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Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism: Summary & Analysis

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❶Pride, Malice, Folly, against Dryden rose, In various shapes of Parsons, Critics, Beaus; But sense surviv'd, when merry jests were past; For rising merit will buoy up at last. Start your FREE trial.

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Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Login or Sign up. Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

Pope lived from to and was one of the most popular and influential writers of his time. He was writing during what we now call the Enlightenment era , which lasted from about to around Enlightenment thinkers emphasized the importance of science and reason and claimed that the world is knowable and testable.

It was during the Enlightenment that modern science and many of the assumptions that govern our contemporary system of reason were developed. This context and the excitement that surrounded the changes brought to culture through the Enlightenment are central to 'An Essay on Criticism.

Pope's 'Essay on Criticism' is broken into three different parts. The first part opens by describing the ways literary critics can actually cause harm.

Pope argues that critics must be both careful and humble when critiquing a piece of literature, for the writing of bad criticism actually hurts poetry more than the writing of bad poetry does. Pope points out that each critic has his or her own opinion, and, if applied incorrectly, a critic can actually censure a talented writer.

However, Pope argues that if a critic is honest, doesn't fall prey to envy and listens to the seeds of understanding that are naturally a part of him or herself, one can become a wise critic. The Greeks came to understand poetry through following the rules of nature, argues Pope, and contemporary critics must do the same.

In the second part, Pope describes some of the ways that critics develop bad judgment, the chief of which is pride. The key to avoiding this is to know your own faults and limitations. Moreover, critics must study well and focus on conventions passed down from the masters of poetry. Pope warns, however, that critics must be careful of becoming slaves to the rules and convention that others have developed and to not let the popularity of an author misguide a critic's appreciation of an author's work.

One of the products of adhering too closely to conventions is that critics become fascinated with extremes and forget the essential truth that beauty and good poetry are made up of the combination of all of their parts, rather than each part by itself. In the third part of the poem, Pope offers some wisdom that critics should follow. Once again, Pope emphasizes the importance of humility and studying deeply, particularly studying those poets and critics who truly understand poetry and follow nature.

Pope then reflects on the ups and downs of literature and literary critics since Greek culture, explaining how the understanding produced by the Greeks and Romans was lost and is only beginning to be appreciated again. Lines written in iambic pentameter consist of five iambs , which are metrical feet that have two syllables, one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, as in 'belong' or 'along.

Pope saw the poem less as an original composition and more as a collection of the insights of other writers. His goal was to combine the wisdom of others to help produce a sort of definitive guideline from which critics could learn. Get access risk-free for 30 days, just create an account. When placed in the context of the Enlightenment, the poem becomes exceptionally perceptive.

For one thing, Pope's poem both praises reason and contains a humility towards reason. More specifically, the text emphasizes the need to courageously speak your own truth, but to do so with understanding and respect for the truth that others have found through formal logic and rationality.

During and just prior to Pope's lifetime, England's government had experienced frequent and often violent turmoil. Writers, such as Pope, believed that this violence was particularly caused by people who held too strongly to their religious and philosophical beliefs.

With this in mind, Pope's mix of optimism towards and skepticism of the potential of reason is particularly insightful. Likewise, the poem demonstrates a hesitancy to fully embrace any strict rules that are believed to govern literature.

While Pope is clearly attempting to establish the rules of poetry and provide a guideline for poets and critics, he is also encouraging his readers to be careful not to allow the guidelines to become the beginning and end of evaluating poetry.

The key, argues Pope, is to truly understand the writings of those that came before and to see poems in all of their complexity. One of the most obvious examples of this can be found in the third part of the poem. In this section, Pope goes through the history of poetry from the heights of Greece and Rome, through the poor poetry that was common during the middle ages, up until the past few hundred years in which poetry was beginning to be improved again. This narrative illustrates the fact that one must, while trying to be innovative and believe in one's own convictions, also find a balance and have a deep respect for the work that came before.

For example, 'An Essay on Criticism' frequently refers to nature as the ultimate guide for writers and critics. Like much of the poem, this was a central theme not only in Pope's work, but in the work of many poets and critics writing the 18th century. Alexander Pope lived from to His poem, ' An Essay on Criticism ,' seeks to introduce and demonstrate the ideals of poetry and teach critics how to avoid doing harm to poetry.

The poem is a particularly insightful text that combines and reflects many ideas that were popular during the late 17th and 18th centuries. This time is called the Enlightenment, and Enlightenment thinkers developed much of the science and philosophy that is at the heart of contemporary culture. One of the most important ideas for these writers was the need to directly observe and learn from nature as individual people, an ideal that is central to this poem.

Iambic pentameter means each line has five iambs, which are metrical feet consisting of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.

