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Because literature exists in history, in psychology, in philosophy, in art, in linguistics, etc., a discipline has arisen called “literary criticism”, by which is meant the practice of examining literature closely, for hidden patterns, for disguised messages, for textures, nuances, etc., all revealing more and more layers of artistic value. Traditional criticism, which has advanced considerably since Greek times, is advantageous to the reader or student interested in one generation’ influence over the next, or one writer’s influence over another. Its disadvantage is the limits it places on the areas of literature available for examination (subsequent criticisms such as Chicago School or feminist criticism have filled some of those gaps). Traditional criticism also did not easily take into account unconscious influences of A over B, but dealt mainly with conscious influences, such as the Bible’s influence on The Divine Comedy or the influence of Italian farce on Shakespeare’s comedies—but often neglected subtler, unconscious echoes in style.
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