Literary criticism is defined as the study and interpretation of literature. There are many schools of literary criticism including the medieval, Renaissance, 19th century and new criticism. Literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory; nonetheless literary critics have not always been theorists.
Whether to demarcate literary theory and criticism is still a matter a controversy. For instance the Johns Hopkins Guide to Literary thinking and Criticism uses both the terms of literary theory and criticism to describe the same concept. Another school of thought is that while theory is abstract or general criticism deals specifically with a particular work and is more specific. criticism could be published in the form of essays or books that are often published in academic journals and popular periodicals.
Classical and medieval criticism is thought to be as old as the literature itself and Aristotle’s description of literary forms with specific comments date back to the 4th century BC. Plato’s criticism on poetry and the literary criticism of Bharata Muni on ancient Indian literature in his famous book Natya Sastra are some of the other examples of classic criticism.
It is interesting to note that most of the medieval criticism was focused on religious texts, of Jewish Christian and Islamic literature. In Arabic literature and 9 th century Arabic poems a strong application of literary criticism is evident; particularly by Al-Jahiz in his al-Bayan wa-‘l-tabyin and al-Hayawan and by Abdullah ibn al-Mu’tazz in his Kitab al-Badi.
During the Renaissance era, literature evolved to be the core of culture whereby both the poet and the author became equally involved in the preservation of literary traditions. Some of the earlier evidences of literary criticism date back to 1498 to Giorgio Valla’s Latin translation of Aristotle’s Poetics.
The early 19 th century heralded the British Romantic movement, which triggered new aesthetic ideas to literary study which suggested that literary works need not always be beautiful, perfect or romantic and can take in any subject that could hold the interest of the readers. German Romanticism, which evolved later also focused on other attributes like wit or humour in literary works. The late nineteenth century saw the emergence of many authors who were regarded in high esteem for their criticism rather than for their own literary creations.