How Do I Become a Literary Critic?

Dan Cavallari

A literary critic is someone who reads books, articles, essays, stories, and other written works to develop a detailed critique of that piece. Such criticism is often published in newspapers and magazines, as well as on the Internet on various websites. The process to become a literary critic can vary depending on your overall goals; you can, for example, simply start your own blog and post criticisms of works you have read, but in order to make a career out of it, you will need some education and experience in order to become a literary critic that is respected and widely read.

Literary critics read written works to develop a detailed critique.
Literary critics read written works to develop a detailed critique.

A college education is not strictly necessary, but usually preferred to become a literary critic. A bachelor's degree in literature or languages will often be the most useful degrees, and while college degrees are important, a more vital qualification is a passion for writing and reading. You will need to be exceptionally well read, and you will have to be a student of the industry, learning as much as possible about current and past writers, as well as themes and trends in literature. To become a literary critic, you will need to prepare yourself by understanding the primary elements of writing, such as theme, tone, diction, syntax, cliché, melodrama, and so on.

Literary critics my have training on how to analyze text.
Literary critics my have training on how to analyze text.

Publishing your work will be exceptionally important if you want to become a literary critic. This may be a difficult process, as your options early on in your career may be limited to student publications, blogs, and certain websites. Building your criticism portfolio can take a long time, but it is very important to do so, as this portfolio will give you something to show potential employers or editors who will decide whether or not to consider running a piece you have written. Be sure to keep a copy of any publication in which you have published work, regardless of whether it is online or in print.

Once you have built your portfolio, you can work either as a freelance critic or an in-house critic for a magazine, journal, website, or other publication. In-house positions have become less and less common, while freelance opportunities tend to be the norm. Present yourself as your own business, and contact editors of various publications to offer your services. Be prepared to get rejected often, as criticism positions can be competitive; your work must be exceptional to stand out above the rest, meaning your portfolio becomes even more important to the process.

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