New Criticism was a formalist movement in literary theory that dominated American literary criticism in the middle decades of the 20th century. It emphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, to discover how a work of literature functioned as a self-contained, self-referential aesthetic object. The movement derived its name from John Crowe Ransom's 1941 book The New Criticism.
The work of Cambridge scholar I. A. Richards, especially his Practical Criticism and The Meaning of Meaning, which offered what was claimed to be an empirical scientific approach, were important to the development of New Critical methodology.  Also very influential were the critical essays of T. S. Eliot, such as "Tradition and the Individual Talent" and "Hamlet and His Problems", in which Eliot developed his notions of the "theory of impersonality" and "objective correlative" respectively. Eliot's evaluative judgments, such as his condemnation of Milton and Dryden, his liking for the so-called metaphysical poets, and his insistence that poetry must be impersonal, greatly influenced the formation of the New Critical canon.
New Criticism developed as a reaction to the older philological and literary history schools of the US North, which focused on the history and meaning of individual words and their relation to foreign and ancient languages, comparative sources, and the biographical circumstances of the authors, taking this approach under the influence of nineteenth-century German scholarship. The New Critics felt that this approach tended to distract from the text and meaning of a poem and entirely neglect its aesthetic qualities in favor of teaching about external factors. On the other hand, the New Critics disparaged the literary appreciation school, which limited itself to pointing out the "beauties" and morally elevating qualities of the text, as too subjective and emotional. Condemning this as a version of Romanticism, they aimed for a newer, systematic and objective method. 
It was felt, especially by creative writers and by literary critics outside the academy, that the special aesthetic experience of poetry and literary language was lost in the welter of extraneous erudition and emotional effusions. Heather Dubrow notes that the prevailing focus of literary scholarship was on "the study of ethical values and philosophical issues through literature, the tracing of literary history, and ... political criticism". Literature was approached via its moral, historical and social background and literary scholarship did not focus on analysis of texts. 
New Critics believed the structure and meaning of the text were intimately connected and should not be analyzed separately. In order to bring the focus of literary studies back to analysis of the texts, they aimed to exclude the reader's response, the author's intention, historical and cultural contexts, and moralistic bias from their analysis. These goals were articulated in Ransom's "Criticism, Inc." and Allen Tate's "Miss Emily and the Bibliographer".
Close reading (or explication de texte) was a staple of French literary studies, but in the United States, aesthetic concerns and the study of modern poets were the province of non-academic essayists and book reviewers rather than serious scholars. The New Criticism changed this. Though their interest in textual study initially met with resistance from older scholars, the methods of the New Critics rapidly predominated in American universities until challenged by feminist literary criticism and structuralism in the 1970s. Other schools of critical theory, including, post-structuralism, and deconstructionist theory, the New Historicism, and Reception studies followed.
Although the New Critics were never a formal group, an important inspiration was the teaching of John Crowe Ransom of Kenyon College, whose students (all Southerners), Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, and Robert Penn Warren would go on to develop the aesthetics that came to be known as the New Criticism. Indeed, for Paul Lauter, a Professor of American Studies at Trinity College, New Criticism is a reemergence of the Southern Agrarians.  In his essay, "The New Criticism", Cleanth Brooks notes that "The New Critic, like the Snark, is a very elusive beast", meaning that there was no clearly defined "New Critical" manifesto, school, or stance.  Nevertheless, a number of writings outline inter-related New Critical ideas.
In 1946, William K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley published a classic and controversial New Critical essay entitled "The Intentional Fallacy", in which they argued strongly against the relevance of an author's intention, or "intended meaning" in the analysis of a literary work. For Wimsatt and Beardsley, the words on the page were all that mattered; importation of meanings from outside the text was considered irrelevant, and potentially distracting.
In another essay, "The Affective Fallacy", which served as a kind of sister essay to "The Intentional Fallacy" Wimsatt and Beardsley also discounted the reader's personal/emotional reaction to a literary work as a valid means of analyzing a text. This fallacy would later be repudiated by theorists from the reader-response school of literary theory. One of the leading theorists from this school, Stanley Fish, was himself trained by New Critics. Fish criticizes Wimsatt and Beardsley in his essay "Literature in the Reader" (1970). 
The hey-day of the New Criticism in American high schools and colleges was the Cold War decades between 1950 and the mid-seventies. Brooks and Warren's Understanding Poetry and Understanding Fiction both became staples during this era.
Studying a passage of prose or poetry in New Critical style required careful, exacting scrutiny of the passage itself. Formal elements such as rhyme, meter, setting, characterization, and plot were used to identify the theme of the text. In addition to the theme, the New Critics also looked for paradox, ambiguity, irony, and tension to help establish the single best and most unified interpretation of the text.
