Introduction: Alexander Pope wrote An Essay on Criticism in poetic form which was published in 1711. This poem represents the Neoclassical beliefs about criticism and poetry which strongly asserts the importance of adherence to the Classical rules.
Summary of the Text
Introduction: In the three parts of his poem "An Essay on Criticism," Alexander Pope discusses the standards of conduct for critics. Throughout his career, Pope has faced criticism for his work, background, religion, and physical appearance. Pope has a lot to say to critics regarding the mistakes they frequently make and how they might effectively carry out their duties in order to promote the creative process. The poem explores Pope's belief that poetry is suffering from a cultural decline and what, in Pope's view, poets and critics must do to reverse this trend. He divides his discussion into three sections:
Pope says that poets and critics alike should be familiar with the standards for poetry established in classical Greece and Rome. These guidelines were founded on natural laws like balance, symmetry, and simplicity in beauty. Both writers and their critics must possess sound judgement and wit in order to properly "First follow NATURE." While it's crucial for authors to follow the norms, critics should also be aware that sometimes fresh perspectives are required for rapidly evolving facts. Only very gifted, clever, and accomplished writers are given an exception to the norm.
This part charts the fall of Part 1's heyday while listing the mistakes made by Pope's contemporaries in the fields of poetry and criticism. He claims that some poets use flowery language to cover up a lack of content. Some critics focus on one little issue and magnify it rather than examining the entire work. This essay enumerates all the various ways in which their criticism is incorrect and useless. Some common errors include: focusing exclusively on the rules and ignoring the content; rating poetry based on their metaphors, imagery, or other less important characteristics; and praising works just because they are novel, extreme, foreign, or they support particular viewpoints.
The final section of "An Essay on Criticism" takes a more upbeat and motivating stance. Pope looks at the qualities of a great reviewer. Integrity, humility, and courage are the best traits for a critic to have. Pope pays a lengthy tribute to the Greek, Roman, and English authors who, in his opinion, best mimic the classical authors as the poem comes to a close. The best critics are fair and analytical, carefully weighing their words in light of the fact that they can make or break an author's career.
Analysis in Bullet Points
Famous Quotes from the Text
"To err is human; to forgive, divine"
"A little learning is a dang'rous thing"
"Fools rush in where angels fear to tread".
“Words are like Leaves; and where they most abound, Much Fruit of Sense beneath is rarely found.”
“Authors are partial to their wit, 'tis true, But are not critics to their judgment, too?”
“Tis not a lip, or eye, we beauty call, But the joint force and full result of all.”
"Men must be taught as if you taught them not, And things unknown propos'd as things forgot."
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