Eliot’s “The Function of Criticism”: A Critical Analysis

T.S. Eliot’s essay “The Function of Criticism” is one of the most important and influential essays ever written on literary criticism. In it, Eliot argues that the function of criticism is to “elucidate works of art and the correction of taste.” He defines a work of art as “something which has its own complete significance,” and he argues that the critic’s job is to help readers understand and appreciate this significance.

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Eliot begins his essay by discussing the importance of tradition in literature. He argues that a work of art cannot be fully understood in isolation, but must be seen in the context of the literary tradition of which it is a part. He writes that “the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; and the historical sense which is required for literary criticism is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together.”

Eliot then goes on to discuss the role of the critic. He argues that the critic must be both knowledgeable and objective. The critic must have a deep understanding of the literary tradition, and they must be able to judge a work of art on its own merits, without being swayed by their own personal preferences.

Eliot also discusses the importance of comparison in criticism. He argues that the best way to understand a work of art is to compare it to other works of art. This comparison can help us to see the work in a new light and to appreciate its unique qualities.

Finally, Eliot discusses the importance of taste in criticism. He argues that taste is not simply a matter of personal preference, but is something that can be cultivated and improved. The critic’s job is to help readers develop their taste and to appreciate the best that literature has to offer.

Eliot’s essay “The Function of Criticism” is a complex and challenging work, but it is also one of the most rewarding. It offers a deep and insightful look at the nature of literature and the role of the critic.

A critical analysis of “Eliot’s essay”The Function of Criticism”

One of the most important contributions that Eliot’s essay makes to literary criticism is its emphasis on the importance of tradition. Eliot argues that a work of art cannot be fully understood in isolation, but must be seen in the context of the literary tradition of which it is a part. This is an important point because it helps us to see that literature is not simply a collection of individual works, but is rather a complex and interconnected web.

Another important contribution that Eliot’s essay makes is its emphasis on the role of the critic. Eliot argues that the critic is not simply a passive observer of literature, but is rather an active participant in the process of interpretation. The critic’s job is to help readers understand and appreciate the significance of works of art.

Eliot’s essay has been influential for many different reasons. It has helped to shape the way that we think about literature, criticism, and tradition. It is also a beautifully written essay that is full of insights and wisdom.

Conclusion

T.S. Eliot’s essay “The Function of Criticism” is an essential reading for anyone who is interested in literature or criticism. It is a complex and challenging work, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Eliot’s essay offers a deep and insightful look at the nature of literature and the role of the critic.

FAQs

What is the function of criticism according to Eliot?

Eliot argues that the function of criticism is to “elucidate works of art and the correction of taste.” He defines a work of art as “something which has its own complete significance,” and he argues that the critic’s job is to help readers understand and appreciate this significance.

Why is tradition important in Eliot’s view of criticism?

Eliot argues that a work of art cannot be fully understood in isolation, but must be seen in the context of the literary tradition of which it is a part. He writes that “the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; and the historical sense which is required for literary criticism is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together.”

What is the role of the critic according to Eliot?

Eliot argues that the critic must be both knowledgeable and objective. The critic must have a deep understanding of the literary tradition, and they must be able to judge a work of art on its own merits, without being swayed by their own personal preferences.

Why is comparison important in Eliot’s view of criticism?

Eliot argues that the best way to understand a work of art is to compare it to other works of art. This comparison can help us to see the work in a new light and to appreciate its unique qualities.

Why is taste important in Eliot’s view of criticism?

Eliot argues that taste is not simply a matter of personal preference, but is something that can be cultivated and improved. The critic’s job is to help readers develop their taste and to appreciate the best that literature has to offer.

Is Eliot’s essay “The Function of Criticism” still relevant today?

Yes, Eliot’s essay is still very relevant today. It offers a timeless and insightful look at the nature of literature and the role of the critic. Eliot’s essay is also important because it helps us to understand the relationship between literature, tradition, and taste.