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The Mirror And The Lamp Analysis

Powerful Essays
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 which 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. The essay “Orientation of critical theories” is the first chapter of this book. It provides a condensed history of the evolution of critical theories and discriminates between them with the aid of a simple diagram. The essay begins with the definition of modern criticism which is to exhibit “the relation of art to the artist, rather than to external nature, or to the audience, or to the internal requirements of the work itself”. This one and a half century old theory of art competed against innumerable theories such as the mimetic theory, the pragmatic theory, etc., all of which have been thoroughly discussed in the essay. Abrams quotes theorists such as Santayana and D.W. Prall to show the unreal and chaotic nature of these alternate theories. After that, Abrams describes the criterion of a good critical
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