Biographical / Historical criticism takes its name from where emphasis is placed when trying to understand the true meaning in a work of literature. The word Biographical comes from the emphasis placed on the author, while the word Historical comes from the emphasis placed on an age or era that the author lived in. This is also known as genetic criticism because of the idea that the author and his/her work are the offspring of an age. Studying the age in which an author lived can be helpful in understanding the author’s intention of a work. The purpose of this type of criticism is to be as accurate as possible when trying to locate meaning in literature. To do this Biographical / Historical criticism must ask what the author meant when he/she created it. It is the search for the author’s true intention, if in fact there even was one.
This concept is the result of two main influences. The first was a change from the reflection of nature to the reflection or expression of the individual. This concept dominated at the beginning of the 19th century. The author was now seen as an individual and as being unique. The second influence was the idea that each age has different assumptions and different values. This appeared
An age"tms values were now seen as being specific but not timeless. " ( Hirsch 24) Next, one must check for correspondence and ask if the interpretation accounts for every textual component. The text is first of all a conventional representation like a musical score, and what the score represents may be construed correctly or incorrectly. First of all this type of criticism goes right to the source of information, the author. Hirsch also explains how to verify an interpretation in four steps. After editing, re-reading, and re-writing the meaning ay be far from the authors original intention. " ( Hirsch 21) Hirsch explains that inclusivism is neither a genuine norm nor an adequate guiding principle for establishing an interpretation. Finally there is academic respectability. Value judgments are not possible because we are limited to what the author meant at the time. One of the greatest setbacks is that the author is not always sure of hisher intention at the time of writing the piece of work. This is why biographical historical criticism reigned unchallenged in the 19th century. "Textual meaning is not a naked given like a physical object. " ( Hirsch 18) A text has "meaning potential" possibilities which must be converted to meaning probability through further evaluation of a text. He also makes clear that criticism must be founded on objective interpretation in order for it to be objective. Secondly a great amount of information is delivered to us, when we study and learn about the age in which an author lived, about the author and hisher work.