Vietnam Academy Of Social Sciences

History of Vietnam’s literary theory and criticism


Cơ quan soạn thảo: Institute of Literature

Contacting Address: Culture-Information Publishing; Institute of Literature

Publication year: 2013

Pages quantity: 323

The book is a result of a scientific research project at ministry level that was conducted by the own author as the chairman of the project. The book is also the first work of literary theory and criticism research in Vietnam from the initial stage to the present. 

The book is structured in stages of time in line with movement of the nation’s literary theory and criticism. The book’s content is presented in four parts, 16 chapters, and is available in general and in detailed terms, that is combined between embraceable summary and evaluation in wide term and emphasized prominent phenomenons in line with four stages of the nation’s literary development.

The first part provides “Literary concepts and poetic criticism in the medium historical period”. In the first part of the medium historical period, literary concepts that were presented directly in argument essays were almost missing. The authors dug movement practicalities of  literary concepts in the centuries of XIV – XV. They introduces art-literature ideology of Nguyen Trai who was a prominent representative in terms of: social roles and responsibilities of artists; art talent and inspiration; and activity generalization of a scientist Le Quy Don as a composer, and a theoretical and critical research scholar. They also inducts a “system” of literary concept in centuries of XVIII - XIX with advance representatives such as: Le Quy Don, Le Huu Trac, Phan Huy Chu, Ngo Thi Nham, etc.

The second part focuses on representation of a picture of theory and criticism in the modern period, from 1900 to 1945. The time of 1900-1932 is recognized as a transformation stage where activities of theory and criticism were toward “root resources” and “modernism”. Then the time of 1932-1945 was full of sublimation with new ideologies, an explosion of many long time debates, as well as appearance of a team of professional theorists and critics such as: Hoai Thanh, Dang Thai Mai, Thieu Son, Truong Tuu, Nguyen Van Hanh, etc.

The third part introduces two areas of literature including the North and the South in the period of 1945-1985 with two different institutions, ideologies and directions of action. In the North, literary theory and criticism were affected by Marxist aesthetics and theory, and other the State’s art-literature administration. In this period, there were four art-literature debates: Viet Bac debating seminar, 1949; Nhan van-Giai pham Affair, 1958; Debate on human qualification in literature, 1962; Debate on “administrated practicality”, 1979. Differently, literary theory and criticism in the South before 1975 were widely and deeply affected by political constitution. This is a importation and experimentation stage of series of new criticism methods. Beside three prominent vocations for criticism: realism, Freudian psychology and structuralism, there were other criticism methods such as: symbolism, poetics, reception-aesthetics, etc.

In the fourth part, characteristic and role of theory and criticism after 1986 are described as: “From anti-individualism to integration”. At that time, theorists’ and critics’ consciousness of “anti-individualism” or self-awareness, self-criticism in terms of old values hadn’t been essential ever. The integration period was formed on introduction and importation of series of Western theories. Two types of “anti-individualism” and “integration” of theory and criticism show development and movement on the one hand; on the other, they indicate adaptable and integral capacity of Vietnam’s literature.

Coverage of all Vietnamese art-literature’s theoretical and critical history from the initial stage to the present, description and evaluation, openness of more thoughts and clearly look at reality, and suggestion of next movement for the future are core issues of the book. All structure, framework or selection of subjects, themes, authors, works, vocations, etc. that are presented in the work expresses systematical and high academic study of the researchers.

The book is an important material to studying literature in Vietnam nowadays, and is really necessary to literary activists, doctor candidates, master candidates and students. Honorable introduction to readers./.


Nguyen Thu Ha

Author :
  • Assoc. Prof. Dr. Trinh Ba Dinh (Chief author)