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Autotelic Text: A Brief Note

The New Critical notion of the autotelic text as self-contained and independent of the author, genre or historical context, was associated with Arnold’s insistence on objectivity and Eliot’s on impersonality. Such a text that contains meaning within itself is humanist and renders itself to close reading, based on formal devices such as irony, ambiguity, paradox, rhythm or syntax, as explained by William Empson (The Seven Types of Ambiguity, 1930),-FR Leavis (articles in Scrutiny), Cleanth Brooks (“Language of Paradox”), and so on. Having developed in the US and UK, this notion of the autotelic text influenced the modernists and was rejected in the 1950s by the structuralists in their focus on larger structures that contain the text.

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