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William E. Cain

William E. Cain is Mary Jewett Gaiser Professor of English at Wellesley College. He is a co-editor of the Norton Anthology of Literary Theory and Criticism (2nd ed., 2010), and, with Sylvan Barnet, he has co-authored a number of books on literature and composition.


Criticism and History

Spring 1986 | Criticism

In The Beauty of Inflections, Jerome J. McGann sounds a compelling call for "socio-historical" criticism of literature. His book addresses Keats, Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," Tennyson's "Charge of the Light Brigade," and the poetry and religious beliefs of Christina Rossetti, with concluding chapters on Byron, Crabbe, and "the significance of Rome" for Romantic writers.

Trilling In Our Time

Summer 1978 | Criticism

Unfortunately, Robert Boyers, in his Lionel Trilling, succumbs to this temptation to imitate his subject’s style; and this fault gravely weakens his attempt to renew Trilling’s value for modern criticism and culture.

Marveling At Empson’s Ways

Summer 1979 | Criticism

But while William Empson is often praised and his influence noted in many places, he remains an elusive figure, a modern marvel whose “brilliance” we admire even as we feel somewhat uneasy about it.

Revolutionary Criticism

Summer 1980 | Criticism

Grant Webster provides a detailed account of the New Critics and the New York Intellectuals; and he supplements these central sections of his book by analyzing the nature of critical schools and by supplying an excellent bibliography and sketches of the major American critics.

A Model for Criticism

Spring 1982 | Criticism

Robert Boyers has written a subtle and rewarding study of R. P. Blackmur. He comments well on the central terms and concepts in Blackmur's criticism, and he provides sharp and sensible examinations of the famous essays on Yeats, Eliot, Hardy, Lawrence, and others. But it is somewhat misleading to describe this book as being "about" Blackmur, since Boyers clearly has more ambitious (and polemical) aims.