Winter 1949 • Vol. XI No. 1 The Critic's Business: By Four of the Critics |

New vs. Ordealist

If Mr. Ransom is right in saying that just now the New Criticism is being underestimated or sold short, it is time to see that this may be caused by the New Criticism's underestimation of itself and of the conditions of cultural survival in the modern world. Another school of criticism, which the New Critics habitually sell short, can be instructive here. I mean the Ordealist Criticism, which took its lead from the early Van Wyck Brooks, and exfoliated into a more general cultural criticism in such a writer as Edmund Wilson. The Ordealists have of course been interested in the suffering and failure of the artist and in his estrangement from society, rather than primarily in the books he wrote. To the Ordealist ear, the agonized complaint of the stricken Prometheus has been sweeter than the poetry of Prometheus the Creator, though both songs were sung at once. Is the artist estranged? Well, yes, no, some artist, sometimes. The idea of estrangement is misleading if it is made the p

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Richard Chase (1914-1962) was a literary critic and a Professor of English at Columbia University. He is known for his work The American Novel and Its Tradition.

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