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This type of approach distances itself from the play and goes instead into the playwright’s biography to find people, places and things that seem to be similar to features in the play. And then it claims that the play is actually a picture of these people, places and things. In its extreme form this is fallacy because it does not consider that playwrights use their imagination when they write and that they can imagine improbable or even impossible things.

The Hobbit by John Tolkien
This is a very good example of biographical criticism and deeply compares the lives of John Tolkien and his main character, Bilbo Baggins.

Samuel Johnson’s Lives of Poets

Biographical Criticism
Samuel Johnson’s Lives of the Poets (1779–81) was the first thorough-going exercise in biographical criticism, the attempt to relate a writer’s background and life to his works. The revolution from neoclassicism to romanticism is seen in the works of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who emphasized the importance of emotion and imagination in literature.

In his Preface to the Second Edition of the Lyrical Ballads (1800), Wordsworth described the lyric as “emotion recollected in tranquility,” and Coleridge, in his Biographia Literaria (1817), defined imagination as “the repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation,” rather than as a mere mechanical flight of fancy.

The radical shift in emphasis was further delineated by John Keats in his letters and by Percy Bysshe Shelley in his Defense of Poetry (1821)—”poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Some critics celebrated art for art’s sake, with no moral strings attached, such as Arthur Symons in The Symbolist Movement in Literature (1899). Henry James, an important novelist and critic of the novel, stressed the possibilities of point of view for further developing the narrative form in his essay “The Art of Fiction”

The emphasis in criticism of this period on the reaction of the critic to the work under scrutiny led to the use of the term impressionistic criticism.

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