Describe, with examples if possible, the four orientations of criticism found in the first chapter of M. H. Abrams 'The Mirror and the Lamp'.

Essay by kelleeUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, January 2005

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In the first chapter of the Orientation of critical theories entitled The Mirror and the Lamp (1953) M. H. Abrams concentrates on four main elements; the universe, the audience, the artist, and the work and relates them to four broad critical theories that explain the nature and worth of art. He explains that almost all theories will make use of at least one of these elements, some all four. That is a critic will derive from one of these terms his principle categories for defining, classifying and analyzing a work of art, as well as the major criteria by which he judges it value. The four critical theories of orientation that Abrams relates them to are mimetic, pragmatic, expressive and objective and I will start by describing mimetic.

Mimetic theories explore art as imitations of the universe. From the days of Plato and beyond mimetic orientations operated with three categories; that of everlasting ideas, that of the natural and artificial world and that of reflections, mirror images, shadows and the fine arts.

However more recent mimetic theories usually have only two categories, the imitation and the imitable.

In the tenth book of Plato's The Republic, Plato (427-384BC), Socrates and Glaucon discuss the nature of art around the three stage category. Here Socrates makes the point that there are three beds; the essence and idea of the bed, made by God, the bed made by the carpenter and the bed found in a painting, (thus the artist is an imitator). Then Plato

discards the divinely inspired poets' work as a mere imitation of the transitory actual world, stating that the 'creation of poets and artists are copies of copies of ideal reality, they are third hand distortions of the truth, valueless and potentially misleading.'

However, Aristotle's The Poetics, argued that poetry...