Helen Gardner (critic)

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Helen Louise Gardner (13 February 1908 – 4 June 1986) was an English literary critic and Merton Professor of English Literature. She was made Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1967.


  • Walter Hilton, in The Scale of Perfection, one of the most popular books of devotion in England in the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, has a long discussion on three ways of loving God.
  • The term 'metaphysical poets' came into being long after the poets to whom we apply it were dead. Samuel Johnson, who coined it, did so with the consciousness that it was a piece of literary slang, that he was giving it a kind of nickname.
  • Lewis established his reputation as a scholar with his first book, The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Traditions (1936). This remains a great and profoundly original contribution to literary history. Whether one agrees or disagrees, in detail or in large, with its thesis, after reading this book one's whole imagination of the past has been extended and changed. Lewis recovered for the ordinary reader what had been lost for centuries, the power to read allegory and to respond to the allegorical mode of thinking. He was able to do so because he was a born allegorist himself.
  • What was the modern movement in English and American literature has now passed into history. We have to call it the 'modernist movement'. Its great figures—Yeats, Pound, Eliot, Joyce, Lawrence, Wallace Stevens—are now well entrenched in academic syllabuses. The vultures and the crows have moved in over the old battlefields. Writers who once aroused a passionate enthusiasm and as passionate a disapproval are now the prey of bibliographers and textual critics, biographers and editors of letters, and students seeking doctorates.

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