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ALEXANDER POPE (1688-1744)

1. Pope:
 “Born at the beginning of neoclassical age
 “Voice of the neoclassical age by age 20.
 “Embodies in his writings eighteenth-century thought and literary criticism.”
 “Major British poet”
 Considered “the literary pope” of England because of the publication of his
most influential writing, Essay on Criticism.

2. Contentions:
 Classical age: the golden age of criticism.
 Classical age: Age of Homer, Aristotle, Horace, and Longinus.
 Classical writers: “rules and laws of a harmonious and ordered nature.”
 Mimetic dictum: The foremost task of a critic and a poet = copy the classical
writers.”
 Chief requirement of a good poet: natural genius + knowledge of the classics
+ understanding the rules of poetry + politeness and grace
 OR: Good poet = natural genius + good breeding + rules established by
classical writers
 Fixed standards: poetic diction, heroic couplet as a standard for verse, and
personification of abstract ideas.
 Emotional outbreaks and free verse = unrefined.
 Poetry = reassertion of “the truths or absolutes already discovered by the
classical writers.”
 Critic’s task: to validate and maintain the classical values; to be “the custodian
and defender of good taste and cultural values.”
 Foundations of Pope’s contentions: mimetic theory and rhetoric theory
(patterns of structure)

WILLIAM WORDSWORTH (1770-1850)


1. Background
 Emphasis of the 18th century: order and reason
 World = “a great machine with all its parts operating harmoniously.”
 Emphasis of the 19th century: intuition as proper guide to truth
 World = living organism growing and eternally becoming
th
 18 century: “the city housed the centers of art and literature and set the
standards of good taste for the rationalistic mind.
 19th century : “a rural setting as a place where people could discover their
inner self
 19th century: devalued the empirical and rationalistic methodologies of the 18th
century.
 19th century: “truth could be attained by tapping into the core of our humanity
or transcendental nature.”

2. Wordsworth and Coleridge:


 Their publication of Lyrical Ballads, “a collection of poem . . . heralded the
beginning of British romanticism.”
 Wordsworth = romanticist
 Purpose: “to choose incidents and situations from common life, and . . .
describe them in language really used by [people] in situations . . . the
manner in which we associate ideas in a state of excitement.”
3. Poetry
 Aristotle, Sidney, Pope, Wordsworth: elements and subject matter of
literature.
 WW’s emphasis: common men and women as characters not nobility.
 Subject matter: “humble and rustic life”
 Language: everyday speech.
 “Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings . . . [taking] its origin
form emotion recollected in tranquility.”
 Poetry’s emotional quality
 Core: imagination not reason.
 Sidney, Dante, Pope: poetry as controlled and reasoned.
 “Poetry is the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge; it is impassioned
spirit which the countenance of all science.”
 Poet: not preserver of civilized values or good taste.
 Poet: “a man speaking to men: a man . . . endowed with more lively
sensibility, more enthusiasm and tenderness, . . . has a greater knowledge of
human nature and a more comprehensive soul than are supposed to be
common among mankind.”
 Poet: not follow prescribed set of rules but freely expresses his individualism.
 Poet: crafts his poem by internalizing a scene, circumstance or happening,
and recollects that occasion with its accompanying emotions and put them
into words.
 Poetry deals primarily with imagination and feelings, and intuition not reason.
 Intuition (individualism, emotion): guide to learning the ultimate truth;
imagination and emotion = core of poetry.
4. The reader
 Basis of his judgement: his genuine feelings and imagination as the poet saw
the situation and then recollected in tranquillity.
 The poet and the reader share the same emotion.
 Expressive school of criticism: “individuality of the reader’s privilege to share
in this individuality,” = foundation of English Romanticism.
 Expressive school: defies the centuries’ mimetic and rhetorical literary
theories.

HIPPOLYTE ADOLPHE TAINE (1828-1893)


1. Taine
 French historian and literary critic.
 Victorian era in 1830s: reason, science and historical determinism replaced
romantic thought.
 Chief contribution to literary criticism and history: The History of English
Literature (1863) = historical approach to literary criticism.
2. Text
 Three factors that influence a text: Race, Milieu, and Moment
 Race
 Authors of the same race share peculiar beliefs, emotions, and ways of
understanding
 Personal characteristics
 Milieu
 Culture of the author
 Moment
 Period in which the text is written. The period reveals the dominant
world view of the people.
 Text: a literary object that can be dissected to discover its meaning.
 Text: product of history.

MATTHEW ARNOLD
1. Arnold
 “Self-appointed voice of English Victorianism, the literary epoch immediately
following Wordsworth’s romanticism.
2. Poetry
 Poetry “can provide the necessary truths, values and guidelines for society.”
 Foundation of his literary theory: classical criteria used in dealing with a text
 Roots: Plato, Aristotle, Longinus, and other classical writers
 The best poetry is of a higher truth and seriousness than history (see:
Aristotle’s Poetics).
 Plato: Literature reflects society and its values and concerns
 Longinus: Defines a classic and decrees that such a work belongs to
the highest or the best class.
 Poetry is humankind’s crowning glory.
 “We have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, to
sustain us.”
 Science without poetry is not complete.
 Features of the best poetry:
 Eminent degree
 Truth
 Seriousness = moral excellence; a measure by which society judges
itself.

3. “The Study of Poetry” and “The Function of Literature at the Present Time”
 Social role of criticism: creating a current of true and fresh ideas.
 Critics should not be involved in politics and mundane affairs = aloofness.
 Aloofness leads to high culture=a prerequisite for the poet and the writing of
the best poetry.
 Objective judgement of a text: lines and expressions of the great masters as
“a touchstone of other poetry = compare the new text to the classic that
contains the sublime.
 Objective touchstone of poetry redefines the task of the literary critic and
introduces a subjective approach in literary criticism.
 Critic: not the interpreter of literary texts
 Critic: authority on values, culture and taste.
 Critic defines what literature and high culture are.
 Conclusion: poetry is the most important activity.
 Poetry: rescue humanity from its baser elements and would help us all to
truth.

HENRY JAMES (1843-1916)

1. H. James
 Critical essay: “The Art of Fiction”
 First articulated theory of the novel in English Literature
 Concerned with developing a theory of writing a novel.
2. Theory of novel
 Novel: a personal and direct impression of life . . . that constitutes its value
 Novel must be interesting.
 James rejected romanticist notion of suspending disbelief while reading a
text.
 Features of a novel:
 Realistic: represents life and is recognized by its readers
 Good novels show life in action
 Bad novels are either romantic or scientific.
 Good writers are good thinkers: select, evaluate, and imaginatively
use the stuff of life in their work.
 Text = organic; no omniscient narrator that tells.
 Shows the action (mimesis) and doesn’t tell it (diegesis)
 Novel became a respectable genre for literary critics because of Henry
James.

3. Reader
 Decides on the worth of a text based on the work of the classic writers.

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