e-book An Experiment in Criticism

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You already recently rated this item. Your rating has been recorded. Write a review Rate this item: 1 2 3 4 5. Preview this item Preview this item. He doubted the use of strictly evaluative criticism, especially its condemnations. Literary criticism is traditionally employed in judging books, and 'bad taste' is thought of as a taste for bad books. Professor Lewis' experiment consists in reversing the process, and judging literature itself by the way men read it. He defined a good book as one which can be read in a certain way, a bad book as one which can only be read in another.

He was therefore mainly preoccupied with the notion of good reading: and he showed that this, in its surrender to the work on which it is engaged, has something in common with love, with moral action, and with intellectual achievement. In good reading we should be concerned less in altering our own opinions than in entering fully into the opinions of others; "in reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself".

As with all that Professor Lewis wrote, the arguments are stimulating and the examples apt"--Publisher description. Read more Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Find a copy in the library Finding libraries that hold this item Why do we read literature and how do we judge it? Lewis's classic analysis springs from the conviction that literature exists for the joy of the reader and that books should be judged by the kind of reading they invite.

Reviews Editorial reviews. Publisher Synopsis 'Lewis is at one and the same time provocative, tactful, biased, open-minded, old-fashioned, far-seeing, very annoying and very wise. User-contributed reviews Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers. Be the first. Add a review and share your thoughts with other readers.

Similar Items Related Subjects: 4 Criticism. Books and reading. User lists with this item 6 titles for future ref items by cune09ref updated Linked Data More info about Linked Data. All rights reserved. Remember me on this computer. Cancel Forgot your password? C S Lewis ; Owen Barfield.

An Experiment in Criticism For Film

Print book : English View all editions and formats. View all subjects. User lists Similar Items. Lewis twisted things around by suggesting that there are different kinds of readers or rather types of reading.

The Neglected C.S. Lewis Pt. 3: The Discarded Image and The Allegory of Love

A bad book then becomes a book that can only be read in one way; a good book is one that allows for the other kind of reading -- although one can still "misuse" a good book. Good reading, as Lewis considered it, is enjoyment found by a type of surrender to the work as a whole.

Good reading is a seeking to put oneself in the mind of the artist, to see through his or her eyes. This idea is connected very much so to what I have always said on this journal about art -- that art is communication. Chapter by Chapter Summary "The Few and the Many" Lewis begins with the observation that the majority of people who read are vastly different in their enjoyment of literature than the minority whom he calls the "literary". He uses this observation to argue that to say the majority has "bad taste" is a little foolish in that they do not really have a "taste" for books at all in the same way that the majority do, that is, the literary "feed" on books and are "hungry" without them, whereas, this is not the case for the majority.

It may well have been the other way around. He then goes on to demonstrate the many who call themselves literary do not really fall into the same category as the "literary" that he defines. Such people are "snobs" my word , thinking their "taste" in writing must be good and that those who like lesser genres or styles are "barbaric".

Others are "status seekers" reading books because those "in the know" are reading those books. Such people's tastes flow with the times and cliques in which they find themselves, not really enjoying the writing themselves. They are simply following the fashions.


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Related to this is one who reads to improve himself, to culture herself. While such a person may indeed have bettered him or herself, this one has still not enjoyed the art for what it was and has not read "properly". He further blames schools for pushing this sort of misreading, where children read books because they have to and not because they want to. Such people turn enjoyment of art into an intellectual exercise.

He makes this analogy: Yet this worthy man may be, in the sense I am concerned with, no true lover of literature at all.

An Experiment in Criticism | Wresting with C.S. Lewis (online)

He may be as far from that as a man who does s with dumb-bells every morning may be from being a lover of games. The playing of games will ordinarily contribute to a man's bodily perfection; but if that becomes the sole or chief reason for playing them they cease to be games and become 'exercise'. He mentions how one may fit into the one category for one type of art and the other category for another type of art. For example, one might be a "true" reader but have no "true" appreciation of music or vice versa.

For example, he spoke of liking Beatrix Potter's illustrations at one time They were substitutes. If at one age I could really have seen humanised animals I should have greatly preferred it. Similarly, I admired the picture of a landscape only if, and only because, it represented country such as I would have liked to walk through in reality. A little later I admired a picture of a woman only if, and only because, it represented a woman who would have attracted me if she were really present.

Here, it is demonstrated that art is more than mere representation of reality. He describes this as "using" pictures rather than "receiving" pictures. He lists five traits of the unliterary: They almost exclusively prefer narratives. This is because they care little for the emotional or abstract in the writing. They almost exclusively read with their eyes and not with their ears. They almost exclusively are ignorant of style.

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They almost exclusively prefer less description. This is like those who dislike films with lots of dialog and prefer to see things happen.


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  • They almost exclusively prefer fast-moving stories. The unliterary focuses on the "event" and not on the "experience". He discusses how the "event" can include emotions, but that this often results in misuse. Some read romance novels to experience "love" or mysteries to experience the pleasure of intrigue. The problem is that the unliterary enjoy these stories in no other way.

    He then clarifies that "Those who seek only vicarious happiness in their reading are unliterary; but those who pretend that it can never be an ingredient in good reading are wrong. The story about which Virgil wrote, for example, is a good story. That it is the topic of the creative poetry of Virgil is irrelevant. He calls such stories myths. A myth is extraliterary. The same myth may be told by numerous books and in numerous art forms.

    He speaks of how the unliterary often read in the egoistic castle-building way while the literary do so in the disinterested castle-building way. He shows how the unliterary fantasize about such things as love stories and mysteries and yet cannot fantasize as well with literary fantasies because the latter "could never really happen. He distinguishes -- as I have also done before -- between "realism of presentation" "the art of bringing something close to us, making it palpable and vivid, by sharply observed or sharply imagined detail" and "realism of content" "'realistic'" in the sense of probable or even possible".

    He says, This should clear up once and for all a very elementary confusion which I have sometimes detected I wish it had. He shows how much modern fiction contains realism of content without necessarily realism of presentation. He discusses all four combinations of realism one could find in a book and argues that no combination is necessarily superior to the other, each having its artistic place. He says, On a higher level it appears as the belief that all good books are good primarily because they give us knowledge, teach us 'truths' about 'life'. Dramatists and novelists are praised as if they were doing, essentially, what used to be expected of theologians and philosophers, and the qualities which belong to their works as inventions and designs are neglected.

    They are reverenced as teachers and insufficiently appreciated as artists.

    An experiment in criticism (Book, ) [erulvicheckhe.cf]

    Lewis argues that readers should be less concerned with a book changing their own minds as with entering the minds of the author and seeing things through their eyes. When we 'receive' it we exert our senses and imagination..

    When we 'use' it we treat it as assistance for our own activities Because literature is art made of words and words require abstract use, there is a complication.