand Wordsworth's Annette had doesn't figure and that thought. is very plausible. after Wordsworth's marriage. the such as that It of Sir Herbert and Mr. Mr. as Sir Herbert so importantly nearly the real secret was that Wordsworth that why. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .229. to under may to our under relevant but it is not directly stand Wordsworth. to our under Or rather. prepared standing is relevant This content downloaded from 169.32. Two In recently which Voices" this book has Bateson still. it is not relevant of his poetry.536 THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM Wordsworth's best poetry was written within a brief span of span have of his in itself. which reader of every does it matter? any better a help about it. that there is no context if we in which Read want not maintaining or information conjecture Bateson be relevant. More about Wordsworth on "The style). Various propounded later output. Well. and explains But the in particular. though I think that his of Wordsworth is found in a later essay in a volume entitled A Coat ofMany Colours?in which he explained the rise and fall ofWordsworth's genius by the effects upon him of his affair with Annette Vallon. the this explains. explanations Some years to the whole in proportion of Wordsworth students the mediocrity Sir Herbert Read wrote for to account ago.136 on Sat. a book on Wordsworth?an best appreciation interesting book. and brief years?brief of Wordsworth's life.

in its way. analyze out of it that tease. I suspect has its origin which fessor Richards. squeeze. my concerning are other There that I cannot of explanation possibly give. noticed recently methods in the classroom of Pro a healthy to poetry reaction the poet. ELIOT 537 remain that there is. one can. by by line. against It is found in a book published not long ago. is. a series book begins with "The Phoenix "Prufrock" critic has his and Yeats's own and the Turtle" School and ends with as each and a little each the "Among the result procedure.136 on Sat. in all great poetry. The method analyzing in this book is a of the poems well-known analyzed poem?each or to his to the author one of its kind?without reference good ex stanza stanza and line and it other work. from the of attention the diversion pupil. school of criti the lemon-squeezer It might be called to the the sixteenth from the poems As cism. Children"?and be admitted.229.T. and that that is what matters new has cannot that been made. S. consists for of requests poems. something happened. tendencies vestigation Professor which such of represented of how the problem And I have as that by Professor the appreciation Richards's of poetry in can the chief se taught. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . range century one a as another?the from deal differ good they present day. or by the verbal subtleties of his distinguished Empson. of poetry by examination to the desire of its sources is not explanation which the method is a method of all contemporary criticism by any means. each English is to take a one poem of his own choice. something which must unaccountable however be our knowledge of the complete might most. responds of a good many but it readers that poetry should be explained to them in terms of something else: unknown from persons part of the letters I receive a kind own to me. press every drop of meaning tract. When has the poem poet. something be wholly The explained by anything that went before. it must confusing?and. entitled Interpretations: of the younger of essays by twelve critics.32. so is a very analyzed painstakingly is interesting to study twelve tiring way of poems passing This content downloaded from 169. a development.

historical own. poem means The second danger in another danger into which I do not think any of the critics in the volume I have mentioned has fallen. as an exercise the teacher to warn his class against. if it were practised for what I suspect should be its chief it would be the business of for pupils. dangers into the fog. it meaning is not exhausted for the meaning is what the by any explanation. own limitations and dangers. that must be There written will be details age of than right. to believe a poem when we have that we understand reader identified mitted its origins his materials. learning in "Prufrock. but a danger to which the is exposed?is that of assuming that the interpretation of a poem. But as for the of the poem as a whole. as struck me as every method But essays which has its good. is.32. drawing as on surprises myself.136 on Sat. it is only to mention reasonable seem to me the limitations what and dangers of this one. matters the meaning of a certain word at a certain allusions." had somehow got which. which can be and the teacher can see that his established. THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM I imagine that some of the poets (they are all dead ex would be cept myself) surprised at learning what their poems mean: that I had the one or two minor early But the analysis of "Prufrock" was not an attempt to find either in or literature in the darker origins. mentioned room. may easily of the poem is also an account of how it was explanation to which The of "Prufrock" I have referred analysis that we the the poet sub converse? This content downloaded from 169. date. the consciously trying unconsciously tendency is so general. recesses of my was an it to out what find the private life. is necessarily an account of what the author or was to For do. our especially with poems ?a of fact. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . for that I was And were There several grateful. pupils get these right. use. explanation. and traced the process to which believe that any written. to different sensitive readers. if valid.229.538 time. attempt meant?whether was that poem what I had meant it to really mean or not. that one of the poem as a The first danger is that of assuming that there must be just interpretation whole.

