Between Formalism and Historicism

Stephen Hinds

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

Between Formalism and Historicism


Certain canonical texts can become programmatically associated with certain issues in literary criticism. Movements of critical thinking between formalism and historicism, along with the ceaseless interrogation of the two polar terms themselves, may fairly be said to define the range of possibility within which all literary reading occurs; a way of thinking hardly foreign to John Keats' ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’ itself, with its richly self-reflexive meditations on history, aesthetics, and the memorialisation of human experience. This essay is a rough guide to formalism and historicism as categories for use by readers of Roman texts, with the goal of testing the relationship between these terms in the particular disciplinary context of Classics.

Keywords: Roman texts; formalism; historicism; John Keats; Grecian Urn; aesthetics; human experience; Classics

Article.  7754 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Poetry

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