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ENGLISH CRITICAL TERMS.
J. W. BRAY, A.M.
PROFESSOR OF ENGLISH, JOHN B. STETSON UNIVERSITY.
D. C. HEATH AND COMPANY.
HE purpose of the following work is to trace the changes of meaning which have taken place in the chief terms employed in English criticism. It is intended to be purely a study in criticism, and not to repeat information which can be obtained from an ordinary dictionary. The organizing idea of the work is found in the grouping of the terms in the Appendix. It is assumed that if the history of two or three of the most important terms of each group is given in full, the history of the synonymous and negative expressions will also have been given, at least as far as their critical and literary significance is concerned. Hence the secondary terms are given but scant notice, and their critical import is to be gathered mostly from the larger terms of their respective groups.
The history of the unimportant terms is thus given only in outline. Extensive tables were constructed showing the first use and frequency of occurrence at different times with regard to each critical term. These tables have been employed very largely in determining the relative influence of the different critical terms, and they furnish the basis for many statements,
the authority for which it has not been possible to present in the printed text.
The present investigation grew out of class work in Criticism in the University of Chicago. It was found that the study of Criticism was vague and uncertain as long as the terms were left undefined, about which as central points the critical discussions usually turn. Prof. Wm. D. MacClintock suggested the present undertaking, and he has aided very materially in its prosecution. As completed, it represents more than three years of almost continuous labor.
terms all of
About fourteen hundred terms have been mentioned or defined in historical perspective, which have been employed in applied criticism as a direct means of estimating literary work. The history of the changes of meaning in such terms bears the same relation to Rhetoric as practice does to theory; and innumerable data are furnished in the present work for the historical study of Esthetics. Applied Criticism, in fact, is the common meeting ground for rhetorical theory and the aesthetic instincts; the final test of the truthfulness and accuracy of the one, and of the genuineness and strength of the other. And this, which is true of Criticism in general, is especially true of those concentrated methods of criticism which find expression in the use of critical terms.
Among the best critics of late, there is a decided tendency toward a more careful and discriminative use of critical terms. This is only saying that the study of literature has, to a certain extent at least,
become aware of its own methods and assumptions. No one critic has ever made use of half the critical Vocabulary which is here presented. Wrong constructions of meaning have been given to terms, and controversies have been waged with no real ground for disagreement. Much needless confusion would be avoided by placing in clear relief the historical sequence of meanings which has taken place in the dif ferent terms; by remembering that any meaning once developed in a term tends to persist in some manner to the present; that though terms and words fade and pass away, principles abide and remain. And this represents the standpoint and purpose of the following work.
J. W. B.