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Forming the Critical Mind

Forming the Critical Mind

Dryden to Coleridge

James Engell

ISBN 9780674309432

Publication date: 06/26/1989

James Engell has prepared the first broad treatment of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century British criticism to appear in a generation, presenting the views of scores of writers on a variety of questions, many of which remain live issues today.

While offering major reevaluations of Dryden, Hume, and Johnson, Engell demonstrates that eighteenth-century criticism cannot be represented by just a few major critics or by generalizations about Augustan taste, neoclassical rules, or “common sense.” He presents a complex and highly varied body of theoretical writing and practical application by dozens of critics including Rymer, Addison, Welsted, Ramsay, Hurd, Gerard, Newbery, Campbell, Blair, Beattie, Jeffrey, and Hazlitt. He also analyzes the continued relevance of their critical work, drawing connections with modern writers such as Eliot, Frye, Saussure, Barthes, Culler, Bakhtin, and Lévi-Strauss.

Engell concludes with a stimulating essay on the nature and function of the critical process itself. For students and scholars conversant with modern critical theory, Forming the Critical Mind will offer some surprising and interesting comparisons.


  • This is a book of deep learning and bold generalization…the first detailed map of an enormous territory with all the main ranges, rivers, and tributary streams filled in.

    —Times Literary Supplement


  • James Engell is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Harvard University and co-editor of the Bollingen edition of the Biographia Literaria for the Collected Works of Coleridge.

Book Details

  • 336 pages
  • 6-3/8 x 9-3/8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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