R(onald) S(almon) Crane Introduction - Essay

Introduction

R(onald) S(almon) Crane 1886–1967

American literary critic, editor, and professor.

Crane's renown as a critic derives primarily from his astute defenses of pluralism, a critical approach whose basic premise is that "of the truth about literature, no critical language can ever have a monopoly." In contrast to critics who divide over the question of whether a work of literature should be studied as a self-contained aesthetic object or as one related to and affected by the world which surrounds it, Crane believed that valuable observations about a given work can be made from both perspectives. Basing his own criticism on the Aristotelian assumption that art is a representation of human experience, Crane was concerned with revealing in a work of literature "what kind of human experience is being imitated, by the use of what possibilities of the poetic medium, through what mode of representation, and for the sake of evoking and resolving what particular sequence of expectations and emotions relative to the successive parts of the imitated object." These critical aims are central to the work of a group of Neo-Aristotelians known as the "Chicago Critics," whose major figures, along with Crane, include Wayne C. Booth and Elder Olson.

Crane's best known and most influential works are The Language of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry (1953) and The Idea of the Humanities and Other Essays Critical and Historical (1967). These works contain the core of the thought and beliefs of the Chicago Critics and have been closely read by scholars and critical theorists. Both books are highly esteemed, even by some critics who do not share Crane's views. They are particularly acclaimed for their well-executed defenses of pluralism.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vols. 85-88.)