Alexandar Pope's Part 1 An Essay On Criticism
Alexander Pope's An Essay on Criticism: Summary & Analysis Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support. You must create an account to continue watching Register for a free trial Are you a student or a teacher? What is your educational goal? Back As a member, you'll also get unlimited access to over lessons in math, English, science, history, and more. Plus, get practice tests, quizzes, and personalized coaching to help you succeed.Free 5-day trial It only takes a few minutes to set up and you can cancel at any time. You're on a roll. Keep up the good work! Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds 0:01 Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course. Teachers Organize and share selected lessons with your class. Make planning easier by creating your own custom course. Students From any lesson page: Click "Add to" located below the video player and follow the prompts to name your course and save your lesson. 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This lesson will explore Alexander Pope's famous poem titled 'An Essay on Criticism.' In an attempt to understand the importance, influence and significance of the work, we'll look at the literary and philosophical context of the poem. Alexander Pope and the Enlightenment 'A little learning is a dang'rous thing,' Alexander Pope famously writes in his poem ' An Essay on Criticism.' The poem is one of the most quoted in the English language and one that offers tremendous insight into Pope's beliefs and into the culture in which Pope was writing. Pope lived from 1688 to 1744 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 1660 to around 1800. 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.' Overview of the Poem 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. Analysis of the Poem heroic couplets, which consist of two rhyming lines that are written in iambic pentameter. 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.' Heroic couplets are typically used when writing traditional and idealistic poetry, a quality that reiterates the serious tone of Pope's poem. 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. 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. × Get FREE access for 5 days, No obligation, cancel anytime.