Liberal humanism is a literary theory that was in vogue in the late 1800's and early 1900's. Its tenets are as follows:

  • Literature is timeless - liberal humanism holds that all literature is timeless, and speaks to what is constant in human nature. In other words, even if a novel seems very much of the moment, it must still contain some underlying universal truth. If you can't find the constant, then it isn't literature, or you have missed it.
  • Literature contains its own meaning - this tenet holds that you do not need to go to outside sources to understand the essence of a literary work. The meaning is inherent in the work itself.
  • Literature is studied with close analysis of the text - Liberal humanists hold that the only way to study a text is, to in fact, study the text; and without any prior ideological or political bias. In other words, marxist or feminist theorists can not also be liberal humanists, as their bias interferes with studying the text.
  • Individuality - All people are inherently stable. In literature, then the liberal humanist looks towards the identity to the exclusion of the environment.
  • The purpose of literature is the enhancement of life - Literature is to be used to enhance human life and values. It is not to be used in a political way; to politicize literature is to become a propagandist not an artist.
  • Content stems from form - content is the byproduct of form. In other words the content of Hemingway's novels are a product of his minimalist nature/style, not the other way around. This tenet also holds that Hemingway could not have produced the novels he did in any other textual form.

The previous is a byproduct of my adventures as an English major.

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