The criticism of poetry has always played an influential role in the development of poetry in Western civilization, from the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans up through the Renaissance, neoclassic, and Romantic periods and into the twenty-first century. By articulating the general aims and ideals of poetry and by interpreting and evaluating the works of particular poets, critics throughout the ages have helped shape the development of poetry. Poets, for their part, have often attempted to meet—or to react against—the stated aims and ideals of the prevailing critical theories. Some poets have also formulated and practiced the criticism of poetry, producing a closer and more vital relationship between criticism and poetry. For the student, the study of poetic theory and criticism can be not only an interesting and fruitful study in itself, but also a valuable aid in the attempt to understand the historical development of poetry.
The following review is organized chronologically, divided into six main sections: classical critics, Renaissance critics, neoclassic critics, Romantic critics, Victorian critics, and modern critics. The focus is primarily on English critics, though the ancient Greeks and Romans are included because they represent the classical tradition inherited and built on by the English. Significant American contributors to the mainstream of poetic theory and criticism are, with the exception of Edgar Allan Poe, restricted to the...
(The entire section is 431 words.)