Matthew Arnold versus Aristotle's Poetics Essay examples

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The value of imitation: a vision of Aristotle's Poetics

Aristotle wrote his Poetics thousands of years before Matthew Arnold's birth. His reasons for composing it were different from Arnold's reasons for using it as an element of his own poetic criticism. We can safely say that Arnold was inclined to use the Poetics as an inspiration for his own poetry, and as a cultural weapon in the fight for artistic and social renewal. Aristotle, by contrast, was more concerned with discovering general truths, and with formalising truths already known intuitively within his own society.

I wish, in this article, to make some observations about the way in which some of the seminal ideas in the Poetics affected one key writer within the English
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as Arnold's first public engagement in those critical controversies that were to be the stimulus to his best work" (p. 48). Two points follow from this statement. Firstly it suggests that Arnold saw literature, philosophy and criticism, as of vital public importance, and secondly it says that the his engagement in public debate tended to have a positive effect on his creative work. This makes his approach similar to that of Aristotle who also saw theory as intimately linked to public practice. Aristotle's Poetics, and his writing in general, have a profoundly social and moral dimension. I would argue then that Arnold attempts to import a moral ideal into England from Greece, and argue even further that his greatest ambition was not just the restoration of national literature to England, but finally a great society. In the realm of ideas Arnold does manage to show the desireability, for England, of Aristotelian ideas and Greek ideas in general. Arnold's famous phrase, from Culture and Anarchy, about the need in the English mind for "sweetness and light" sound very un-Aristotelian. It also sounds hopelessly idealistic in a bad sense. If we read the rest of the book however and see the various examples which he gives of English intransigence, and "heavy inaccessibility to ideas", we can see what Arnold
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