The Mirror And The Lamp Analysis

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Critical Appreciation of M.H. Abrams’s “Orientation of critical theories”
M.H. Abrams’s The Mirror and the Lamp: romantic theories and the critical traditions is one of the most influential books in the field of western criticism. It was published in the year of 1953. The title of the book refers to the two contradictory metaphors used to portray the artist – one comparing the artist to a mirror that reflects nature as it is or perfected whereas the other compares the artist to a lamp that illuminates the object under consideration. Professor Abrams in his book illustrates the transition of the perspective of the theorists on the artist from one to the other and the ramifications of the latter in aesthetics, poetics and practical criticism.
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the work, the artist, the universe and the audience. By ‘work’, Abrams refers to the piece of art itself and since it is “a human product, an artefact” hence the second element is “the artificer, the artist.” The third element, universe, has often been denoted by the word ‘nature’ as it is said to consist of either “people and actions, ideas and feelings, material things and events” or “super-sensible essences”. These four elements are variable in nature that is “they differ in significance according to the theory in which they occur.”The different critical theories consider all the four elements, however, it is seen that all the theories tend to define, classify and analyse a piece of work based primarily on only one of these four elements. Hence based on this orientation, the different theories can be classified into four broad categories, viz. mimetic theory, pragmatic theory, expressive theory and objective …show more content…
This theory is known as the pragmatic theory. According to this theory, a work of literature should have an impact on the audience. Sir Philip Sidney, in his essay “An Apology for Poetry” says that the main function of poetry is to teach and to delight. He distinguishes poets from the historians and philosophers by saying that poets has the capability to combine the concrete facts provided by the historians and the moral values of the philosophers and present it in a delightful manner. The origin of this theory can be traced back to the rhetoric of classical criticism. In Horace’s Ars Poetica, he explains the aesthetic effects of poetry are to blend the delightful with the useful. However, the balance between these terms changed in the course of time as to Sidney moral effect was the terminal aim but emotion and delight were auxiliary. From Dryden however through 18th century pleasure became the main aim of poetry. Samuel Johnson talks about pragmatic theory is his “Preface to Shakespeare” where the judges the value of Shakespeare’s poetry by the impact it had or have on the readers. He says Shakespeare was able to portray a mirror of life and manner that create a major impact on the audience. The works of Shakespeare are read because they give pleasure and this the reason that the poetry of Shakespeare has a prominent position among

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