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Introduction to Alexander Pope: Biography, Essays and Poems. Alexander Pope's An Essay on Man: Philip Sidney and the Defense of Poesy. Description of a City Shower: William Wycherley's The Country Wife: Prometheus Unbound by Shelley: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Blake: Eliot's Novel of Provincial Life.

The Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon: Satire 3 by John Donne: Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold: Tennyson's In Memoriam, A. Overview of 'In Memoriam' Stanzas. To Kill a Mockingbird Study Guide. Jacob Erickson Jacob has his master's in English and has taught multiple levels of literature and composition, including junior high, college, and graduate students.

Analysis of the Poem 'An Essay on Criticism' is written in heroic couplets , which consist of two rhyming lines that are written in iambic pentameter. Try it risk-free No obligation, cancel anytime. Want to learn more? Select a subject to preview related courses: Lesson Summary Let's review. Learning Outcomes After you have finished, you should be able to: He was generally considered an inferior poet, although Pope's friend Addison had time for him.

Samuel Garth, on the other hand, was well-regarded, by Pope and many others, for a poem, The Dispensary , denouncing apothecaries and their cohort physicians. There was a rumour current that Garth was not its real author.

Sychophancy is one of the Essay's prime targets. Pope's rhetoric rises to a pitch as he castigates the hypocrisy of the "fops" who always praise the latest play, and the loquacious ignorance of the preferment-seeking clergy.

St Paul's Churchyard, the corrupt precinct of the booksellers, may be full of bores and fools, but there's no safer sanctuary at the cathedral's altar. The Essay is rich in epigrams, still widely quoted. Briefly allegorising, Pope goes on to contrast cautious "sense" and impetuous "nonsense", again evoking the rowdy traffic of 18th-century London with the onomatopoeic "rattling".

The flow has been angrily headlong: Antithesis implies balance, and the syntax itself enacts the critical virtues. Where, Pope asks, can you find the paradigm of wise judgement? It's not a rhetorical question. The poem goes on to provide the answer, enumerating the classical models, having a little chauvinistic nip at the rule-bound Boileau, and happily discovering two worthy inheritors of the critical Golden Age, Roscommon and Walsh.

Readers and writers today can't, of course, share Pope's certainties of taste. But we can apply some of his principles, the most important of which is, perhaps, that principles are necessary. And we might even take some tips from writers of the past. Your silence there is better than your spite, For who can rail so long as they can write?

Still humming on, their drowsy course they keep, And lashed so long, like tops, are lashed asleep. False steps but help them to renew the race, As, after stumbling, jades will mend their pace. What crowds of these, impenitently bold, In sounds and jingling syllables grown old, Still run on poets, in a raging vein, Ev'n to the dregs and squeezings of the brain, Strain out the last dull droppings of their sense, And rhyme with all the rage of impotence.

Such shameless bards we have, and yet 'tis true There are as mad, abandoned critics too. The bookful blockhead, ignorantly read, With loads of learned lumber in his head, With his own tongue still edifies his ears, And always listening to himself appears. All books he reads, and all he reads assails, From Dryden's fables down to Durfey's tales. With him, most authors steal their works, or buy; Garth did not write his own Dispensary. Name a new play, and he's the poet's friend, Nay showed his faults — but when would poets mend?

No place so sacred from such fops is barred, Nor is Paul's church more safe than Paul's church yard: Nay, fly to altars; there they'll talk you dead; For fools rush in where angels fear to tread. Distrustful sense with modest caution speaks, It still looks home, and short excursions makes; But rattling nonsense in full volleys breaks. And never shocked and never turned aside, Bursts out, resistless, with a thundering tide.

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Full Text Pope, Alexander: The Works () VOL. I. WITH Explanatory Notes and Additions never before printed. AN ESSAY ON CRITICISM. Written in the Year

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Essay on Poetic Theory. An Essay on Criticism. By Alexander Pope Introduction. Alexander Pope, a translator, poet, wit, amateur landscape gardener, and satirist, was born in London in Pope wrote “An Essay on Criticism” when he was 23; he was influenced by Quintillian, Aristotle, his text peruse; And let your comment be the.

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'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. A critical essay is an analysis of a text such as a book, film, article, or painting. The goal of this type of paper is to offer a text or an interpretation of some aspect of a text or to situate the text in a broader context.

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An Essay on Criticism 1 From till Pope was chiefly engaged on his translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, which, though wanting in time Homeric simplicity, naturalness, and grandeur, are splendid poems. Free kindle book and epub digitized and proofread by Project Gutenberg. 13 by Alexander Pope; An Essay on Criticism by Alexander Pope. No cover available. Download; Bibrec; Bibliographic Record. Author: Pope, Alexander, Title: An Essay on Criticism Plain Text UTF