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A Study of Edmund Wilson’s Criticism of “The Historical Interpretation of Literature”

Author FengBing
Tutor DongHongChuan
School Sichuan International Studies University
Course Comparative Literature and World Literature
Keywords reason literature character humanism independence and freedom real society nature of humankind
CLC
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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Edmund Wilson occupies an important place in the history of American literature in the 20th century. In his lasting literary life of half a century , Wilson’s literary achievements , which deals with many fields such as literary criticism、social comment、novel、poetry、drama、history、speechand so on, are very productive.In the West the research achivements about Wilson are plentiful, but in China there are few articals on research of Wilson’s criticism.Wilson’s literary criticism also deals with many things. The speech The Historical Interpretation of Literature , which delivered in Princeton University in 1940 by Wilson, intensively embodies his literary outlook. Based on the basic concept of the speech, dealing with the specific texts, this thesis tries to make a thorough exposition of Wilson’s criticism of“The Historical Interpretation of Literature”.Wilson’s criticism of“The Historical Interpretation of Literature”, which intended for the literary authors and most of literary amateurs in society, based on Marxism、Freudian psychoanalysis、the traditional criticism of society and history and the criterion of“emotional reaction”, uses kinds of critical methods, attaches great importance to the literature character in criticism and relations between literature and society, embodies Wilson’s humanism spirit of seeking truth through literature, paying attention to real society nature of humankind and standing fast to independence and freedom. A careful discussion of some of Wilson’s texts in the first chapter, however, reveals that“The Historical Interpretation of Literature”is based on Marxism、Freudian psychoanalysis、the traditional criticism of society and history and the criterion of“emotional reaction”. The second chapter discusses that the nature of“The Historical Interpretation of Literature”is“a history of man’s ideas and imaginings”. The third chapter points out the significance of“The Historical Interpretation of Literature”lies in Wilson’s humanism spirit.

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