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Having, as an artistic work, no end or purpose beyond its own existence. The term was used by T. S. Eliot in 1923 and adopted by New Criticism to distinguish the self‐referential nature of literary art from didactic, philosophical, critical, or biographical works that involve practical reference to things outside themselves: in the words of the American poet Archibald MacLeish, ‘A poem should not mean | But be’. A similar idea is implied in the theory of the ‘poetic function’ put forward in Russian Formalism.

Subjects: Literature.

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