Mid-West Quarterly, The (1913-1918)


Date of this Version



Published in The Mid-West Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 3, April 1914.


In these days of "scientific method," when there is so little literary activity of a genuinely critical sort, it is a good deal easier to say in what such activity does not, than in what it does, consist. That literary criticism is not identical with a study of words or language, or yet of texts or "documents"; that it is not to be confounded with philology or with the exploration of origins or derivations, or the investigation of manuscripts, or a determination of the details of literary history-all this ought. to be reasonably clear on the face of it, and when stated in so many words, would probably be conceded even by those who have done most to cause the present confusion. That such subjects and pursuits are very interesting, very important in the¥ way, there is no gainsaying. The study of etymology alone has been of great, if indirect, assistance in the comprehension of literature, although to an hundred etymologists there is probably no more than one good critic. But still literature is something more than words and lives with another life than theirs; they are but the appurtenances, and neither phonology nor phonetics will ever furnish the basis for a satisfactory criticism of literature, any more than a chemistry of pigments will suffice for a criticism of painting.