Matthew Arnold

(1822-1888)

Biography

*Arnold was a poet, and educator, and an advocate for civility and moderation who followed in the footsteps of his father –Thomas Arnold (1795-1842). He is called 'the critic's critic'

*He educated at Rugby and Oxford University.

*Arnold's first two books were: The Strayed Reveller, and Other Poems (1849) and Empedocles on Etna and Other Poems (1852).

*In 1851 Arnold received an appointment as an inspector of schools.

*Arnold was named Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1857, a position he held until 1867.

*His major prose works are ; Essay in Criticism, First Series (1865), Essay in Criticism and Culture and Anarchy(1869), which examines the condition of England as represented by three groups Arnold nicknames (Barbarians, Philistines and the Populace).

 

The Objective Approach

 

*Arnold belongs to the Objective Approach. This approach started at 1860's until now.

* In this approach the shift took place from the poet (Romantic- Expressive) to the poem.

* In Objective Approach the text/ artistic object is the only reality worthy of study. Not extra textual-information is needed.  *

* The poem is a self-contained object that has a value of its own. Also, the text/ poem have its internal structure of references that has nothing to do with the author, audience or universe.

*Arnold began as a romantic poet but changed in the middle of his carrier to become a critic of romanticism, his shift also changed the interest from the feelings to that of the ideas.

 Arnold's view came to be known through his work "The Function of Criticism at the present Time".*

 

The Function of Criticism at the Present Time

 

* In this work, Matthew ARNOLD spoke about “Epochs of Concentration” and “Epochs of Expansion”.

*His view was that the critic has a role in fostering great literature, and has positive and noble task. 

*In this essay, Arnold discusses the weak relationship between criticism and creation (poetry).

* Arnold describes this difference as a work of, "synthesis and exposition" for a creative person (poet) and, "analysis and discovery" for the critic. The creative person has the power of the man and the moment. In contrast the critic creates "an intellectual situation" which allows the creative power to develop. The creative power is then able to grow into a, "creative epoch of literature".  This is then a creative critical power if the criticism is used to help create new ideas.

- The elements which the creative works with are ideas. The best ideas on every matter which literature touches should be current at the time.

*Arnold defines criticism as "disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the bet that knows a thought in the world.

-The critic has higher curiosity with free play of mind that follows the flow of ideas where ever they are, therefore, a good critic must not be partisan.

-A critic takes ideas from different cultures; he/she takes the best that known and thought.

 

 

*His definition of a Poet : is that a poet ought to know life and the world before dealing with theme in poetry, and life and the world being in modern times very complex things, the creation of a modern poet to be worth much implies a great critical effort behind it.  It also must be comparatively poor, barren and short lived affairs.

*Notes in his essay:

-He says that the POET is needed when the epoch is an Epoch of Expansion ;( a period in human cultural history where the intellectual energy is at its highest), to convert/synthesize this intellectual cultural moment into great works of art.

-He also says that The CRITIC, on the other hand, is needed during Epochs of Concentration; (the era where ideas are stagnant and the free exchange of ideas is stifled), to analyze the present ideas facilitates them to prepare the way for a new epoch of expansion.

- So the presence of both the poet and critic are essential for epochs of expansion. They are interdependent on each other.