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Nature and Function of Literary Criticism Essay

The word criticism is derived from the Greek word meaning ” judgment”. Hence, criticism was known to be the exercise of judgment on works of literature, or it can be said that criticism is the play of mind to observe the merits and defects on the work of literature. A critic , therefore, is a person who expresses judgment on works of literature or poetry or the art of an artist or a painter. The critic is also defined as a person who is possessed of the knowledge necessary to enable him to pronounce right judgments upon the merits or worth of such works as come within its province.

However, the question that is always asked, does the critic has the right to judge or not ? Indeed, no one has the right to judge the people because of two reasons. Firstly, to judge the people is something subjective ; in other words, when a critic evaluate a literary work he is judge based on or influenced by his personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. Second, when a critic judge and evaluate a literary work , he eliminates the reader’s mind and deactivate his faculty of thinking and analysis.

It’s known that the target group of the critics is the public reader, so what do they want from the reader and what is the ultimate objective of criticism?. Actually, the modern understanding of criticism is regarded as having two different functions which helps to achieve the main purposes of criticism.

The Modern Understanding of Criticism
Criticism is the process of analysis and description and interpretation of literary works for the purpose of increasing understanding and raising appreciation.  This means that the critic should penetrate to the heart of the literary work to analyze and formulate its meaning , to disengage and describe its qualities of power and beauty , and to elucidate by direct examination the artistic and moral principles which, whether the writer himself was conscious of them or not , have actually guided and controlled his labors, and then to pronounce a right evaluation of a literary work.

It’s worth to realize that criticism does not depend on a critic’s views or his opinions , but it depends on scientific basis which is ” Critical Theories”. As a result, criticisms are completely different depending on the theory that the critic uses.

Thus, the objective of literary criticism is to determine the artistic values, poetic beauty, or the features being regarded as inadequate existing in the works of literature in order to 1-Helping the reader to gain a better understanding of nature and value of literature, and a better appreciation of the pleasure proper to literature, then to form an evaluation of his own. 2- Helping the writer to improve his skills and facilitate to achieve the merits while allowing him to overcome the flaws if any. At this stage, it would be appropriate to say that criticism is not just ” fault- finding” , but helping the writer or poets or artists in achieving the excellence in their works and leading the reader to a better understanding and appreciation. At this point , the saying of T.S Eilot is worth mentioning, ” The end of criticism is the elucidation of works of art and to correction of taste”.

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