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The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  737 ratings  ·  22 reviews
With this book, M.H. Abrams has given us a remarkable study, admirably conceived and executed, a book of quite exceptional and no doubt lasting significance for a number of fields - for the history of ideas and comparative literature as well as for English literary history, criticism and aesthetics.
Paperback, 416 pages
Published September 15th 1971 by Galaxy Books/Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1954)
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4.14  · 
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 ·  737 ratings  ·  22 reviews

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Alok Mishra
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Abrams was certainly one of the best to know what he wrote. I enjoyed reading this collection of his essays because I generally love reading challenging criticism. Yes, there are instances that you might agree or you might just ignore. Still, the book clarifies many things for the beginners and further complicates many things for those who know a bit of romanticism.
Sep 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
It's the first time I've had this reaction when reading an 'academic' book: awe and envy. I usually have 2 stock reactions: 1. interesting, but the author's argument was screwed in A and B manner and 2. how did this guy even get his phd?! in a cereal box!?

M.H. Abrams is too good to be anywhere near either 1 or 2. This is a work in which immense effort has been put in, together with an incredible amount of brain power -- and it shows. The differences between this and many other works of scholarsh
Justin Evans
Jan 05, 2010 rated it liked it
A tough one to rate on the star system, unfortunately, since it's very uneven. The early chapters, up to his precis of Wordsworth and especially Coleridge are excellent- he explains how and why Romantic criticism came to be what it is, by putting it into the context of earlier critics. The second half, though, isn't nearly as impressive. It's good intellectual history, I guess, in the 'x thought y' mode. But there's much less convincing analysis of the 'x thought y because of z' mode, and really ...more
Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Read parts as an undergrad and most all in grad school in the late sixties. Its fine, clear distinctions positively bask in an age when literary endeavor and discussion redounded through the halls of the academy, as economics and computers and medically-related programs do now. It was an age when distinctions between imitation and expression sufficed, before the onslaught of the French Disease, déconstruction. The French import stretched comprehension and discussion well beyond Classical versus ...more
Thom Dunn
An essential text for the study of Romantic poetry, built upon a brilliant metaphor.
Christopher McQuain
Mar 29, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to me and my classmates last year by the great Professor Borsch-Jacobsen (who teaches Intro to Theory and Criticism at University of Washington), Abrams' book purports to be on "the ROMANTIC" theory of poetry, and it does use that relatively recent strain of criticism as its jumping-off point and frame of reference. However, you could do a lot worse than this book for an introduction to a vast range of evolving lit-critical modes through history, starting with Greece and ending in 19 ...more
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Can you believe it, I eat this stuff up.
Charlotte Pence
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This past year I've been thinking and reading about how the "I" in contemporary poetry has evolved from the Greek lyric and Romantic poets--and Abrams lays it out in this book. Excellent so far.
Re-read celem doczytania o recepcji Younga w Prusach. Doktorat in progress.
Rike Jokanan
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone appreciating literary works
Recommended to Rike by: Ibu Parwati Soemarto (my genious lecturer)
Shelves: reviewed
A compulsary reading for me, an English student back to 13 years ago.

Reading it, I made doodles, notes, folding, highlight, comments. The book is now dog-eared, wrinkle, dirty, old but still CHARMING.

I still read it sometimes.
Aaron Haspel
Jun 19, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The best survey of romantic literary theory. Abrams is a scholar, not a critic, but he is a very great scholar.
Brian Willis
Jun 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is one of the critical books to read on literary but primarily poetic theory. The great Romantic movement accomplished perhaps the most important revolution in literary history. Through the public essays and prefaces of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, as well as the constant theorizing in the private letters of Blake and Keats, as well as the other important theorists of the day, such as Hazlitt and Leigh Hunt, poetry turned from demanding strict reality and truth in verse and made ...more
Dec 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
this short and precise novel opened my integrity to the ramifications to today's society. It has somewhat elevated me to a non Neolithically citizen, in a way to adjust to the darkness of musical dormitory.
Outstandingly vocal, I would suggest to any one that needs a reinvention to a literacy on a downfall to a delegative domain.
Charlie Ericson
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
what a dude
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The book is absolutely awesome.
Brendan Coke
Apr 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
A tough yet enlightening read on the origins and mechanics of (critical/literary theory and) romanticism. Moreover prepares the reader (albeit in a rather didactic way) to engage with (and once again be critical of) the visual arts/fine arts/film/ photography/art history, poetry and other forms of literature. In that respect it's a great introduction to the creative field.
Philip Lane
May 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting and very thorough history of literary criticism as pertaining to poetry. It was published in the 1950s so does not include any of the more modern theories or stances but gives a very good idea of the foundations on which attitudes to art and poetry are based. It is quite technical at times and so perhaps not very useful as an introduction to the subject as even after getting a degree in literature I found myself struggling at times. I suppose some of the beliefs about what poetry sho ...more
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Having read this twice (with a 20 year gap between readings), I now understand much more, but know much less. Which is to say: this time I enjoyed the intellectual history, but felt less compelled to take sides.
Dec 09, 2014 marked it as to-read
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Meyer Howard Abrams is an American literary critic, known for works on Romanticism, in particular his book The Mirror and the Lamp. In a powerful contrast, Abrams shows that until the Romantics, literature was usually understood as a mirror, reflecting the real world, in some kind of mimesis; but for the Romantics, writing was more like a lamp: the light of the writer's inner soul spilled out to i ...more