An Examination Of The Philosophic Components Of The Literary Criticism Of Edmund Clarence Stedman Within The Historical Perspective Of Late Nineteenth And Early Twentieth-Century American Poetic Theory (new York)

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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




The poetic theory of Edmund Clarence Stedman has yet to be seen in its proper perspective. From the mid-1870's through the first decade of the twentieth century, Stedman's was the definitive voice of new critical principles which displaced the older criticism dominated by New England figures. Centered in New York, the critics led by Stedman were sensitive to new tendencies in American criticism, combining them with principles orthodox and long established. Their critical theory was a synthesis of new and old, consciously placed in the service of fostering poetry as important to the moral and spiritual health of an emerging America. Following the French critic, Hippolyte Taine, Stedman saw literature as a cyclical production within a fixed historical pattern reflecting the spirit of its time, a means through which society could be improved, and a way to create universal standards of beauty. Stedman's critical synthesis accommodated such theories as associations, classicism, and American idealism.The introductory chapter reviews Stedman's life and productions and surveys the criticism which subsequently devolved upon him. The body of the dissertation consists of four chapters which analyze the sources of Stedman's theory of poetic ideality, examine the evolution of its concepts, and identify those concepts that have endured in later critical formulations.Chapter One explores Stedman's emphasis on a transcendental basis within poetry.Chapter Two analyzes the ethical base of Stedman's theory which stressed the poet's responsibility to reform society according to universal philosophic concepts.Chapter Three examines Stedman's criticism in terms of his fusion of the spiritual and the ethical.Chapter Four discusses the ways through which Stedman's philosophy of fusion and synthesis forecast twentieth-century American critical positions. Stedman's interest in the meeting point of life and art found a counterpart in twentieth-century critical thought as did his concern with the ethical burden of poetry.The concluding chapter views Stedman's criticism as an ongoing assimilation of many streams of American critical thought.


Literature, American

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