Although the New Criticism is no longer a dominant theoretical model in American universities, some of its methods (like close reading) are still fundamental tools of literary criticism, underpinning a number of subsequent theoretic approaches to literature including poststructuralism, deconstruction theory, New Testament narrative criticism, and reader-response theory. It has been credited with anticipating the insights of the linguistic turn and for showing significant ideological and historical parallels with logical positivism. 
It was frequently alleged that the New Criticism treated literary texts as autonomous and divorced from historical context, and that its practitioners were "uninterested in the human meaning, the social function and effect of literature."  
Indicative of the reader-response school of theory, Terence Hawkes writes that the fundamental close reading technique is based on the assumption that "the subject and the object of study—the reader and the text—are stable and independent forms, rather than products of the unconscious process of signification," an assumption which he identifies as the "ideology of liberal humanism," which is attributed to the New Critics who are "accused of attempting to disguise the interests at work in their critical processes."  For Hawkes, ideally, a critic ought to be considered to "[create] the finished work by his reading of it, and [not to] remain simply an inert consumer of a 'ready-made' product." 
In response to critics like Hawkes, Cleanth Brooks, in his essay "The New Criticism" (1979), argued that the New Criticism was not diametrically opposed to the general principles of reader-response theory and that the two could complement one another. For instance, he stated, "If some of the New Critics have preferred to stress the writing rather than the writer, so have they given less stress to the reader—to the reader's response to the work. Yet no one in his right mind could forget the reader. He is essential for 'realizing' any poem or novel. ... Reader response is certainly worth studying." However, Brooks tempers his praise for the reader-response theory by noting its limitations, pointing out that, "to put meaning and valuation of a literary work at the mercy of any and every individual [reader] would reduce the study of literature to reader psychology and to the history of taste." 
Another objection against New Criticism is that it misguidedly tries to turn literary criticism into an objective science, or at least aims at "bringing literary study to a condition rivaling that of science." One example of this is Ransom's essay "Criticism, Inc.", in which he advocated that "criticism must become more scientific, or precise and systematic".   René Wellek, however, argued against this by noting that a number of the New Critics outlined their theoretical aesthetics in contrast to the "objectivity" of the sciences.
Wellek defended the New Critics in his essay "The New Criticism: Pro and Contra" (1978).
Sir William Empson was an English literary critic and poet, widely influential for his practice of closely reading literary works, a practice fundamental to New Criticism. His best-known work is his first, Seven Types of Ambiguity, published in 1930.
Literary theory is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for literary analysis. Since the 19th century, literary scholarship includes literary theory and considerations of intellectual history, moral philosophy, social prophecy, and interdisciplinary themes relevant to how people interpret meaning. In the humanities in modern academia, the latter style of literary scholarship is an offshoot of post-structuralism. Consequently, the word theory became an umbrella term for scholarly approaches to reading texts, some of which are informed by strands of semiotics, cultural studies, philosophy of language, and continental philosophy.
Literary criticism is the study, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. Modern literary criticism is often influenced by literary theory, which is the philosophical discussion of literature's goals and methods. Though the two activities are closely related, literary critics are not always, and have not always been, theorists.
John Crowe Ransom was an American educator, scholar, literary critic, poet, essayist and editor. He is considered to be a founder of the New Criticism school of literary criticism. As a faculty member at Kenyon College, he was the first editor of the widely regarded Kenyon Review. Highly respected as a teacher and mentor to a generation of accomplished students, he also was a prize-winning poet and essayist.
In literary criticism, close reading is the careful, sustained interpretation of a brief passage of a text. A close reading emphasizes the single and the particular over the general, effected by close attention to individual words, the syntax, the order in which the sentences unfold ideas, as well as formal structures. A truly attentive close reading means thinking about both what is being said in a passage, and how it is being said and leading it to possibilities for observation and insight.
Ivor Armstrong Richards CH, known as I. A. Richards, was an English educator, literary critic, poet, and rhetorician. His work contributed to the foundations of the New Criticism, a formalist movement in literary theory which emphasized the close reading of a literary text, especially poetry, in an effort to discover how a work of literature functions as a self-contained and self-referential æsthetic object.
William Kurtz Wimsatt Jr. was an American professor of English, literary theorist, and critic. Wimsatt is often associated with the concept of the intentional fallacy, which he developed with Monroe Beardsley in order to discuss the importance of an author's intentions for the creation of a work of art.
