American literary life has been enriched over the past generation by habits of criticism practiced at Amherst College during the tenure of William H. Pritchard. These essays, which were commissioned as a tribute to Pritchard, celebrate his fortieth year at Amherst and demonstrate the breadth of his influence in the fields of theory, criticism, and pedagogy.
The occasion of forty years of teaching at Amherst by William H. Pritchard, the renowned critic of Frost, Jarrell, and many others, has generated a remarkable collection of essays by former students, colleagues, and friends.
The essays themselves are a spectrum of contemporary criticism, ranging from classroom memoirs to analytic essay in criticism to assessment of the state of academic letters today. These contributions, a tribute, by reason of their very range, are a salute to the breadth of William Pritchard’s circle of literary acquaintance. Under Criticism demonstrates the fine persistence in certain manners of approach and habits of focus that go, among that circle, under the name of criticism.
Drawing foremost on their engagement with the literature before them, Christopher Ricks, Helen Vendler, Patricia Meyer Spacks, Neil Hertz, David Ferry, Paul Alpers, Joseph Epstein, and Frank Lentricchia—as well as fifteen other critics and men and women of letters—reinforce Professor Pritchard’s prescription that in order to have a hearing, the critic needs to keep listening.
David Sofield is Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College.
Herbert F. Tucker teaches English at the University of Virginia and is associate editor of New Literary History.
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The widely divergent voices in this collection are united by their common interest in the American literary heritage and by their intention to redefine that heritage by altering our angle of vision or forcing us to re-examine some traditional values.
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