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French, Italian, and Spanish Criticism, 1900-1950

French, Italian, and Spanish Criticism, 1900-1950: Volume 8

Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 367
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  • Book Info
    French, Italian, and Spanish Criticism, 1900-1950
    Book Description:

    The final volume of René Wellek's monumental history of modern criticism is a comprehensive survey of the main currents of twentieth-century criticism in Western Europe. In this volume, as in the preceding books of the series, Wellek expounds and analyzes the work of the most prominent critics, offering succinct appraisals of his subjects both as individuals and as participants in the broader movements of the century.ContentsI. French Criticism, 1900-1950French "Classical" Criticism in the Twentieth CenturyRetrospect: Alain, Rémy de GourmontThe Nouvelle Revue Française: André Gide, Jacques Rivière, Ramón Fernández, Benjamin Crémiuex, Albert ThibaudetMarcel ProustThe Catholic Renaissance: Charles Du Bos, Jacques Maritain and Henri Bremond, Paul ClaudelDada and SurrealismThe Geneva School: Marcel Raymond, Albert Béguin, Georges PouletAlbert CamusJean-Paul SartrePaul ValéryProspectII. Italian Criticism, 1900-1950Benedetto CroceThe Followers of Croce: Luigi Russo, Francesco Flora, Mario Fubini, Attilio MomiglianoThe Aestheticians: Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, Alfredo GargiuloCritics concerned with English and American literature: Cesare Pavese, Mario Praz, Emilio CecchiItalian Marxism: Antonio Gramesci, Giacomo DebenedettiThe Catholic Renaissance: Carlo BoThe Close Readers: Renato Serra, Giuseppe De Robertis, Cesare De Lollis, Eugenio MontaleIII. Spanish Criticism, 1900-1950Américo CastroMiguel de UnamunoMarcelino Menéndez y Pelayo and Ramón Menéndez PidalAzorínSalvador de MadariagaJorge GuillénDámaso AlonsoJosé Ortega y Gasset

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16158-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PART I. FRENCH CRITICISM, 1900–1950

      (pp. 3-21)

      In many contexts, I have defended the view that the history of criticism is largely determined by individual critics who are good or great writers. One could argue that often the critic is a better writer than the author discussed, and that Oscar Wilde’s paradoxes inThe Decay of Lyingare not so farfetched, when he exalts criticism as the “Fourth Estate,” or simply a new genre after poetry, novel, and drama. France, however, is in some ways an exception. The literary situation there is closely centered on Paris, and for centuries a debate has been carried on between what...

      (pp. 22-25)

      Emile-Auguste Chartier took the pen name Alain when he started to publish, rather late in life. He was an enormously successful teacher and lecturer and had a considerable reputation as a philosopher, particularly as a philosopher meditating on art. In his early years he wrote occasional philosophical and psychophysiological studies that were published in local newspapers and in journals outside Paris, and he took part in the 1904 Congress of Geneva, where he was apparently the only supporter of Bergson. Some of the contributions to different periodicals were collected in 1908–09 but attracted little attention. In 1920 he collected...

      (pp. 26-60)

      André Gide wrote a large number of essays and reviews for theNouvelle Revue Française,many of purely ephemeral interest, devoted to now completely forgotten writers or discussing political problems of the day, such as “Reflections on Germany” (1919) and “The Future of Europe” (1923). Some of the memoirs are of great interest to a historian of criticism, particularly the well-known piece on Mallarmé (1898) praising his “immortal serenity” and his convictions, which were intransigent and hardly affected by criticism. Gide’s reminiscences of Oscar Wilde (1902) describe their encounters, first in 1891 and then in Paris after Wilde’s condemnation and...

    • 4: MARCEL PROUST (1871–1922)
      (pp. 61-71)

      Proust, unquestionably the greatest French novelist of this century, was also a superb critic. His criticism attracted wide attention only in 1954, long after his death, with the publication ofContre Sainte-Beuve,a series of essays written in 1909. A collection of scattered articles from Proust’s early days,Chroniques,had caused no stir when it was published in 1927. The Pléiade edition ofContre Sainte-Beuve,published in 1971, reprinted not only the 1954 collection but all the miscellaneous critical writings and fragments from notebooks and from Proust’s voluminous correspondence. Two good books, Walter A. Strauss’sProust and Literature(1957) and...

