Praising It New: The Best of the New Criticism / Edition 1

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Marked by a rigorously close textual reading, detached from biographical or other extratextual material, New Criticism was the dominant literary theory of the mid-twentieth century. Since that time, schools of literary criticism have arisen in support of or in opposition to the approach advocated by the New Critics. Nonetheless, the theory remains one of the most important sources for groundbreaking criticism and continues to be a controversial approach to reading literature.

Praising It New is the first anthology of New Criticism to be printed in fifty years. It includes important essays by such influential poets and critics as T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, Yvor Winters, Cleanth Brooks, R. P. Blackmur, W. K. Wimsatt, and Robert Penn Warren. Together, these authors ushered in the modernist age of poetry and criticism and transformed the teaching of literature in the schools. As the American poet and critic Randall Jarrell once noted: “I do not believe there has been another age in which so much extraordinarily good criticism of poetry has been written.”

This anthology now makes much of the best American poetry criticism available again, and includes short biographies and selected bibliographies of its chief figures. Praising It New is the perfect introduction for students to the best American poetry criticism of the twentieth century.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Given our long-term disregard of the New Criticism, Davis‘s compendium is especially welcome.... Davis provides richly informative, well-argued, and elegantly styled introductions, head-notes, and annotations, as well as discriminating suggestions for further reading.”
— Virginia Quarterly Review

“In Praising It New: The Best of the New Criticism, Garrick Davis offers poets and students an exceptionally well chosen selection from the theoretical essays of the New Criticism in hopes that it will remain an available influence. They are far more interesting than such essays generally tend to be—a strength of the best of the New Critics and one that will continue to serve them well with both an academic and a general audience.”
— Eclectica Magazine

“This anthology is both important and necessary. No other collection gives us such an excellent opportunity to go back to the New Criticism and see it again, as if for the first time.”
— Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing

“Just how seriously the New Critics took poetry, and how much subtlety and conviction they brought to reading it, can be seen on every page of Praising It New, an excellent new anthology of the New Criticism edited by Garrick Davis.”
— The New York Sun

“It is clear from reading the lapidary works in Praising It New that the New Critics were not stern moralists upholding rigid orthodoxies, as their opponents imply. Like other critics of the period — not least Trilling and Wilson — they saw poems and novels opening out into life in all its variety, nuance and incompleteness.”
— The Wall Street Journal

“The essays in Praising It New still carry a potent charge for anyone interested in what makes the best poems tick. Davis has performed a service to readers (often in the face of recalcitrant publishers unwilling to make works available for reprint at reasonable rates), and the book will be of particular interest to poets and students of poetry. Whether or not teachers will have the good sense to assign it remains to be seen.”
— The New Criterion

“Davis’s notes are excellent: how charming to be told that, as a young instructor, Jarrell coached the tennis team at Kenyon.”
— Howard Junker,  ZYZZYVASPEAKS blog

Library Journal

T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, expatriate Americans living in England in the early 20th century, are credited with having inspired the movement known as new criticism. As editor Davis (literature specialist, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC) here explains, this criticism "would focus on the techniques and forms of poetry, not on its uses as social comment, political statement, or historical document." Davis collects essays by Eliot and Pound as well as other American poet-critics of the period, such as R.P. Blackmur, Cleanth Brooks, Kenneth Burke, J.V. Cunningham, Randall Jarrell, John Crowe Ransom, Delmore Schwartz, Allen Tate, Robert Penn Warren, W.K. Wimsatt, Yvor Winters, and Hugh Kenner (the lone Canadian). Preceding each of the volume's four parts is a brief overview with commentary and analysis. For each featured essay, Davis provides the provenance and a forceful evaluation (e.g., "most influential," "truly indispensable," and "sublime overview"). The helpful appendix includes succinct biographies of each writer with selected bibliographies. Useful for readers interested in American poetry criticism of the 20th century; recommended for academic libraries.
—Kathryn R. Bartelt

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804011082
  • Publisher: Ohio University Press
  • Publication date: 5/13/2008
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Garrick Davis is the founding editor of the Contemporary Poetry Review, the largest online archive of poetry criticism in the world ( His poetry and criticism have appeared in the New Criterion, Verse, the Weekly Standard, McSweeney’s, and the New York Sun. He also edited Child of the Ocmulgee: the Selected Poems of Freda Quenneville. He is the literature specialist of the National Endowment for the Arts in Washington, DC.

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Table of Contents


Forward into the Past: Reading the New Critics William Logan Logan, William

A Note on the Editor's Method of Selection


The Golden Age of Poetry Criticism Garrick Davis Davis, Garrick

Pt. 1 Where to Begin? 1

The Ideal Approach to Criticism

Introduction to The Sacred Wood T. S. Eliot Eliot, T. S. 3

The Perfect Critic T. S. Eliot Eliot, T. S. 7

The New Syllabus

How to Read Ezra Pound Pound, Ezra 16

Against the Historical Method

Miss Emily and the Bibliographer Allen Tate Tate, Allen 39

Teaching Literary Criticism

Criticism, Inc John Crowe Ransom Ransom, John Crowe 49

Is Literary Criticism Possible? Allen Tate Tate, Allen 61

Pt. 2 The New Criticism 73

First Principles

Preliminary Problems Yvor Winters Winters, Yvor 75

The Formalist Critics Cleanth Brooks Brooks, Cleanth 84

Against the Fallacies

The Affective Fallacy W. K. Wimsatt Wimsatt, W. K. Monroe C. Beardsley Beardsley, Monroe C. 92

The Intentional Fallacy W. K. Wimsatt Wimsatt, W. K. Monroe C. Beardsley Beardsley, Monroe C. 102

The Purity of Poetry

Pure and Impure Poetry R. P. Warren Warren, R. P. 117

The Objective Correlative

Hamlet and His Problems T. S. Eliot Eliot, T. S. 138

The Dissociation of Sensibility

The Metaphysical Poets T. S. ELlOT ELlOT, T. S. 143

The Isolation of Modern Poetry Delmore Schwartz Schwartz, Delmore 151

Close Reading

Texts from Housman Randall Jarrell Jarrell, Randall 161

Some Post-Symbolist Structures Hugh Kenner Kenner, Hugh 169

Pt. 3 Techniques and Truths 183

Breaking the Pentameter

A Retrospect Ezra Pound Pound, Ezra 185

Reflections on Vers Libre T. S. Eliot Eliot, T. S. 195

Making It New

Poets WithoutLaurels John Crowe Ransom Ransom, John Crowe 202

The End of the Line Randall Jarrell Jarrell, Randall 213

The Problem of Form J. V. Cunningham Cunningham, J. V. 220

Poetry as a Moral Discipline

Foreword to Primitivism and Decadence Yvor Winters Winters, Yvor 224

The Morality of Poetry Yvor Winters Winters, Yvor 233

Pt. 4 Appraising Poets and Periods 245

The Correction of Taste

T.S. Eliot: Thinker and Artist Cleanth Brooks Brooks, Cleanth 247

Religious Poetry in the United States R. P. Blackmur Blackmur, R. P. 260

Towards a Post-Kantian Verbal Music Kenneth Burke Burke, Kenneth 272


Lord Tennyson's Scissors: 1912-1950 R. P. Blackmur Blackmur, R. P. 286


Selected Biographies and Bibliographies 303

Source Credits 331

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