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Book Reviews In spite of its failure to recognize more current interpretive strategies, however, Blamires's Guide remains a useful and important reference source for new and old students of Ulysses alike. Mary Lowe-Evans and Ronald V. Evans The University of West Florida I. A. Richards and Humanistic Criticism John Paul Russo. I. A. Richards: His Life and Work. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989. xx + 843 pp. $39.95 BECAUSE HUMANISTIC CRITICISM has been often maligned as a kind of disguised conservatism that blindly embraces New Criticism and is resistant to canon reformation, let us begin a review of Russo's fine book on I. A. Richards—who holds an honored place in the humanistic pantheon—by defining the principles and values of a contemporary humanistic aesthetic. Without neglecting formal considerations such as voice, genre, narrative structure, and linguistic patterns, humanistic critics focus on the dialogue between the anterior or real world and the imaginative world of fictions as well as upon the author's creative process and how that is shaped by the historical period in which he or she wrote. They stress the mimetic quality of literature and insist that literature is by human authors, about human actions, and for human readers. Readers and the text meet at the seam of reading. These critics believe that a) the form—style, structure, narrative technique—of a literary text expresses its value system; b) a literary text is a creative gesture of the author and the result of historical context; c) a literary text imitates a world that precedes it; d) literary texts usually address how and why people behave—what they do, desire, fear, doubt and need. Humanism does not mean "life affirming," but concern with how and why people live, think, act, feel, read, write, and speak. While acknowledging variations in the diverse responses of readers, humanistic criticism believes that there is a possibility of approaching a determinate meaning by studying an author, his period, and his canon. Thus humanistic criticism does not accept the tenets of Deconstruction that "there is nothing outside the text" and that literary texts are "the free play of signifiers." To be sure, the Arnoldian tradition of moral seriousness informs the humanistic ideology of reading, but does that mean that each reading depends on isolating themes, or validating conservative 257 ELT: Volume 33:2, 1990 values, or upon monolithic one-dimensional readings that are indifferent to ambiguities and multiple possibilities? Not at all. The focus of humanistic criticism is how people live in all their cultural diversity ; this encompasses the various hypotheses (philosophical, psychological , linguistic, socio-economic, and historical) for explaining how and why people behave, including their propensity for supernatural explanations—most notably but not exclusively theological ones. An enlightened humanistic poetics need not be labelled conservative, for its emphasis on mimesis of anterior reality includes feminism, Marxism , and minority studies. Indeed, New Historicism and Feminist criticism have helped reestablish the validity of representation. Humanistic Criticism acknowledges the presence, individuality, and personality of the critic, even while trying to use an empirical evidentiary test when presenting readings or arguments. While striving for an objectivity that depends upon shared perceptions among readers—an objectivity that goes beyond subjectivity—the humanistic critic eschews self-effacement and the pretense of absolute objectivity; he or she situates himself or herself as self-dramatizing subject and is self-aware of his or her values and principles. A humanistic criticism is aware of man's limitations and foibles— including that of the critic—but values the uniqueness of the individual as author, subject, and reader. Humanistic critics value lucidity and direct speech and writing and avoid obscurity and obscurantism, for they know that if we invent arcane language, we will insulate ourselves from affecting the culture of which we are a part. Humanistic critics feel an obligation to write and speak in language that is accessible to literate adults; they value rationalism and openmindedness , probing questions and exploratory answers, pluralism over polemics, the mind at play over pontificating; they are skeptical of authoritarianism, including citing prior theorists as if they were apostolic figures, rather than as other humans holding their own opinions. In the current...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 257-263
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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