I'm looking for a place to start with 'ideology' and 'autonomy' in literary criticism, especially so called "moral criticism". Any tips? Maybe a rundown of tendencies that employ those concepts would help.

A tendency—rather than a recognized school—within literary criticism to judge literary works according to moral rather than formal principles. Moral criticism is not necessarily censorious or ‘moralizing’ in its approach, although it can be; nor does it necessarily imply a Christian perspective, although it often does. Moral critics include D. H. Lawrence, whose position was pagan, and extolled the virtue of ‘life’ as a force to be nourished through literature; T. S Eliot, who was Christian, and judged works in terms of their ability to clarify life, and give it meaning; F. R. Leavis, who thought literature should be ‘improving’, that by reading it one should become a better person.

  • I would suggest Richard Shusterman and his book T. S. Eliot and the Philosophy of Criticism. He analyzed Eliot's ability to be objective while being also a Christian. Shusterman's critique of Eliot's critiques is equally objective, imho, in that he didn't share Eliot's personal religious viewpoint. archive.org/details/tseliotandthephi00shus en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Shusterman By the way, the book does broach the topic of authority.
    – Bread
    Commented Oct 28, 2018 at 16:07

1 Answer 1


Not all ideology will contrast with autonomy but where it does the contrast plays out in the difference between authoritarianism and its opposite. This is authoritarianism not so much as the autocracy of a leader but the conformity of the followers. Conformity is an evolutionary tribal trait whereas autonomy and self-determination are higher products of culture and education.

  • interesting reply, but i want to learn about literary theory / criticism, not 'authoritarianism' :)
    – user34654
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:17
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    Authoritarianism is a major subject in critical/literary theory. E.g. work of the Frankfurt School, also this sample: criticaltheory.berkeley.edu/… Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:26
  • sure, i'm not saying you're wrong! though i've never encountered any lit criticism that draws from critical theory in those terms
    – user34654
    Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:26
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    I don't know exactly how literary criticism links to literary/critical theory. Certainly 'The Authoritarian Personality' has been literally criticized, mainly because is was ground-breaking but over the 50 or so years since it was published its psychodynamics look a bit old hat. Nevertheless, for the gen on ideology vs. autonomy the crux lies in authoritarianism. This is why society and politics divides on these lines, it's that basic. I suppose you actually want to know of established authors who have written on the subject of ideology/autonomy. Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 13:50
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    Maybe some leads here: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748372 Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 15:05

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