Arnold's Epochs of Expansion and Epochs of Concentration

Topics: Literary criticism, Literature, Literary theory Pages: 6 (2212 words) Published: March 9, 2005
"I am bound by my own definition of criticism: a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world;" (Leitch 824) said the Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold, an English poet and critic whose work was both a representative of the Romantic ideas and of the Victorian intellectual concerns later on was the primary literary critic of his age. Arnold's critical theories is highlighted mainly through his most important critical prose "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" in which he examines the role of the critic in society and presents his critical concept. Arnold's contribution to literary theory is his theories on epochs of expansion and epochs of concentration, which throughout the course of this essay will be thoroughly explained. Matthew Arnold, a Romantic poet transformed into a critic of the Romantic Age, contributes to the English critical theories, the concept of epochs of expansion and epochs of concentration.

Matthew Arnold, poet and critic was born on December 24 1822 in Laleham, Middlesex England and passed away April 15, 1888. He was considered the father of the modern criticism movement into the Objective Theory. Arnold was the eldest son of Thomas Arnold, historian and famous headmaster of Rugby, and of Mary (Penrose) Arnold. Throughout the beginning of Arnold's life he was educated at Rugby and then at Balliol College, University of Oxford, where he graduated. Shortly after Arnold graduated he was elected to a fellowship at Oriel, and after teaching a little at Rugby he became a private secretary to the Marquis of Lansdowne. After becoming the private secretary to Lord Lansdowne, he was appointed to inspector of schools, a position he held up until 1886, two years before his death. During his term he went on a number of missions and visitation of European schools. He was impressed by some of the educational systems that he wrote several works about them as well. Arnold's literary career can be divided into four separate periods in which the first period was in the 1850s where a large amount of his poems appeared; the second being in the 1860s in which his literary criticism and social criticism emerged; and the third being in the 1870s where his religious and educational writings surfaced; finally the fourth period being the one in the 1880s, where his second set of essays in literary criticism emerged. The fact that Arnold was born into an age that was shifting from the Romantics into the Victorian Age gave him a perspective of both ages in which he actually wrote in both ages. Arnold began as a Romantic poet merely writing Romantic poetry and displaying the various Romantic intellectual ideas. Later on, Arnold switched into prose and began writing critical works in which Arnold became a critic of the Romantic Age and intellectual thoughts. Matthew Arnold was one of the most significant literary critics of his age. He was the Professor of Poetry at Oxford from the time of 1857 to 1867, during which he wrote his first books of criticism, including On Translating Homer (1861), Essays in Criticism (1865; Series 2, 1888), In the Study of Celtic Literature (1867), and a number of other books regarding criticism as well.

In his first volume of Essays in Criticism, came Arnold's most important critical work in the name of "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time," in which Arnold examines the role of the critic in society and formulates the critical theory of an epoch of expansion and epoch of concentration. Arnold's essay suggests that the critic's role is one of a personal and social nature but the critic must maintain "disinterestedness," according to Arnold, to produce a proper critique. Arnold wanted to lay down the rules for aesthetic art in his age; he wanted them to have rules in order to produce a great anesthetic object. Arnold also tried to establish an aesthetic realm and emphasize the role of critics. Therefore,...
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