Cleanth Brooks was an American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the mid-20th century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education. His best-known works, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947) and Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), argue for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox as a way of understanding poetry. With his writing, Brooks helped to formulate formalist criticism, emphasizing "the interior life of a poem" and codifying the principles of close reading.
In literary theory and aesthetics, authorial intent refers to an author's intent as it is encoded in their work. Authorial intentionalism is the view that an author's intentions should constrain the ways in which a text is properly interpreted. Opponents, who undermined its hermeneutical importance, have labelled this position the intentional fallacy and count it among the informal fallacies.
The Chicago School of literary criticism was a form of criticism of English literature begun at the University of Chicago in the 1930s, which lasted until the 1950s. It was also called Neo-Aristotelianism, due to its strong emphasis on Aristotle's concepts of plot, character and genre. It was partly a reaction to New Criticism, a then highly popular form of literary criticism, which the Chicago critics accused of being too subjective and placing too much importance on irony and figurative language. They aimed instead for total objectivity and a strong classical basis of evidence for criticism. The New Critics regarded the language and poetic diction as most important, but the Chicago School considered such things merely the building material of poetry. Like Aristotle, they valued the structure or form of a literary work as a whole, rather than the complexities of the language. Despite this, the Chicago School is considered by some to be a part of the New Criticism movement.
"The Death of the Author" is a 1967 essay by the French literary critic and theorist Roland Barthes (1915–1980). Barthes's essay argues against traditional literary criticism's practice of relying on the intentions and biography of an author to definitively explain the "ultimate meaning" of a text. Instead, the essay emphasizes the primacy of each individual reader's interpretation of the work over any "definitive" meaning intended by the author, a process in which subtle or unnoticed characteristics may be drawn out for new insight. The essay's first English-language publication was in the American journal Aspen, no. 5–6 in 1967; the French debut was in the magazine Manteia, no. 5 (1968). The essay later appeared in an anthology of Barthes's essays, Image-Music-Text (1977), a book that also included his "From Work to Text".
Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks is a British literary critic and scholar. He is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University (US), co-director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford (UK) from 2004 to 2009. In 2008, he served as president of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. He is known as a champion of Victorian poetry; an enthusiast of Bob Dylan, whose lyrics he has analysed at book length; a trenchant reviewer of writers he considers pretentious ; and a warm reviewer of those he thinks humane or humorous. Hugh Kenner praised his "intent eloquence", and Geoffrey Hill his "unrivalled critical intelligence". W. H. Auden described Ricks as "exactly the kind of critic every poet dreams of finding". John Carey calls him the "greatest living critic".
Affective fallacy is a term from literary criticism used to refer to the supposed error of judging or evaluating a text on the basis of its emotional effects on a reader. The term was coined by W.K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley in 1949 as a principle of New Criticism which is often paired with their study of The Intentional Fallacy.
Austin Warren was an American literary critic, author, and professor of English.
"The Frontiers of Criticism" is a lecture given by T. S. Eliot at the University of Minnesota in 1956. It was reprinted in On Poetry and Poets, a collection of Eliot's critical essays, in 1957. The essay is an attempt by Eliot to define the boundaries of literary criticism: to say what does, and what does not, constitute truly literary criticism, as opposed to, for example, a study in history based upon a work of literature. The essay is significant because it represents Eliot's response to the New Critical perspective which had taken the academic study of literature by storm during Eliot's lifetime. It also presents an analysis of some of its author's own poetic works, an unusual characteristic for modern criticism—it has become far more usual today for poets and critics to be in separate camps, rather than united in one individual. Perhaps even more importantly, it demonstrates the progress and change in Eliot's own critical thought over the years between 1919 and 1956.
The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry is a 1947 collection of essays by Cleanth Brooks. It is considered a seminal text in the New Critical school of literary criticism. The title contains an allusion to the fourth stanza of John Donne's poem, "The Canonization", which is the primary subject of the first chapter of the book.
In literature, the paradox is an anomalous juxtaposition of incongruous ideas for the sake of striking exposition or unexpected insight. It functions as a method of literary composition and analysis that involves examining apparently contradictory statements and drawing conclusions either to reconcile them or to explain their presence.
In Defense of Reason is a three-volume work of literary criticisms by the American poet and literary critic Yvor Winters. First published in 1947, the book is known for its meticulous study of metrical verse and for its examples of Winters' system of ethical criticism.
Theory of Literature is a book on literary scholarship by René Wellek, of the structuralist Prague school, and Austin Warren, a self-described "old New Critic". The two met at the University of Iowa in the late 1930s, and by 1940 had begun writing the book; they wrote collaboratively, in a single voice over a period of three years. Its contents were based on their shared understandings of literature.