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  • 1. Alexander Pope (1711)
  • 2. Historical Background - Draws upon the previous verse essays of Horace, Vida, Boileau - Liberal and flexible by the influence of Dryden, Longinus - More comprehensive
  • 3. Essay on Criticism - Didactic poem - Heroic couplet (euphemism, sophisticated) “True taste is to be found as a true genius”
  • 4. Contents 1) General qualities needed by the critic 2) Particular laws for the critic 3) The ideal character of the critic
  • 5. General Qualities of the critic A. Awareness of his own limitations B. Knowledge of nature in its general forms C. Imitation of the Ancients, and the use of rules
  • 6. Awareness of his own limitations But you who seek to give and merit Fame, And justly bear a Critic’s noble Name, Be sure your self and your own Reach to know. How far your Genius, Taste, and Learning go; (LL.46-50)
  • 7. Knowledge of Nature 1. Nature defined Nature is a creation of God 2. Need of both wit and judgment to conceive it
  • 8. Some, to whom Heav’n in Wit has been profuse, Want as much more, to turn it to its use, For Wit and Judgment often are at strife, Tho’ meant each other’s Aid, like Man and Wife. (LL.80-84)
  • 9. Imitation of the Ancients 1. Value of ancient poetry and criticism as models 2. Need to study the general aims and qualities of the Ancients
  • 10. Just Precepts thus from great Examples giv’n, She drew from them what they deriv’d from Heav’n The gen’rous Critic fann’d the Poet’s Fire, And taught the World, with Reason to Admire (LL.98-101)
  • 11. Imitation of the Ancients 1. Value of ancient poetry and criticism as models 2. Need to study the general aims and qualities of the Ancients
  • 12. You then whose Judgement the right Course wou’d steer Know well each Ancient’s proper Character, His Fable, Subject, Scope in ev’ry Page, Religion, Country, Genius of his Age: Without all these at once before your Eyes, Cavil you may, but never Criticize. Be Homer’s Works your Study, and Delight, Read them by Day, and meditate by Night (LL.118-125)
  • 13. But tho’ the Ancients thus their Rules invade, (As Kings dispense with Laws Themselves have made) Moderns, beware! Or if you must offend Against the Precept, ne’er transgress its End, Let it be seldom, and compell’d by Need, And have, at least, their Precedent to plead (LL.161-166)
  • 14. Particular Laws for a critic A. Consider the work as a total unit B. Seek the author’s aim C. Examples of false critics who mistake the part for the whole
  • 15. work as a total unit A perfect Judge will read each Work of Wit With the same Spirit that its Author writ, Survey the Whole, nor seek slight Faults to find, Where Nature moves, and Rapture warms the Mind; (LL.233-236)
  • 16. work as a total unit Thus when we view some well-proportion’d Dome, (The World’s just Wonder, and ev’n thine O Rome!) No single Parts unequally surprise; All comes united to th’admiring Eyes; No monstrous Height, or Breadth, or Length appear; The Whole at once is Bold, and Regular (LL.247-252)
  • 17. Particular Laws for a critic A. Consider the work as a total unit B. Seek the author’s aim C. Examples of false critics who mistake the part for the whole
  • 18. 1) The critic who judges by wit alone 2) The rhetorician who judges by the pomp and color of the diction 3) Critics who judge by versification only
  • 19. As Shades more sweetly recommend the light, So modest Plainness sets off sprightly Wit: For Works may have more Wit than does ‘em good, As Bodies perish through Excess of Blood. (LL.301-304)
  • 20. Others for Language all their Care express, And value Books, as Women Men, for dress: Their Praise is still – The Style is excellent: The Sense, they humbly take upon Content. Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound, Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found (LL.305-310)
  • 21. But most by Numbers judge a Poet’s song, And smooth or rough, with them, is right of wrong; In the bright Muse tho’ thousand Charms conspire, Her voice is all these tuneful Fools admire, (LL.337-340)
  • 22. Needs for aloofness from personal mood Personal subjectivity and its pitfalls
  • 23. Avoid Extremes; and shun the Fault of such, Who still are pleas’d too little, or too much. At ev’ry Trifle scorn to take Offence, That always shows Great Pride, or Little Sense; (LL.384-388)
  • 24. The Characters of Good Critics A. Qualities needed: - integrity - sincerity - modesty - good breeding - tact - courage B. Concluding eulogy of ancient critics as models
  • 25. Integrity To what base Ends, and by what abject Ways, Are Mortals urg’d thro’ Sacred Lust of praise! Ah ne’er so dire a Thirst of Glory boast, Nor in the Critic let the Man be lost! Good-Nature and Good-Sense must ever join; To err is Human; to Forgive, Divine (LL.520-525)
  • 26. Ancient critics as models - Aristotle - Horace - Longinus - Vida “Nature’s chief Master-piece is writing well”
  • 27. Conclusion - Follow the ancients’ work as Nature - Criticize as a whole unit of work - Sincerity without personal emotions