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Definitions: Essays in Contemporary Criticism   By: (1878-1961)

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Definitions: Essays in Contemporary Criticism by Henry Seidel Canby offers a diverse and thought-provoking collection of essays that delve into the depths of contemporary literature and criticism. Canby's astute observations and profound insights make this book an essential resource for any literary enthusiast or aspiring critic.

Divided into various sections, the book covers a wide array of topics, ranging from the nature of poetry and the role of the critic to the complexities of modern fiction and the art of interpretation. Each essay is meticulously crafted, showcasing Canby's extensive knowledge and deep understanding of the subject matter.

One of the book's strengths lies in Canby's ability to present complex ideas in a clear and accessible manner. His prose is elegant and scholarly, yet remains engaging and devoid of jargon. By employing a conversational tone, he effortlessly communicates his ideas to readers of all backgrounds, making the book appealing to both seasoned critics and casual readers.

Another standout feature of this collection is the author's wide-ranging knowledge of literature. Canby draws examples from a plethora of renowned authors and works, blending classic and contemporary references seamlessly. This approach enables readers to appreciate the relevance and timelessness of the issues discussed, while also broadening their literary horizons.

Canby's essays are not limited to mere analysis of literary works; they also illuminate important cultural and social contexts. By examining texts through a critical lens, he uncovers the underlying themes, symbols, and motifs that reflect the world we live in. This added layer of interpretation elevates the book beyond a simple analysis of literature, creating a deeper and more meaningful reading experience.

While the book's academic nature may intimidate some readers, Canby's writing style, as well as his inclusion of personal anecdotes, helps to bridge the gap between theory and practical application. His relatable voice invites readers to actively engage with his ideas, inviting them to reflect on their own interpretations and viewpoints.

Definitions: Essays in Contemporary Criticism is a valuable addition to the field of literary criticism. Canby's keen intellect and profound insights offer a unique perspective that will undoubtedly inspire and stimulate readers to approach both literature and contemporary culture with renewed curiosity and insight. Whether one is a literature expert or a curious observer, this anthology provides a rewarding and delightful reading experience.

First Page:





Editor of The Literary Review of The New York Evening Post , and a member of the English Department of Yale University.



The author wishes to acknowledge the courtesy of The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's Magazine, The Century Magazine, The Literary Review of The New York Evening Post, The Bookman, The Nation, and The North American Review for permission to reprint such of these essays as have appeared in their columns.


The unity of this book is to be sought in the point of view of the writer rather than in a sequence of chapters developing a single theme and arriving at categorical conclusions. Literature in a civilization like ours, which is trying to be both sophisticated and democratic at the same moment of time, has so many sources and so many manifestations, is so much involved with our social background, and is so much a question of life as well as of art, that many doors have to be opened before one begins to approach an understanding. The method of informal definition which I have followed in all these essays is an attempt to open doors through which both writer and reader may enter into a better comprehension of what novelists, poets, and critics have done or are trying to accomplish... Continue reading book >>

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