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Notes on Literary Criticism – Part III

April 1, 2016 | By

In this essay on literary criticism, Dr Ampat Koshy analyses the words used in Greek for their category of four loves. It later became part of the Western world view too, through Christianity.

Compiled and Edited by Dr Suja Menon
The Four Loves

The Four Loves

Classical Criticism – The Four Types of Love:

In Phaedrus, Plato discusses four types of love. During the Hellenic period, the four types were recognised and respected in their own sense and none of them was considered taboo or immoral, unlike the present when we apply standards of ethics and morality to every aspect of life.

Eros: This refers to love in its physical sense. Eros does not merely refer to love between man and woman, but between older men and younger men (a form of paedophilia, which was quite common among the patrician society of Greece), and between women and women. The idea of paedophilia is suggested in the very image of Eros (the Romans call him Cupid), the god of love – a little boy who is winged, naked, and is carrying a bow and arrow. So, the focus here in eros was more on the physical or sexual aspect and not on gender.

Philia: Unlike eros that focuses on the sexual aspect, philia focuses on the love that is more at the emotional or mental or even intellectual level. For instance, the love between Socrates and Plato can be seen as a clear instance of philia.

Storge: This refers to the affection that one has for one’s family, state, or society. It is more wide-ranging but not as intense as philia or eros.

Agape: This is selfless love that exists between man and God or God and man. It could also be between human beings where the lover can sacrifice anything for the sake of the person he/she loves. In the Septuagint version of the Bible, Gospel of St. John, chapter 21: verses 15-17, Jesus asks Simon (Peter), son of John whether he loves him. Jesus asks this question thrice. The first and the second time, Jesus asks Simon Peter, son of John whether he loves him (agapaho ego meaning do you have the highest and purest love for me?). To this, Simon Peter says that he loves him (phileho soo meaning I love you in a brotherly way). But, when Jesus asks him the third time whether Simon Peter loves him, he uses the word philia and not agape (phileho ego meaning do you love me in a brotherly way?) and Peter affirms his love (phileho soo).


Biblical critics like H.A. Ironside state that Jesus wants to know if Peter has the highest form of love for him. But when Peter responds twice saying he loves him on a comparatively lower scale, Jesus asks him the third question using the verb phileho because he is content with this love from Simon Peter.

Closely associated with love is the concept of Psyche in Greek mythology and philosophy. Psyche is the wife of Eros who had to undergo various hardships in order to be united with him and to become an immortal goddess on Mount Olympus. Psyche refers to the soul, and when the soul finds its mate (Eros or love), then one finds everlasting pleasure (In classical mythology, Hēdonē or pleasure is the offspring of Eros and Psyche). But, unlike Hēdonē in mythology who symbolises sensual pleasure, philosophers believed that the union of the soul with its soul mate creates everlasting spiritual pleasure.

In fact, this concept of Psyche was carried forward by Freud who stated that life is spurred on by two unconscious drives – the drive for Eros or sex and the drive for Thanatos or death. Freud perhaps sensed the rift between Psyche and Eros among people and wanted to integrate them via psychoanalysis.

More to read in Literary Criticism

Notes On Literary Criticism by Dr Ampat Koshy

Notes on Literary Criticism – Part II by Dr Ampat Koshy 

Writing, Theory and the Making of Verse

Curating Micro-narratives: The New Creativity

How To Enjoy a Poem: Taking the example of Langston Hughes’ “Harlem” or “A Dream Deferred .”


The opinions shared by the writer is his personal opinion and does not reflect the opinion of Learning and Creativity Magazine. The writer is solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.

Dr Koshy A. V. is presently an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, Jazan University, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has written, co-written and co-edited many books of criticism, fiction and poetry to his credit with authors like A.V. Varghese, Gorakhnath Gangane, Angel Meredith, Madhumita Ghosh, Zeenath Ibrahim, Rukhaya MK and Bina Biswas, among others, and one of them, a solo effort and pamphlet, 'A Treatise on Poetry for Beginners' was reprinted once as 'Art of Poetry.' He is a Pushcart Poetry Prize nominee (2012), and four times Best Poem winner in Destiny Poets UK ICOP (2013, 2014, 2018, 2019) and he was thrice featured in Camel Saloon’s The Hump for best poem/editor’s pick. Even as a child he won the Shankar's International Award for writing, at the age of six or seven. He is a reputed critic and expert on Samuel Beckett, having done his Ph.D on him as well as having written a book on him, "Samuel Beckett's English Poetry", besides being a literary theoretician. His other books include "Wake Up, India: Essays for Our Times", co-authored with Dr Bina Biswas, and "Mahesh Dattani's Plays: Staging the Invisibles," research essays by many collected and co-edited with Bina Biswas, "The Significant Anthology" that he edited with Reena Prasad and Michele Baron, a collection of his stories "Scream and Other Urbane Legends" published by Lifi, and an anthology or collection of poetry "Igniting Key," with Bina Biswas and Pramila Khadun. He has edited or co-edited many books including A Man Outside History by Naseer Ahmed Nasir and Inklinks: An Anthology by PoetsCorner and Umbilical Chords with Dr Madan Gandhi, Dr Santosh Bakaya , Himali Narang and Vineetha Mekkoth. He instituted the Reuel International Literary Prize in 2014 for excellence in writing and runs an Autism NPO with his wife Anna Gabriel. The first Reuel prize was given to Dr Santosh Bakaya. He administers with the help of others the literary group Rejected Stuff on Facebook, also known as THE SIGNIFICANT LEAGUE. His poems have been studied in a research paper by Dr Zeenath Ibrahim and by Kiriti Sengupta in The Dazzling Bards and translated into Hindi, Urdu, Gujarati, German, Bengali, Tamil, Spanish, Arabic and Malayalam. He won World Bank’s Urgent Evoke and participated in European Union’s Edgeryders. He has been interviewed extensively by people like Gina McKnight. He has other degrees like a Dip.Ed, diplomas, certificates and awards or prizes to his credit including best researcher and academic 2018 in Jazan University, besides his UGC and doctorate on Beckett. He attributes everything to God’s grace and the prayers and good wishes of his loved ones and friends. His latest books are "Allusions to Simplicity" and "Birds of Different Feathers", both collections of poetry like his first one "Figs". He is working on ten books now, one being on Bob Dylan. He has a certificate in Masters of World Literature from HarvardX, USA, earned in 2019, and a certificate from Nanowrimo USA in 2018, besides completing 2019 NAPOWRIMO, USA. He also co-edited with Reena Prasad, Michele Baron and Anna Gabriel "Silhouette I and II featuring Eternal Links", and contributed to "Eyes Bloodshot: Hallowe'en Tales" edited by Firdaus Parvez, both short story anthologies. His other book is "Wrighteings: In Media Res", a collection of essays, and he has contributed to international magazines, both online and print, and poetry and short story anthologies aplenty. He was a columnist for Niamh Clune's Plum Tree, Ireland, and has been published by Barry Mowles, Brian Wrixon, Bezine, Madswirl, Spillwords, Wagon, Oddball magazine, Setu, Tuck magazine, the Pangolin Review, OPA ,Metaworker, Atunis Galaktike, Nothing, No one, Nowhere, Episteme, Virogray etc. He also has many research papers to his credit in places like Langlit, uncollected as yet. He has had retrospectives of his work done by Duane Vorhees and Glory Sasikala in and Glomag respectively. He recently achieved ten thousand reads on Research Gate for his research articles on display there.
All Posts of Dr Ampat Varghese Koshy

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