In answering questions such as what is 'modern' in literary criticism since the beginnings of the Early Modern age, this book does not follow the lines of René Wellek's famous History of Modern Criticism. It does not re-examine the history of literary theories and poetics. It rather focuses on the concepts and uses of what can be called 'practical criticism' (Buchkritik) and the historicity of its institutional and categorical frames of references.
Viewing them as fundamental structures of literary production, reception and communication, this study traces the emergence of a temporalization of cultural processing, the periodical organization of a critical response as published in the new medium of the journal, and the development of different uses and functions of the literary canon.
In analysis, two basic paradigms of criticism have to be confronted: the classical model of a critica perennis, as part of grammatica as an institution of learning, and the new conception and practice of critique mondaine, which emerges as an institution in its own right during the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe.