Geoffrey H. Hartman Donald Marshall - Essay

Donald Marshall

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Formalism—called "New Criticism" when it was still young, aggressive, and ambitious—seems to have died from its own success. Any ordinary modern critic can read with unprecedented sensitivity to nuances of meaning and to the delicate formal economy of part and whole. More important, the critic's language can report the subtlest reading in terms of precise textual details. This habit of rigorous reading is evidently indispensable for modern poetry. But earlier texts—from Shakespeare and the metaphysicals to the romantics—also profited from formalist analyses. These replaced an older style of literary study, personified in the "gentleman scholar" who combined sensitivity with broad learning and good taste with...

(The entire section is 660 words.)