First published in 1964, The Art of Discrimination is a study in the relation between critical theory and practice, taking as its test-case James Thomson’s The Seasons, the poem which was, according to Johnson, of "a new kind". Professor Cohen explores the different applications of criticism from 1750 to 1950, analysing specific interpretations of the poem that altered, contradicted or supported poetic theory. In doing so, he introduces new techniques to supplement traditional critical commentary: illustrations are treated as interpretations and critical language is related to non-literary as well as literary information. In treating the history of critical interpretation, the reprinting of editions and past interpretations are considered along with contemporary statements as necessary to define a literary period.
The book offers alternatives to theories of organicism and to those of the arbitrariness of literary history by defining the kinds of continuities that exist in criticism. As analysis of criticism, it studies how men think about literature, the extent to which such thinking resists systematization and those elements in it which can be controlled and organized and transmitted. The book will appeal to students of literature and critical theory.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements Introduction 1. Criticism and Process: The Problem of Thomson’s Revisions 2. Hypotheses and their Transformation: Critical Traditional and the Pressure of the Poem 3. Things, Images and Imagination: The Reconsideration of Description 4. The Scope of Critical Analogy: ‘Ut Pictura Poesis’ 5. Literary Criticism and Illustrations of ‘The Seasons’ 6. Diction, Style and Language: The Dilemma of Critical Agreement 7. The Appeals to the Past: Critics and Audiences 8. Conclusion: Criticism and Discrimination Appendix I: A Check List of Editions of ‘The Seasons’ Appendix II: The Identification of a Critic Index of Names Index of Subjects