CLASSICAL CRITICISM - PowerPoint PPT Presentation


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  • A classic should comprehensively represent the
    spirit of the nationality it belongs to and have
    some claim to universal meaning as well to deal
    with the questions of general philosophical

  • In the 20th century the critics used to carry out
    two practices
  • (i) Sometimes classicism meant the imitation of
    Greek and Latin themes in modern literature
  • (ii) At other times it meant the imitation of
    Greek and Latin forms in composing work of any

  • The formal imitation of two works of antiquity
    one Greek and other Roman may be used as keys for
    understanding classicism ii-e poetics by
    Aristotle and Art of Poetry by Horace.
  • Criticism actually took its roots with the
    appearance of Poetics in which certain rules
    were laid down for writing serious dramas.
  • Aristotles poetics became the touchstone of all
    arts in the succeeding years,Critics all over the
    world pronounced their judgments according to the
    direction set out in it with poetics began the
    classical criticism.

  • The classical critics further believed that the
    primary aim of all arts is didactic and pleasure
    and entertainment comes in second phase.
  • They emphasized on form,balance order and
    proportion in poetry.
  • The classical critics were men with established
    values and morals and the artists to be so.
  • The classical critics disproved of any experiment
    in form contradictory to the classical rules.
  • They also rejected the fight of imagination a
    work of art.
  • Classical critics don't approve off the display
    of subjective feelings,idiosyncrasies,and
    emotions in literature.They want an artist to be
    objective in treatment of realities of life.
  • The poet should preach but indirectly if he
    preaches directly then he would be more of a
    priest preaching from the pulpit than a creative

  • Hence Aristotles rules were considered to be the
    last word in every field of art.These rules were
    looked upon with awe.
  • But with the coming of Dryden and Johnson on the
    literary scene,critics no longer remained over
    enthusiastic in imposing the rules of ancients
    upon the writers of their age.
  • Dr Johnson appreciates Ben Johnson who observed
    the rules of classical drama but he loves
    Shakespeare who did not observe rules given in

  • During the period 1650-1800 there was rapid
    development in province of criticism.
  • It was not,however,the development of a single
    harmonious system of principles and doctrines.
  • Sometimes theories were formed around questions
    primarily of art and sometimes nature was of
    primary importance and sometimes questions of
    ends or effects of poetry were important.

  • The term Augustan age has come to refer to a
    period of highest refinement of any natural
  • In England it is the period from 1680-1750.The
    Age of Pope and Dryden.
  • The Augustan age of English poetry grounded its
    claim on classicism on the fancied resemblance to
    the Roman poets of the golden age of Roman poetry
    during the reign of Emperor Augustus.
  • Its authors each saw themselves as the second
    Virgil a second Ovid or most of all a second
  • They aimed to follow the guidelines laid down in
    the original Augustan Age.
  • They assumed that the kinds and mode of treatment
    and all the minor details of literature e-g
    figures of speech used of epithets had been
    settled once and for all by the ancients.
  • The authors of neoclassical age so christened
    themselves because they rigidly followed these

  • In other words,Neoclassicism implies a respect
    for the rules and principles of Aristotle and
    other Greek and Roman critic.
  • It is also known as pseudo-classicism for
    Aristotle was often misinterpreted and much that
    he had never said was grafted upon him.They also
    made significant departures from him e-g when the
    neo classicism preferred epic to tragedy.

  • Englishmans Love of Liberty is ingrained in its
    temperament,therefore the English critics could
    not follow the Neo-classical rules.
  • Their temperamental liberal was nourished by
    Longinus whose essay on sublime has been
    translated in French and was widely read in
  • Their spirit of free thinking was further
    influenced by the French Revolution and the
    American war of independence.
  • Their love for political independence resulted in
    the spirit of free inquiry.
  • They started questioning the neo-classical rules
    and exposed the limitations.

  • One of the characteristics of romanticism is
  • This interest in medieval legends and stories
    revived in them their appreciation for old
    English masters.The influence of Spencer and
    Shakespeare increased and that of Pope and Dryden
    went down.
  • Under German influence there was rethinking on
    the nature of beauty and aesthetic appeal
    accordingly a new aesthetic theory was developed.

  • For centuries it has becomes customary to define
    poetry as imitation or a invention after the
    fashion of Aristotle and Horace the neo
    classicism had narrowed down the meanings of
    these ancient terms.

  • Those who sponsored the romantic criticism
    attempted new definitions of poetry conceived in
    the spirit of freedom which now permeated all
    spheres of human life.
  • Emotions and imagination were enfranchised and
    acquired new authority in the domain of art.

  • New principles were formulated successfully by
    Romantic critics.Generally speaking the seminal
    principles of imagination at the core of this new
    literary reflection.
  • Imagination is now regarded as the essence and
    animating soul of all poetry.
  • Similarly genuine emotion is considered
    indispensable for poetry.

  • Poetic diction in the 18th century had become
    rigid and conventional.Wordsworth pronounced a
    different theory of diction.
  • He tried to bridge the gulf between popular
    speech and poetic language.The problems of style
    and meter were reexamined.
  • There was a break with the past rhetorical
    tradition which had come down from Aristotle and
    steadily grown more rigorous.

  • For Wordsworth poetry is The spontaneous
    overflow of power feelings.Whereas the neo
    classical critics referred literature to such an
    externous standards as social property or moral
    purity.The romantic critics of the new generation
    assessed poetry in relation to the poets mind
    and its inner working.

  • Romantic criticism deals with fundamental
    questions as to What is poetry? And What is the
    time appeal of poetry.
  • No critic before Wordsworth or Cole ridge except
    Sidney had tried to answer such questions.
  • The great strength of Romantic criticism consists
    in the profound theorizing about the essential
    nature of poetry.

  • Wordsworth was the first to give a new turn to
    discussion as the nature of poetry by connecting
    it with feeling and making it dependent upon
  • His views on language and poetic diction are even
    more strikingly original.They were so
    original,indeed that they provoked much criticism
    when they were first produced.

  • Wordsworth tries to bridge the gulf between prose
    and verse.
  • Later Wordsworth pleads that prose and metrical
    compositions make use of the same material,namely
    words and phrases and speak to a same sense.
  • Meter adds no novel distinction to the language
    such a distinction emanates only from passionate
    use of language and is thus generic not specific.
  • Words of prose and poetry are not clearly
    demarcated so the words which can be used in
    prose can find place in poetry and vice versa.

  • Wordsworth makes it clear that the use of meter
    in poetry is different from the use of poetic
  • Meter obeys certain rules where as poetic diction
    is arbitrary and capricious.
  • In the preface,Wordsworth has defended meter on
    the grounds.

  • (i)It adds charm and pleasure to the language.

  • (ii)Poems written upon humble subjects and in a
    more naked and simple language than the poets own
    compositions have continued to give pleasure from
    generation to generation.

  • (iii) The end of poetry is to produce
    excitement.In the statement of excitement ideas
    and feelings do not follow each other in the
    accustomed order.Meter retrains and tempers the

  • (iv)Pathetic and painful situation can b rendered
    more effectively in rhyme than in prose.
  • (v)It imparts a dream like quality to the poem
    because of which the pain seems remote and more

  • (vi)It imparts passion to the words and makes the
    reader experience appropriate feelings of
  • (vii) We derive pleasure from perception of
    similarity in dissimilarity.The use of meter
    provides the element of contrast.