are bewildered an age in which by new sciences. valid or I suspect. feelings of my attention purpose to to give the a no part to call comprehensive of view of all the types of literary criticism practiced in our time. that a good deal of the is?that it should things.229. contemporary (including literature) I do not deplore this transformation. like to see to some new poem. sensitive and diligent reader. some very good applied poem. 2 This content downloaded from 169. be able to enjoy the poem. I should ever whether. That is not at all account to say that he saw has anything the poem eyes. must be at the same own when I read it. and after reading the analyses. or that his through my to do with the experiences that led up to my writing it. value of an pretation. about which scholars be my to know can own about instruct an inter this me interpretation are many There facts that. poem. time but a in interpretation. perhaps.136 on Sat. But. or to anything I experienced in the process of writing it. ELIOT 539 interested me because it helped me to see the poem through the eyes of an intelligent. For nearly all the poems in the were poems volume that I had known and loved for many years. in colleges and universities. wished first transformation literary I criticism which we may say began with Coleridge but which has with proceeded greater This acceleration years. many which will help me to avoid definite ^?understanding. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . that I should. of the social sciences acceleration I took the last twenty-five during to be prompted by the relevance and by the teaching of literature to criticism. as if someone It was had previous feeling taken a machine to pieces and left me with the task of reas the method sembling the parts. and one that was to me: unknown I because should like previously to find out after perusing the analysis. S. as a test.T. And my third comment is.32. been inevitable. I found I was slow to recover my about the poems. as common taken for granted beliefs. for it seems to me to have an age in which men In an age of uncertainty. in fact. explorable so little can be and background ground. of my terpretation It has been I believe. assumptions no area can be forbidden all of readers.

" And indeed. preliminary to learn the unfamiliar words. ago. of Chaucer. the instance a stage syntax one further. is to a projection our own mind. the very meaning of "joy" varies with the object inspiring joy. by saying to "promote acceptably the understanding and enjoy ment of literature. if anything. the understand thing as to that it means could getting from the poem such enjoyment as it is capable of giving: a misunderstanding as to what to enjoy a poem under it is. to the preliminary but one could master of Chaucer? to carry indeed. And I must stress the point that I do not think of as distinct By activities?one I do emotional not mean understanding can be of what and understanding enjoyment and the other intellectual. what to all the essential of of works sound put literary criticism? function of literary art and the correction pompous simply. it for the right enjoy the age of Chaucer. "the That Per to the among that should I asserted elucidation phrase haps present may this variety.540 all THE FRONTIERS we OF CRITICISM is there. So what is of difficult enjoy merely a tool to handle. This content downloaded from 169. often be a necessary instance: very simple unfamiliar forms explanation to understanding. though explanation. is a necessary it is explanation: and may explained To offer a and the un of words. be common that may ask.229. somewhat it more I could age." in 1956.136 on Sat. well informed about liefs. and its ignorance?and a poem reasons. comes One yet not to the same might say be very its be habits. is language.32. understanding the vocabulary. to our and more years Thirty criticism was of ears taste. grammar spelling. on occasion the critic may be called to condemn the upon second-rate and the fraudulent: that is expose though duty to the duty of discriminating is praise secondary praise of what worthy. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . that "to enjoy" and "to get en that from" do not seem to mean quite the same thing: joyment not to say that one "gets from" does sound poetry enjoyment quite the same as to say that one "enjoys poetry." For I would add that there is implied here also the negative out what task of pointing not be should enjoyed. its social its learning To understand poetry.

