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This review is taken from PN Review 8, Volume 5 Number 4, July - September 1979.

SOCIOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES Patrick Parrinder: Authors and Authority: A Study of English Literary Criticism and its Relation to Culture 1750-1900 (Routledge and Kegan Paul), £3.75.

"The new culture in which we live", writes Patrick Parrinder in the postscript to Authors and Authority, "is dominated by the rise of the social sciences." Holding this view, it is not surprizing that his study of the central tradition in English literary criticism should be markedly sociological in both content and organization. Parrinder has been influenced in his view of intellectual history by the work of T. S. Kuhn on the history of science; and Kuhn's interpretation of the growth of scientific knowledge in terms of paradigm changes involving a total reinterpretation of the fundamental assumption of the science in which they occur, provides Parrinder with the diagnostic framework for his work. In this view, the self conscious literary, poetic and critical culture which is so much a mark of English civilization in the nineteenth century, can be interpreted as a particular creative reaction to a number of problems concerning the relationship of art to the wider society. It is a paradigm which defines the nature and function of criticism for those who accept it but which has no permanent validity in the face of a different and more adequate conception of the companion activities, criticism and creation.

It must be emphasized that this is not in any way an exercise in that vulgar sociology of culture which purports to "explain" the content of texts as a more or less automatic response to movements at other levels of social activity. Parrinder examines the crucial critical texts ...


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