      (pp. 72-90)

      Charles Du Bos was a diarist, a preacher to himself, anintrospectifin the tradition of Joubert, Emerson, and Amiel. His long struggle to find a haven in the Roman Catholic Church is fully documented in the nine volumes of his publishedJournal.TheJournalalso contains many reflections on literature, which Du Bos naturally used as a quarry for his published writings. If we wish to study Du Bos as aliterarycritic within a history of criticism, we should, however, look first at his books on Byron and Goethe, and at the seven volumes of his collected essays,...

      (pp. 91-93)

      The Romanian Tristan Tzara (1892–1963) settled in Zurich just before the First World War, possibly fleeing from the Romanian political atmosphere. He made his living there by founding a cabaret called the Voltaire, located in the basement of an old restaurant in the Spiegelgasse, where he performed as a master of ceremonies. He gave his group the name Dada, meaning “hobbyhorse,” a term that apparently existed long before he adopted it. As Tzara at that time knew very little German or French, he started the cabaret with completely meaningless recitations of series of repeating vowels with music, and later...

      (pp. 94-129)

      Marcel Raymond is generally considered the head of the so-called Geneva School. He seems to be the most authoritative voice for the view of literary history that includes literary criticism as a branch of general philosophy or cultural anthropology. Literature is constantly used as a document for the development and later for the essence of an author.

      Raymond is the only proper Genevan in the group. Born in 1897, the son of a Protestant pastor, Raymond thus differs from his closest disciple and friend, Albert Béguin, who in 1940 converted to Catholicism. Raymond wrote widely on his own life, most...

    • 8: ALBERT CAMUS (1913–1960)
      (pp. 130-131)

      Albert Camus is mainly known for his three novels:La Peste,written during the war but published only in 1947,L’Etranger(1942), andLa Chute(1956). Camus was no critic. Only his very occasional reviews have rightly attracted attention. When he reviewed Sartre’s novelLa Nauséein 1938 Camus was still in Algiers. The review is remarkable for praising the (to Camus) totally unknown author, for recognizing Sartre’s position in a history of thought, and for criticizing the book quite severely as unable to reconcile straight storytelling with reflections on life and death, which according to Camus should be the...

    • 9: JEAN-PAUL SARTRE (1905–1980)
      (pp. 132-160)

      Jean-paul Sartre is undoubtedly the most prominent figure in postwar French literature. He was an enormously versatile and prolific writer: somebody has estimated that his writings amount to five million words. The monograph on Flaubert alone, which is not even finished, runs to almost three thousand pages. Sartre was, of course, not only a literary critic, but also a philosopher, a politician, a journalist, a novelist, and a playwright—to mention only his main activities. In a strict sense literary criticism was, I believe, only a minor interest for Sartre, who used it often to illustrate or document his pet...

    • 10: PAUL VALÉRY (1871–1945)
      (pp. 161-183)

      The poetic theory of Paul Valéry can be seen as almost the direct opposite of that of Benedetto Croce: in Croce we find the most complete identification of the author’s creative act with the work of art and the response of the reader, the most emphatic devaluation of what ordinarily is called for in favor of sentiment, the strongest feeling for the historicity of literature. In Valéry we are confronted with a theory that asserts the discontinuity between author, work, and reader, emphasizes a most extreme regard for form and nothing but form divorced from emotion, and takes poetry completely...

    • 11: PROSPECT
      (pp. 184-184)

      I have decided to conclude the section on France with the approximate date of 1950. It allows me to ignore the new trends that did not begin to flourish in France until the fifties and sixties. Without discussing the new “isms”—existentialism, structuralism, and the rest—I am content to say that the atmosphere in Paris changed with the arrival of a young talent, Roland Barthes (1915–80). Barthes’s little pamphletLe Degré zéro de lécriturewas almost completely neglected when it was published in 1953, but his next book,Sur Racine(1963), became the center of a controversy between...


    • 12: BENEDETTO CROCE (1866–1952)
      (pp. 187-223)

      In a speech at Zurich in 1925 Rudolf Borchardt, then a highly visible German essayist, spoke of Croce as dominating the twentieth century as Cicero did the first century B.C., Petrarch the fourteenth, Leibniz the seventeenth, Voltaire the eighteenth, and Goethe the nineteenth.¹ Croce, no doubt, did dominate at least the cultural life of Italy at that time so fully that one could speak of his “intellectual dictatorship.”² Today, however, Borchardt’s assertion or prophecy sounds exceedingly strange. Natalino Sapegno, professor of Italian literature at the University of Rome and an eminent and prolific literary historian, who should know such things,...

