Selected essays of R.P. Blackmur

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Examines the nature of literary criticism and analyzes the works of writers including E. E. Cummings, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Emily Dickinson

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The Sublime Blackmur
A Critics Job of Work
Notes on a Text of Hart Crane

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About the author (1986)

R. P. Blackmur, a native of Massachusetts, was one of America's foremost literary critics. Though lacking a college education, he was on the Princeton faculty from 1940 until his death, and in 1961-62 was Pitt Professor of American History and Institutions at Cambridge University. Blackmur contributed criticism to literary journals and "little" magazines, chiefly on nineteenth and twentieth century novelists and poets. As a leader in the New Criticism, an academic movement that advocated close rhetorical analysis of texts, Blackmur rejected the traditional historicism of literary criticism. In A Burden for Critics (1948), he called for "modern criticism to enlarge its scope, and to add to analysis, elucidation, and comparison the important function of judgment based on rational standards." Blackmur's development of a New Critical theory depended in large part on the conviction of Matthew Arnold conviction that literary study was and should be the pivotal feature of culture.

Denis Donoghue is University Professor and Henry James Professor of English and American Letters at New York University.