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date: 15 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter charts the development of a new model of critical reading among the English Romantics, a mode of ‘genial criticism’ expressly designed to oppose the judgemental reviewing practices of the age. Having its source in literary conversations among the Lamb circle, especially in the years 1808–12, it began to find tentative public expression in Coleridge’s Shakespeare lectures of 1811–2, Lamb’s essays for The Reflector, those Round Table essays of Hazlitt’s that were not overtaken by the ‘reviewing’ spirit, and the critical notes in Wordsworth’s Excursion and Poems (1815). The second part of Coleridge’s Biographia Literaria was the culmination of this vein, giving the fullest theoretical articulation of the ‘genial’ model of criticism, although arguably the most sustained examples of Romantic practical criticism are to be found in works of a more private nature, such as Coleridge’s marginalia to the Ayscough Shakespeare.

Keywords: practical criticism, reviewing, genius, genial, imagination, fancy, beauty, unity, organic, epitaphs

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