Topics: Literary criticism, Poetry, Literature Pages: 5 (1655 words) Published: June 26, 2013
Doğaç Hüseyin KUTLU

Professor Metin TOPRAK

3. Class Evening


December 21, 2012

Ideas of Alexander Pope in Essay On Criticism

1. Introduction to Age of Enlightenment & Essay on Criticism

The Age of Enlightenment was a widespread literary and intellectual movement took place in Europe and England. This age encouraged intellectual freedom as well as freedom from prejudice, religious beliefs, and politics. In that age, Neoclassical Movement which on literature and art was dominant began in western literatures during Renaissance and ends in 1798, but concept of human nature as main idea of art changes radically in the very beginning of 18th century with the impact of rationalism in philosophy and empiricism in psychology (Kantarcioglu 59). Neoclassical Movement in English Literature, on the other hand; divided into three parts: Restoration Age (1660-1700), the Augustan Age (1700-1750) and the Age of Johnson (1750-1798). Importantly, with the lights of Essay on Criticism by Pope the Augustan Age’s way of thinking clarifies the Age of Enlightenment and Neoclassical Movement in England during the term of puritan worldview (Cody). Alexander Pope as the subject matter is a poet, translator, wit and a catholic was born in London in 1688. In the protestant-controlled England, he was raised by a catholic family, could not get a university education and mostly affected by the Ancient Greek and Roman literary critics, poets and philosophers (Bresley 24). One of his earlier masterpieces Essay on Man was written in the way of Horace’s Ars Poetica that Pope identifies original sin of man as pride and seizes ethic principals based on hierarchical universe. On the other hand his later critic Essay on Criticism examines the form of criticism that Pope identifies general principals of good critism and main flaws a critic prone to (Habib 291). To understand the basic unit of Enlightenment in England and Pope’s literary concept, the masterpiece of Alexander Pope should be understood clearly that Pope’s perspective in Essay on Criticism is about firstly general principals of good critism, secondly essence of art and its parallelism to human nature, and lastly the term of linguistic medium used in a work of art and all of these will comprehensively be explained and analyzed throughout the passages.

2. A. General Principals of Good Criticism and Poetry in Essay on Criticism ‘’'Tis hard to say, if greater Want of Skill
Appear in Writing or in Judging ill,
But, of the two, less dang'rous is th' Offence,
To tire our Patience, than mis-lead our Sense
Some few in that, but Numbers err in this,
Ten Censure wrong for one who Writes amiss;
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One in Verse makes many more in Prose’’ (1–8).
Pope, Alexander. Essay on Criticism. 1711.

In Essay on Criticism Pope identifies general principals of good criticism and poetry, at first. First of all, Pope discusses that bad critics do more harm to people than bad poets (Kantarcioglu 60). By this vision Pope tries to tell that while bad poets can tire people’s patience, bad critics can mislead people’s sense. Secondly, a poet, according to Pope, should be born with his innate capacity to create; on the other side, a critic should have true taste and both a poet and critic should cultivate their talents through education. It means that ability to criticize and poetize is not enough to become a good critic and good poet, both of them should develop and polish their skills with the knowledge. Lastly but most importantly, Pope, like other neoclassical literary critics, believes that poets and literary critics should be acquainted with classical works of art and imitate them. For him, a literary critic who is man of common sense, should have a good character, should know classical theory of literature as well as its historical perspective and the religious and ethical values of his time. Likewise, Pope intensely suggest to a literary...

Cited: Bresler, Charles E. Literary Criticism: An Introduction to Theory and Practice. 4th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2007.
Cody, David. Alexander Pope 's "Essay on Criticism": An Introduction. U of Hartwick. Jul. 2000 < http://www.victorianweb.org/previctorian/pope/eoc.html>.
Habib, Rafey A. M. Modern Literary Criticism and Theory. Malden; Blackwell, 2005.
Kantarcioglu, Sevim. Literary Criticism: The Major Literary Movements In Western Literatures. Ankara: Hatipoğlu, 1997.
Pope, Alexander. Essay on Criticism. 1711 <http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/popea/critic.htm#line70>.
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