Who were the "Chicago School", or "Chicago critics"? A group of scholars/critics, several affiliated with U. Chicago, who shared an interest in the philosophy of Aristotle, esp. his approach to criticism outlined in the Poetics. Published around mid-20th century. They rate about a column & a half in the Princeton Encyc. of Poetics. Elder Olson, R.S. Crane, Richard McKeon, et al.
Not finding a whole lot about them off the bat, here in Bruno Library. I suppose their approach got a bit lost in the shuffle of jazzier 60s-80s stuff, like post-structuralism, deconstruction, new historicism, new criticism, etc.
Trends that (very roughly speaking) they seem to follow from Aristotle's lead:
- lit. criticism a branch of philosophy
- criticism not an exact science since based on human productions rather than nature
- there is an empirical, inductive, "differential" approach to examining any subject, which pays great attention to the particular line of inquiry into its object of study; said object can be seen from a variety of aspects, depending on the approach, & doesn't fall neatly into larger systems of abstraction
- poetry can be approached from various aspects & lines of inquiry; the Poetics approaches it with respect to its specifically artistic ends or purposes
- criticism appears in many guises & methods; often conflicts & disagreements arise, not due to genuine disagreements or contradictory positions, but because different critics are working from completely different frames of inquiry
- poems and poetry are two different things
- poems are not reducible to language as such; rather, they are artificial forms or constructs which organize plot (action), character, thought, diction, & "ornament" into an aesthetic unity or system (form).
- the meaning of a poem is not reducible to its lexical, etymological, thematic, etc. coordinates : rather, a poem creates a kind of inference-producing form or system. The audience infers from the verbal evidence, and its inferences have emotional/aesthetic/intellectual consequences, which represent the formal impact of the work
- a poem is an aesthetic whole or unity, within which the verbal material or diction appears as one part among others. One measure of a poem's quality comes through an examination of how well the various parts of a poem are coordinated in creating the totality of effect or aesthetic whole.
Of course I'm bowdlerizing a great deal. Encourage exploration of RS Crane & Elder Olson essays. What I like about what I'm discovering is a kind of historical awareness & systematic approach to some of my own vague tendencies over the years toward "realism", ie. the balance between the verbal texture of poems & the representations they effect. I find very refreshing - startling, even - some of the comments of these critics on the distinction between philosophies which view poetry as a distinct productive activity, on the one hand, and philosophies which view poetry as simply a special form of language or discourse, on the other. Also their inductive approach to reading, analysis & critique.