An Experiment in Criticism by C. S. Lewis

By C. S. Lewis

Why can we learn literature and the way will we pass judgement on it? C. S. Lewis's classic An scan in Criticism springs from the conviction that literature exists for the enjoyment of the reader and that books might be judged by means of the type of studying they invite. He argues that "good reading," like ethical motion or non secular adventure, consists of hand over to the paintings in hand and a technique of coming into totally into the critiques of others: "in examining nice literature I turn into 1000 males and but stay myself."

Crucial to his proposal of judging literature is a dedication to pushing aside expectancies and values extraneous to the paintings, with a view to procedure it with an open brain. Amid the advanced welter of present serious theories, C. S. Lewis's knowledge is valuably down-to-earth, clean and stimulating within the questions it increases in regards to the event of examining.

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The principal differentiation, I take it, is due to the long isolation of the Pennsylvanians in a remote region where ancestral superstitions were nurtured & magnified rather than weakened by time. This isolation would perhaps account for the element of cruelty or the sinister which you remark—but which I never heard of before. It is paralleled by certain characteristics of back-country people everywhere. The “hex” anecdote you cite is certainly unique—& all the more impressive because of its un-theatrical homeliness.

Poe was an established poet, albeit somewhat underappreciated (Ralph Waldo Emerson called him “the jingle man” after the publication of “The Bells”), but Lovecraft’s reputation as a poet was almost nonexistent and his poetry was generally panned by critics and scholars alike. I think this began with Lovecraft’s own constant disparaging of his own poetry and Winfield Townley Scott’s conception that “to scare is slim purpose in poetry,” although many great poems deal with comparatively weird themes.

My dear Strauch:— Your letter of the 4th proved exceedingly interesting to me, & I was delighted with all the poems—especially the autumn piece. Of your poetic gifts there can be no question, & I am sure that Allentown must be a notable abode of the Muses if it can produce many genuine rivals! You have the true poet’s sense of symbols & images, & a highly enviable command of the right words & rhythms for their aptest conveyance. I have often tried to express in verse the various moods evoked in me by various phases of beauty, but never get very far in that direction.

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