An Introduction to Literary Criticism
Definition of Criticism:
Literary criticism deals with different dimensions of literature as a collection of texts through which authors evoke fictitious worlds for the imagination of readers.
English word "criticism" is derived from the ancient Greek term krites , meaning "judge". Thus, Criticism can be defined as the act of judging. Literary criticism endeavors to form a correct estimate of literary productions. Its effort is to see a piece of writing as it is. It brings literary productions into comparison with recognized principles and ideal standards; it investigates them in their matter, form, and spirit; and, as a result of this process, it determines their merits and their defects.
The aim or purpose of literary criticism is not fault-finding but truth. The critic should be mor e than a censor. He should discover and make known whatever is commendable or excellent. At its best, criticism is not a mere record of general impressions but the statement of an intelligent judgment. It is not biased by prejudice, ignorance, or self-interest; but, proceeding according to well-defined principles, it is able to trace the steps by which it reaches its ultimate conclusions.
In other words, l iterary criticism is an attempt to evaluate and understand the creative writing, the literature of an author. Literature includes plays, essays, novels, poetry, and short stories. Literary criticism is a description, analysis, evaluation, or interpretation of a particular literary work or an author's writings as a whole. Literary criticism is usually expressed in the form of a critical essay.
History of Criticism:
Literary criticism is almost as old as literature itself. No sooner had a writer produced a literary work, even in the most ancient times, than his contemporaries proceeded to express their judgments concerning it. Among the ancient Greeks Plato and Aristotle were both critics; and the latter's work on "Poetics" is still valuable for its discussion of fundamental principles. Quintilian, Cicero, and Horace were distinguished Roman critics; and the poet's  Ars Poetica , read in every college course, is an admirable presentation of many critical principles. But it is in modern times, and particularly during the nineteenth century, that criticism received its highest development. In England not a few of its leading literary men—Dryden, Pope, Addison, Johnson, Coleridge, Jeffrey, Macaulay, Carlyle, Matthew Arnold—have been critics; and in America we meet with such honored names as Poe, Emerson, Whipple, Lowell, Stedman, and many others. In recent years criticism has greatly gained in wideness and sociability .

Although almost all of the criticism ever written dates from the 20th century, questions first posed by Plato and Aristotle are still of prime concern, and every critic who has attempted to justify the social value of literature has had to come to terms with the opposing argument made by Plot in The Republic and Aristotle 's The Poetics.

Before Plato, there was no real literary criticism in th e sense of a theory of literature. Plato was among the first intellectuals to give careful consideration to the role and function of literature in society. Greek philosopher , Plato found that all creative writers deficient in his dialogue The Republic. Plato felt that stories about misbehaving سيء السلوك gods and death-fearing heroes were suitable to steer يثير immature غير ناضج people toward playful لعوب and unpatriotic conduct سلوك غير وطني . Besides, he argued that poetry arouse s the emotions rather than promote such virtues فضائل as temperance الأعتدال and endurance التحمل - الصبر .
In Plato we find a theory of literature which is a component part of a whole philosophical system. That is, Plato sets literature in the wider context of human activity in general.
Plato's Theory of Forms:
A c cording to P lato, the theory of forms can be summarized as follows: the familiar world of objects which surround s us and which we apprehend by our senses is not inde pendent and self-sufficient. Indeed, it is not the real world because it is dependent upon another world, the realm of pure Forms or ideas, which can be apprehended only by reason and not by our bodily sense perceptions. In other words, Plato's theory of Forms or Ideas refers to the