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Encyclopedia > Wayne Booth

Wayne C. Booth (February 22, 1921 - October 10, 2005) is an American literary critic. He is the George M. Pullman Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in English Language & Literature and the College at the University of Chicago. His work followed largely from the Chicago school of literary criticism. Literary criticism is the study, discussion, evaluation, and interpretation of literature. ... The University of Chicago is a private co-educational university located in Chicago, Illinois. ... The Chicago school of literary criticism, also known as Neo-Aristotelianism, was developed in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s at the University of Chicago. ...

His major work is The Rhetoric of Fiction. In this book, Booth argues that all narrative is a form of rhetoric. The speaker, in the case of narrative, is the author, or, more specifically, Booth's concept of the implied author. Narrative is a term which has several and changing meanings. ... Rhetoric (from Greek ρήτωρ, rhêtôr, orator) is one of the three original liberal arts or trivium (the other members are dialectic and grammar) in Western culture. ...

The implied author is a compromise between old-fashioned biographical criticism, and the new critics who argued that one can only talk about what the text says. Booth argued that it is impossible to talk about a text without talking about an author, because the existence of the text already implies the existence of an author. Booth recognizes, however, that it may be that this author differs from the actual author. New Criticism was the dominant trend in English and American literary criticism of the early twentieth century, from the 1920s to the early 1960s. ...

Booth also notes, however, that this author is distinct from the narrator of the text. He uses the examples of stories with an unreliable narrator to prove this point, observing that, in these stories, the whole point of the story is lost if one confuses narrator and author. The Narrator is the entity within a story that tells the story to the reader. ... In literature and film, an unreliable narrator is a first-person narrator, the credibility of whose point of view is seriously compromised, possibly by psychological instability, or a powerful bias, or else simply by a lack of knowledge. ...

A later work is Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent, in which he addresses the question of what circumstances should cause one to change one's mind, discussing what happens in situations where two diametrically opposed systems of belief are in argument. His central example is an incident at the University of Chicago, in which students and administration were engaged in fierce argument that eventually degenerated to each side simply reprinting the other side's arguments without comment, believing that they were so self-evidently absurd as to undermine themselves.

He also wrote The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction, a sequel of sorts to The Rhetoric of Fiction, in which he makes a case for ethical judgments made on a work of fiction.

In common with most 'Chicago School' critics, Booth is attackeded for making overly-broad claims about the nature of humanity; and for marginalizing cultures in the process. Human beings are defined variously in biological, spiritual, and cultural terms, or in combinations thereof. ...

At the University of Chicago there is a Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. The prize was established in 1991 in honor of Booth. Students and faculty members submit nominations, and the winners each receive a $2,000 cash award.


  • Rhetoric of Fiction (1961)
  • Boring from Within: The Art of the Freshman Essay (c. 1963) pamphlet
  • Now Don't Try to Reason with Me : Essays and Ironies for a Credulous Age (1970)
  • Autobiography of Relva Booth Ross (1971)
  • Booth Family History (1971)
  • A Rhetoric of Irony (1974)
  • Knowledge Most Worth Having (1974) editor
  • Modern Dogma & the Rhetoric of Assent (1974) Ward-Phillips Lectures in English Language and Literature
  • Critical Understanding : The Powers and Limits of Pluralism (1979)
  • The Harper and Row Rhetoric: Writing As Thinking, Thinking As Writing (1987) with Marshall W.Gregory
  • The Company We Keep: An Ethics of Fiction (1988)
  • The Harper & Row Reader : Liberal Education Through Reading & Writing (1988) with Marshall W.Gregory
  • The Vocation of a Teacher : Rhetorical Occasions, 1967-1988 (1988)
  • The Art of Deliberalizing: A Handbook for True Professionals (1990)
  • The Art of Growing Older: Writers on Living and Aging (1992) editor
  • The Craft of Research (1995) with Gregory Colomb and Joseph Williams
  • Literature as Exploration (1996) with Louise M. Rosenblatt
  • For the Love of It : Amateuring & Its Rivals (1999)
  • Rhetoric of Rhetoric: The Quest for Effective Communication (2004) Blackwell Manifesto

  Results from FactBites:
Wayne C. Booth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (656 words)
Booth recognizes, however, that it may be that this author differs from the actual author.
Booth also notes, however, that this author is distinct from the narrator of the text.
The University of Chicago Wayne C. Booth Graduate Student Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching was established in 1991 in honor of Booth.
SSNL - Awards - The Wayne C. Booth Lifetime Achievement Award (660 words)
Wayne also modeled an exemplary mode of conducting intellectual inquiry and, in so doing, inspired many of his students to carry on in that mode even as he became a wonderful ambassador for narrative studies.
Wayne viewed all his work as work in progress, because he valued intellectual inquiry for its ability to generate as many questions as it answered.
Wayne was influential not only because of his wide learning, his intellectual depth, and his argumentative rigor, but also because of his generosity of spirit.
  More results at FactBites »



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