Criticism is the art of interpreting, judging, and evaluating the works of literature. It aims to enlighten and stimulate the reader so that he may have a deeper and clearer appreciation of the literary work. Traditionally there have been two broadly different approaches to literary criticism-the classical and romantic. However, from the modern point of view, there are several kinds of criticism depending on its purpose and process and the approach the critic adopts. A critic may confine himself to the work at hand or he may interpret and evaluate it in the light of his knowledge of similar other works. He may adopt the method of comparison or apply the general principles of art to the work at hand. In any case, the critic aims to help the reader to know the work better than he could do without such assistance.
The properties common to all literature can be set out in a system of principles and these principles can be applied to a literary work while interpreting and evaluating it. This type of criticism is called Theoretical Criticism. This has limitations because the rules derived from some particular instances may not apply to literary works produced in some other age or place. Practical Criticism is concerned with the study of particular works or writers basis of general principles. Dr.Jhonson’s ‘Lives of the Poets’, Arnold’s ‘Essays in Criticism’ and T.S. Eliot’s ‘Selected Essays’ belong to this category. A purely scientific kind of Literary Criticism advocated by Professor Moulton is inductive criticism. It aims to bring criticism into the fold of inductive science. It seeks scientific accuracy and impartiality. The inductive critic does not praise or blame a work, he merely reviews it to discover the laws and principles by which the work is moulded.
Inductive Criticism has nothing to do with the value of a piece of literary work, it merely investigates the laws of art practiced by the writer. Thus inductive criticism recognizes no fixed standards and therefore no fixed literary values. Judicial Criticism is a contrast to inductive criticism. It is concerned with the question of the order of merit among literary works. Unlike inductive criticism is based on the assumption that there are laws of literature binding on the writers. Again judicial criticism assumes that there are fixed standards by which literature may be judged. The best practitioners of judicial criticism were Dr.Johnson and Joseph Addison. The merit of judicial criticism is that it seeks to determine the literary value of a work. It emphasizes the truth that judgment in literature is universal. It tries to explain the effects of work in terms of its subject, organisation and techniques. Longinus’s essay ‘On the Sublime’, critical writings of Virginia Woolf and E.M Forster belong to this kind.
Impressionistic Criticism is a part of Romantic Criticism which attempts to express the felt qualities of a work and its impressions on the reader. Pragmatic Criticism views the literary work as something constructed to achieve certain effects on the reader. The quality of the work depends on the extent to which this effect is achieved. Expressive Criticism judges the work by its sincerity or genuineness in expressing the writer’s vision or state of mind.