      (pp. 224-244)

      Croce supposedly exercised an intellectual dictatorship over Italy in his time, at least as aesthetician and literary critic. But this cannot have been true. The first eminent students of aesthetics and practitioners of criticism who came under his influence soon revolted against him. Giovanni Gentile (1875–1944) contributed to the early volumes of Croce’sLa Critica,but soon broke with Croce, not only for political reasons. Their relations were by no means merely those of teacher and disciple. In fact Gentile must have been effective in making Croce overcome his early aestheticism. Much of Gentile’s later writings were open polemics...

      (pp. 245-249)

      Giuseppe Antonio Borgese was one of Croce’s first adherents. Borgese came from Sicily, somewhere in the neighborhood of Palermo, and studied at the University of Florence, where he wrote his thesis,Storia della critica romantica in Italia(1905). It stirred up a good deal of controversy because Borgese defended the paradoxical view that romantic criticism as such does not exist in Italy and that what is called romantic criticism is really classicist. The young Borgese was drawn into the circle around Croce and contributed to the first numbers of the newly foundedLa Critica.Borgese soon became involved in the...

      (pp. 250-274)

      During the early twentieth century, English and American literature became a topic of debate, admiration, and often harsh criticism in Italy. English literature had been influential in the eighteenth century, mainly through Milton and later Ossian. By the nineteenth century, however, with the exception of the dominant figure of Byron, English literature had receded into the background and certainly always was overshadowed by the French tradition. Italian literature vaguely followed the main trends of Western European literature, with poets like Carducci and novelists like Manzoni, but with the 1870 conquest of Rome and later the expansion into Libya and Ethiopia,...

      (pp. 275-289)

      Antonio Gramsci is generally considered the father of Italian Marxist criticism. He certainly was the most important political figure in the early years of the Italian Communist party. Gramsci was born in 1891 in Sardinia and came to Rome, where he took part in the early Socialist movement. He editedAvantiand after the Russian Revolution helped to found the Italian Communist party, of which he became the chairman. In 1922 Gramsci went for the first time to Moscow as a member of the executive committee of the International. In Moscow he met Evgenia Schucht, who was a prominent member...

      (pp. 290-292)

      Like France, Italy had its Catholic literary renaissance. The man whose critical writings apparently supported it most strongly was Giovanni Boine. In the preface to Boine’s collected essays,Plausi e botte(1918; reprinted, 1978), Geno Pampaloni fervently advocates the return to spirituality, in practice to Catholicism. The “religion of poetry” is the “expression of the divine in man.” Poetry, the lyric, is “a life above life” (Plausi e botte[1978], x). The poet overcomes what we call alienation, or what Pampaloni calls “aimless wandering in the absence of God” (xi). True criticism confronts the souls of authors and shows the...

      (pp. 293-302)

      Renato Serra was an astonishingly precocious young man. The son of a doctor in Cesena, a town not far from Bologna, Serra became a librarian in 1900, when he was just sixteen, at Cesena’s Biblioteca Malatestiana, which housed an important collection of books saved in part from the library of the Knights of Malta. Nine years later he was appointed director of the library. Serra began writing mainly on editorial techniques and composed a pamphlet something like a publisher’s style sheet. He also wrote articles, particularly on Carducci and Croce. He appeared to be a completely bookish young man, who...


    • 19: AMÉRICO CASTRO (1885–1972)
      (pp. 306-307)

      Amérigo Castro’s reputation is largely based on his bookEspan̄a en su historia(1948), an enormously learned history of Spain in the Middle Ages. Castro argues that the Spanish nation was deeply influenced by the long Moorish occupation in the south and by the role of the intellectual Jews who produced so much of the written work until their expulsion in 1492. He asserts that the extreme anti-intellectualism of the Spaniards is due to the loss of the Jewish element. Primarily a detailed history of Spain in the Middle Ages, the book has only small episodes of literary criticism. Castro...

