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SUBSTANCE AND FORM The most thoroughgoing of all distinctions in literature as in the other Fine Arts is that between 1 Substance the essential content and meaning of the work and 2 Form the manner in which it is expressed including narrative structure external style in poetry verse-form and many related matters This distinction should be kept in mind but in what follows it will not be to our purpose to emphasize it GENERAL MATTERS 1 First and always in considering any piece of literature a student should ask himself the question already implied Does it present a true portrayal of life--of the permanent elements in all life and in human nature of the life or thought of its own particular period and in most sorts of books of the persons real or imaginary with whom it deals If it properly accomplishes this main purpose when the reader finishes it he should feel that his understanding of life and of people has been increased and broadened But it should always be remembered that truth is quite as much a matter of general spirit and impression as of literal accuracy in details of fact The essential question is not Is the presentation of life and character perfect in a photographic fashion but Does it convey the underlying realities 2 Other things being equal the value of a book and especially of an authors whole work is proportional to its range that is to the breadth and variety of the life and characters which it presents 3 A student should not form his judgments merely from what is technically called the dogmatic point of view but should try rather to adopt that of historical criticism This means that he should take into account the limitations imposed on every author by the age in which he lived If you find that the poets of the Anglo-Saxon B have given a clear and interesting picture of the life
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