ELIOT 541 satisfactions. or that he has no literary. I have said to that explanation may be a necessary preliminary some that I understand It seems to me. to our enjoy our enjoyment of a poem be It should that taste is shown). and the critic literary is not of literary criticism. can distract leading perhaps. for instance Shakespeare's understanding. instead of reason. enjoy as I have already as poetry. It is certain it. frontier critic. poetry without Full fathom five thy father lies or Shelley's Art Of for here. best for deluded in thinking that I understand such poetry as the lyrics by Shakespeare and Shelley which I have just cited. And enjoying enjoy to other poems relative in the right way. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . sometimes And it more.32. poems hardly one bad to shouldnyt that that this implies necessary say enjoy a sort that appeals to our sense is their badness of poems?unless of humor.136 on Sat. is that these two poems The who that other give me as keen a thrill when I repeat them today as they did fifty years ago. it. do not even. has passed the then. better and therefore explanation. that would help me plained?nothing. between the the beyond critic is "purely" literary was A critic who interests. fully yield different on the other stand a poem hand. difference. and under different that we poems. and thou pale for weariness heaven and gazing on the earth climbing to be ex I see nothing in a great deal of poetry. explanation.T. S. interested in nothing but This content downloaded from 169.229. to understand it that is. us altogether in the direction believing that us from the of under I am not poem standing. My hinted. unless enjoy a poem unless we understand true that we do not fully it is equally we to the right degree and is in the relation of (it ment of other it that means. however.

knowledge?factual explanation but it may from which also. us can to it lead the door: the appreciation of the poetry.32. and principles. not by men of letters.136 on Sat. The critic accordingly is a literary critic if his primary interest. the state of the language in his as I his poetry. just as much as the poet himself. information?about may open in directing We a to fur the way our attention on not confuse the must poet's period. or logic. only we must find our own from such in. the poetry. who has But he must have other interests. history. is not merely to be observed by expert.229. the ideas current in his time implicit in his writings.542 THE FRONTIERS OF CRITICISM "literature" would have very little to say to us. conditions of the society in which he lived. of knowl literary to us which is offered ask. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . is to help critic his readers to understand a technical the writers and enjoy. or sociology. poetry. for his literature would be a pure abstraction. in writing criticism. about any writing is it aimed en towards and understanding joyment? If it is not. We must not identify biography with criticism: biography is ordinarily useful in providing ther understanding. it may still be a legitimate and useful activity. This content downloaded from 169. he criticizes: for the literary learned the be rules the the critic must and whole edge We as a man with man. may be the necessary preparation as a has it of its but value for own. understanding period?with a for understanding have said. or pedagogy. is not primarily paper. way the point that we For the of view should be of acquiring purpose taken throughout this able to project our knowledge. lead us away the poet. Such knowledge. their their poetry Poets would interest have other interests empty: beside they are their poetry?otherwise poets means because be very has been dominant in turning their experience and their thought to have interests beyond (and to experience and to think poetry)?in turning ex perience and their thinking into poetry. furthermore. or some other pursuit?and is to be judged by specialists. but it is to be judged as a contribution to psychology. convictions life. and experience of can therefore criticism.

as a contemporary the poetry. or looked at only with eyes clouded by prejudice. "the function to be more caused criticism. contact with his poetry. tations of his age. These last thirty years have been. and felt. though such experience poet its own in reading an ode of Sappho.500 to whom I am most grateful can make me look at is the one who to be an something I have never looked at before. and the of the limi poet.229. that sionistic." and pastime. not want to leave you with the impression that I wish to condemn the criticism of our time. a brilliant period in literary criticism in both England It may even come to seem. on the other hand. can the spark which So the critic years. too brilliant. sensibility. 29 Mar 2014 20:11:55 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . S.136 on Sat. capable of enjoying poetry. upon my we standingy mere are We explanation. criticism. Who knows? This content downloaded from 169. in retrospect. I think. whose work we are reading. in order to get the direct the im experience. which we over-emphasize enjoymenty and subjective impressionistic. From and that point. what is the experience which is the same. let most. and America.T.32. we and will our If. leap across those 2. for all human beings of different centuries and languages. set me face to face with it and then leave me own alone with it. impres I felt when on I wrote annoyance latter it seems to me that we need Today on guard the purely I do But against explanatory. mediate What matters us say. own age. If in literary intelligence. as if it was a it never science. than mere to have had of amusement been the the it seems enjoyment no more ago. is not that I should imagine myself matters island Greek of twenty-five hundred years ago. we are in danger capacity place all the emphasis upon under of slipping to from understanding even of in danger criticism pursuing can be. thought it is rather that we should be able period. ELIOT 543 to think of has the and selves feel. years Thirty-three of the type criticism. to fall tend into the will profit us I must rely for wisdom. might into a remote when have reading to divest ourselves of the limitations of our value.