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Stanley Edgar Hyman

Stanley Edgar Hyman (1919–1970) was a literary critic who wrote primarily about critical methods: the distinct strategies critics use in approaching literary texts. Though most likely to be remembered today as the husband of writer Shirley Jackson, he was influential for the development of literary theory in the 1940s and '50s. Equally skeptical of every major critical methodology of his time, he worked out an early instance of a critical theory, exploring ways that critics can be foiled by their own methods. "Each critic," Hyman wrote in The Armed Vision, "tends to have a master metaphor or series of metaphors in terms of which he sees the critical function. . . this metaphor then shapes, informs, and sometimes limits his work." Hyman saw it as his own critical task to point out these overriding themes by which, tacitly, other critics organized their work and their thinking.

Hyman graduated from Syracuse University, where he met Jackson. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker for much of his life, and taught at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont. After Jackson's death in 1965 (both she and Hyman died relatively young), he married Phoebe Pettingell, who later edited a posthumous volume of his work.


  • The Armed Vision: A Study in the Methods of Modern Literary Criticism. New York: Knopf, 1955.
  • Poetry and Criticism: Four Revolutions in Literary Taste. New York: Atheneum, 1961.
  • The Tangled Bank: Darwin, Marx, Frazer and Freud as Imaginative Writers. New York: Atheneum, 1962.
  • The Critic's Credentials: Essays and Reviews. Ed. Phoebe Pettingell. New York: Atheneum, 1978.

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