The New Humanists Criticism: Overviews - Essay

Allen Tate (essay date 1930)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tate, Allen. “The Fallacy of Humanism.” In The Critique of Humanism: A Symposium, edited by C. Hartley Grattan, pp. 131-66. New York: Brewer and Warren, 1930.

[In the essay below, Tate analyzes the ideas of New Humanists Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, and Norman Foerster, dismissing them as vague, self-contradictory, and lacking in cohesiveness.]

If the necessity for virtue could tell us how to practice it, we should be virtuous overnight. For the case of the American Humanists against modern culture is damaging to the last degree. The truth of their indictment, negatively considered, cannot be denied. But this is not enough.

There is a...

(The entire section is 8490 words.)

Irving Babbitt (essay date 1930)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Babbitt, Irving. “Humanism: An Essay at Definition.” In Humanism and America: Essays on the Outlook of Modern Civilization, edited by Norman Foerster, pp. 25-51. New York: Farrar and Rinehart, 1930.

[In the following essay, Babbitt explicates the major tenets of humanism.]


The art of defining is so indispensable that one needs to define the limits of definition itself. A very eminent humanist, Erasmus, showed his awareness of these limits when he complained of the attempts of the theologians of the Reformation to formulate deity that every definition was a disaster. Though the humanist does not seek to define God and is in general...

(The entire section is 8757 words.)

William Van O'Connor (essay date 1952)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: O'Connor, William Van. “The New Humanism.” In An Age of Criticism: 1900-1950, pp. 92-109. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1952.

[In the following essay, O'Connor summarizes attacks on the New Humanists in the late 1920s and discusses their influence on other critics.]

During the postwar years reductive naturalism had made debunking biographies, drab fiction, and behaviorist drama seem inevitable. Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, and their followers were among those who most firmly resisted the tenets of reductive naturalism and the kinds of literature to which it gave rise.1 The New Humanists were looked upon variously as defenders of the genteel...

(The entire section is 5046 words.)

Walter Sutton (essay date 1963)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Sutton, Walter. “The New Humanism.” In Modern American Criticism, pp. 26-50. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1963.

[In the essay below, Sutton presents an overview of the main works, figures, and detractors of the New Humanists.]

Many intellectuals sensitive to the confusion and disorder of the early twentieth century looked to the past for sustaining values. In the midst of the rebellion against “Puritanism,” they defended the principles of decorum and restraint against what seemed to them the excesses of modern scientific, literary, and social thought.

In criticism the staunchest defenders of an older order were the New...

(The entire section is 6760 words.)