R.S. Crane may sound like a voice from another era. Well, he is, but that doesn't mean he's not relevant. Not at all. He's a kind of undoctrinaire formalist - that is, he knows literature, he understands the formal requirements of genres, and he looks at what the poet is trying to do in terms of those generic patterns; yet he's not dogmatic or categorical ("that's a comedy" is not an explanation), and the focus is always on what particular choices make for effective and integral artistic wholes.
"...For the secrets of art are not, like the secrets of nature, things lying deeply hid, inaccessible to the perception and understanding of all who have not mastered the special techniques their discovery requires. The critic does, indeed, need special techniques, but for the sake of building upon common sense apprehensions of his objects, not of supplanting these; and few things have done greater harm to the practice and repute of literary criticism in recent times than the assumption that its discoveries, like those of the physical sciences, must gain in importance and plausibility as they become more and more paradoxical in the ancient sense of that word: as if - to adapt a sharp saying of Professor Frank Knight about social studies - now that everybody is agreed that natural phenomena are not like works of art, the business of criticism must be to show that works of art are like natural phenomena."
- The Languages of Criticism and the Structure of Poetry, p. 180
- published in 1952. "paradoxical?" - boy, if he'd only known what was arriving a few decades later!