Arnold's Epochs of Expansion and Epochs of Concentration

2228 Words Mar 25th, 2005 9 Pages
"I am bound by my own definition of criticism: a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is known and thought in the world;" (Leitch 824) said the Victorian poet and critic Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold, an English poet and critic whose work was both a representative of the Romantic ideas and of the Victorian intellectual concerns later on was the primary literary critic of his age. Arnold's critical theories is highlighted mainly through his most important critical prose "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time" in which he examines the role of the critic in society and presents his critical concept. Arnold's contribution to literary theory is his theories on epochs of expansion and epochs of concentration, …show more content…
In Arnold's essay "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time", Arnold asserted that criticism is a positive and noble task. Since, Arnold began as a poet and was a poet himself he gives some emphasis to the creative abilities of the poet yet he also gives a greater emphasis to the analytical abilities of the critic. Matthew Arnold introduced the concept of poetry as a synthesizing process in which the poet synthesizes ideas and puts these ideas together to form a work of art. He also introduced the role of the critic being the analyst of those ideas. So, in other words, Arnold states that the poet collects the information and the critic saturates or divides those ideas and by dividing and synthesizing these ideas there will be an artistic process or dialogue in which the poets will see their work analyzed and view their weak points and try to synthesize new and powerful ideas. After the poet synthesizes newer and powerful ideas the critic then will take these ideas and analyze them, divide them, break them apart and talk about the strong and weak points in them, so this is a continual process of analyzing and synthesizing. Arnold gives the poet the creative ability and the critic the analytical ability; yet, both of them are creators, one of them synthesizes and produces or creates and the other analyzes and by analyzing he introduces new ideas to the poet. The critic