The Mirror and the Lamp : Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition Paperback
by M. H. Abrams
Part of the Galaxy Books series
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 416 pages, black & white illustrations
- Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
- Publication Date: 01/03/1972
- Category: Literary theory
- ISBN: 9780195014716
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Review by stillatim
A tough one to rate on the star system, unfortunately, since it's very uneven. The early chapters, up to his precis of Wordsworth and especially Coleridge are excellent- he explains how and why Romantic criticism came to be what it is, by putting it into the context of earlier critics. The second half, though, isn't nearly as impressive. It's good intellectual history, I guess, in the 'x thought y' mode. But there's much less convincing analysis of the 'x thought y because of z' mode, and really, that's much more important. <br/>I was also hoping for something a bit less dense when I started, which might have biased me a bit, and there's nothing more fatuous than the psychology of art, from the earliest writers through to the neuro-aestheticians of our time. So that didn't help the middle two chapters. On the other hand, better this than the books that were being written twenty years later, since Abrams was still under the impression that you have to know about something before writing theory about that thing, so this book will help you learn about the Romantics and not about, say, a deconstructivist post-feminist anti-Marxist stance with some vague connection to Shelley. Thumbs up for that.