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 importance.
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 themes
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. • Aristotle’s 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 artist.
Hence Aristotle’s 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 poetics.
NEO-CLASSICISM(THE AUGUSTAN AGE) • 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.
AUGUSTAN AGE • The term Augustan age has come to refer to “a period of highest refinement of any natural literature” • 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 Horace. • 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 rules.
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.
ROMANTIC CRITICISM • Englishman’s 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 England. • 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 medievalism • 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 poet’s 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.
WORDSWOTH AS A ROMANTIC CRITIC • 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 imagination. • 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 diction. • Meter obeys certain rules where as poetic diction is arbitrary and capricious. • In the preface,Wordsworth has defended meter on the grounds.
(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 eciteest.
(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 endurable.
(vi)It imparts passion to the words and makes the reader experience appropriate feelings of pleasure. • (vii) We derive pleasure from perception of similarity in dissimilarity.The use of meter provides the element of contrast.