Stanley Edgar Hyman

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Stanley Edgar Hyman (June 11, 1919 - July 29, 1970)[1] was an American literary critic who wrote primarily about critical methods: the distinct strategies critics use in approaching literary texts.


Hyman was born in Brooklyn, New York and graduated from Syracuse University in 1940, where he met Shirley Jackson. He was a staff writer for The New Yorker for much of his life, and although he did not possess a graduate degree, taught at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont. From 1961 to 1965, Hyman was the literary critic of The New Leader. After Jackson's death in 1965, he married Phoebe Pettingell, who later edited a posthumous volume of his work. Pettingell had been a student at Bennington College, and had been classmates with his daughter Joanne. Three months after Hyman's death, she gave birth to his last child, a son named Malcolm (1970-2009), who became a research fellow in the Department of Classics at Harvard University and later at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science.

Although more likely to be remembered today as the husband of writer Shirley Jackson (he edited a posthumous collection of her work),[2] Hyman was influential in the development of literary theory during the 1940s and 1950s. 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."[page needed] 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 was also a noted jazz critic, who wrote hundreds of essays on the subject in addition to his career as a writer and teacher.


  • The Armed Vision: A Study in the Methods of Modern Literary Criticism. New York: Knopf, 1947.
  • The Critical Performance: An Anthology of American and British Literary Criticism in Our Century. New York: Vintage Books, 1956.
  • Poetry and Criticism: Five 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.
  • Standards: A Chronicle of Books for Our Time. New York: Horizon Press, 1966.


  1. ^ "Stanley Edgar Hyman Is Dead; Critic, Author and Teacher, 51". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Jackson, Shirley (1966). Hyman, Stanley Edgar, ed. The Magic of Shirley Jackson. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. LCCN 66-20163.