History as a Tool in Critical Interpretation

A Symposium


The most remarkable thing about this book may be that it should exist at all. Its two young editors, then graduate students in the Department of Humanities at Brigham Young University, apparently had bypassed or forgotten all about laws of possibility and probability when they set out to organize and promote a Brigham Young University Symposium on the Humanities. They certainly had never been told how difficult it would be to get money for and acceptance from even one big-name participant, to say nothing of five. So they went ahead and brought together five remarkably important people in history and criticism of literature and the arts. Not only that, they started a series of such symposia that I trust will go on indefinitely (The Third Annual Symposium was held in the winter of 1979).

BYU had had important individual lecturers in the humanities many times before, but never a group at one time of anything like the prestige of: Monroe C. Beardsley of Temple University, esthetician and extreme apologist for the New Criticism in literature; E. H. Gombrich, emeritus of the University of London, one of the world’s most distinguished art historians; Karsten Harries, chairman of the Department of Philosophy at Yale; E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Kenan Professor of English at the University of Virginia and one of the most influential of the younger critics who have been challenging most of the assumptions of the New Critics; and Rene Wellek, emeritus, of Yale University, who with Austin Warren authored Theory of Literature (1948), a broadly based study of literary theory and methodology which very soon became the theoretical base for much of the New Criticism, then at the highest level of its authority in university English departments.


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