    • 20: MIGUEL DE UNAMUNO (1864–1936)
      (pp. 308-310)

      The 1898 war between Spain and the United States, which the Spanish sometimes call the Cuban War and in which they lost their empire, is generally considered a turning point in Spanish history and intellectual development. The so-called generation of 1898, which includes the poet Antonio Machado, did not produce any real literary critic, though a slightly younger contemporary, Miguel de Unamuno, became famous with his bookVida de Don Quijote y Sancho Panza(1905).

      Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo was born in Bilbao in the Basque country, of a Basque father and a Spanish mother. Early on he went...

      (pp. 311-312)

      Two great scholars have dominated Spain’s literary scene. Though literary historians rather than critics, they both indulged in criticism, if by that we mean judgments on contemporary writers and books. Marcelino Menéndez y Pelayo ruled the literary scene at the end of the nineteenth century and during the first decade of the twentieth century. He can be described as a one-man importer of European ideas into Spain. TheHistoria de las ideas estéticas(1883–91), for instance, provides literal translations of writers like Schiller, Kant, and Hegel without any kind of comment or clearly stated point of view. From what...

    • 22: AZORÍN (JOSÉ MARTÍNEZ RUIZ) (1873–1967)
      (pp. 313-314)

      The most eminent Spanish critic of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was Azorín, the pseudonym of José Martínez Ruiz. (Azorínseems to combine a reference toazor,meaning “hawk,” with a reference toazorar,“to confound, to excite.”) Martínez Ruiz began as a journalist and even edited a humorous magazine calledCharivari,which was suppressed by the government in 1897. When his publishing career was interrupted, Martínez Ruiz turned to what could be called philosophy, in practice a popularization of Schopenhauer’s pessimism. Azorín eventually turned to serious philosophizing and became known aspequen̄o filósofo,or “little philosopher,” both...

    • 23: SALVADOR DE MADARIAGA Y ROJO (1886–1978)
      (pp. 315-317)

      Salvador de Madariaga was married to an English woman and lived for many years in England, where he stayed after the toppling of the royal regime in Spain. The remarkable title essay from his bookShelley and Calderón(1920) demonstrates convincingly that inThe CenciShelley used a passage from one of Calderón’sautos,closely following several lines and ending with a literal translation of Calderón’s conclusion: “The melancholy mountain yawns” (El monte melancólico bosteza; 35). Madariaga astutely develops the relation between Shelley and Calderón, often on what seems very slight evidence. The volume also contains an essay called “The...

    • 24: JORGE GUILLÉN (1893–1984)
      (pp. 318-321)

      Jorge Guillén was one of the most eminent Spanish poets of the twentieth century. He belonged to the group loosely called the generation of 1927, but he was really quite an independent entity. His poems were collected under the titleCántico.When the Spanish civil war broke out, Guillén fled first to France and then to the United States, where he was Mellon Professor at the University of Pittsburgh and later taught at Wellesley College. In 1957–58 he was invited to be the Charles Eliot Norton Lecturer on Poetry at Harvard University. The lectures were published in English in...

    • 25: DÁMASO ALONSO (1892–1990)
      (pp. 322-329)

      Dámaso Alonso wrote on almost every figure in Spanish literature, often in considerable detail and with great learning. I shall comment on some of his most striking essays.

      Like every student of Spanish literature, Alonso comments onDon Quixote,in a piece published in 1950 called “Sancho-Quixote, Sancho-Sancho.” There, very convincingly, he shows that Unamuno and Papini simplify the relationship of the two protagonists when they argue that Sancho was taken by the ideal of knighthood and thus became a second Quixote. After all, they say, he left his home and family and became Quixote’s squire, accompanying him on all...

    • 26: JOSÉ ORTEGA Y GASSET (1883–1955)
      (pp. 330-336)

      José Ortega y Gasset was by far the most famous general critic in Spain. He cannot be described as a literary critic only, but rather as a critic of civilization and of Spanish civilization in particular. He was extreme in his condemnation of contemporary Spain, quoting the historian Joaquín Costa (1846–1911): “Spain is a country which seen from the outside was unstructured, without real and living institutions, without schools and universities, without administration, without a parliament, without deputations, without councils or courts of law, without an army or diplomacy, though it had the appearance of all this.” In many...

    (pp. 337-358)
    (pp. 359-366)
    (pp. 367-369)