Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion

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25 December 2021

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“I am bound by my own definition of criticism: a disinterested endeavor to learn and propagate the best that is identified 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 consultant of the Romantic ideas and of the Victorian intellectual issues later on was the primary literary critic of his age. Arnold’s crucial theories is highlighted primarily via 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 idea.

Arnold’s contribution to literary concept is his theories on epochs of growth and epochs of concentration, which throughout the course of this essay will be completely defined. Matthew Arnold, a Romantic poet transformed into a critic of the Romantic Age, contributes to the English critical theories, the concept of epochs of growth and epochs of concentration.

Matthew Arnold, poet and critic was born on December 24 1822 in Laleham, Middlesex England and passed away April 15, 1888. He was considered the father of the modern criticism motion into the Objective Theory. Arnold was the eldest son of Thomas Arnold, historian and well-known headmaster of Rugby, and of Mary (Penrose) Arnold. Throughout the beginning of Arnold’s life he was educated at Rugby after which at Balliol College, University of Oxford, the place he graduated. Shortly after Arnold graduated he was elected to a fellowship at Oriel, and after teaching a little at Rugby he turned a non-public secretary to the Marquis of Lansdowne.

After turning into the non-public secretary to Lord Lansdowne, he was appointed to inspector of colleges, a place he held up until 1886, two years earlier than his demise.

During his time period he went on a number of missions and visitation of European colleges. He was impressed by a number of the educational methods that he wrote several works about them as well. Arnold’s literary career could be divided into 4 separate periods in which the first interval was within the 1850s where a large amount of his poems appeared; the second being in the 1860s in which his literary criticism and social criticism emerged; and the third being within the 1870s where his religious and educational writings surfaced; lastly the fourth interval being the one in the Eighteen Eighties, the place his second set of essays in literary criticism emerged. The incontrovertible reality that Arnold was born into an age that was shifting from the Romantics into the Victorian Age gave him a perspective of each ages in which he actually wrote in each ages.

Arnold started as a Romantic poet merely writing Romantic poetry and displaying the various Romantic mental ideas. Later on, Arnold switched into prose and began writing crucial works during which Arnold became a critic of the Romantic Age and mental ideas. Matthew Arnold was some of the vital literary critics of his age. He was the Professor of Poetry at Oxford from the time of 1857 to 1867, throughout which he wrote his first books of criticism, including On Translating Homer (1861), Essays in Criticism (1865; Series 2, 1888), In the Study of Celtic Literature (1867), and a variety of different books concerning criticism as well.

In his first volume of Essays in Criticism, got here Arnold’s most necessary crucial work within the name of “The Function of Criticism on the Present Time,” in which Arnold examines the position of the critic in society and formulates the crucial theory of an epoch of enlargement and epoch of concentration. Arnold’s essay means that the critic’s role is considered one of a private and social nature however the critic should keep “disinterestedness,” in accordance with Arnold, to supply a correct critique. Arnold wished to lay down the rules for aesthetic art in his age; he wanted them to have guidelines so as to produce a great anesthetic object. Arnold additionally tried to establish an aesthetic realm and emphasize the function of critics. Therefore, Arnold wrote “The Function of Criticism on the Present Time,” which is an essay where he laid down his principle and the place he argued for the central function of the critic in accumulating and producing nice literature.

In Arnold’s essay “The Function of Criticism on the Present Time”, Arnold asserted that criticism is a optimistic and noble task. Since, Arnold started as a poet and was a poet himself he gives some emphasis to the creative abilities of the poet but he also provides a greater emphasis to the analytical skills of the critic. Matthew Arnold launched the concept of poetry as a synthesizing course of during which the poet synthesizes ideas and places these ideas together to form a work of art. He additionally launched the role of the critic being the analyst of these ideas. So, in other phrases, Arnold states that the poet collects the data and the critic saturates or divides those concepts 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 suppose about their weak points and attempt 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 aside and speak about the sturdy and weak factors in them, so it is a continuous means of analyzing and synthesizing. Arnold offers the poet the inventive ability and the critic the analytical capability; yet, each of them are creators, certainly one of them synthesizes and produces or creates and the opposite analyzes and by analyzing he introduces new ideas to the poet. The critic introduces new concepts to the poet by analysis and discovery and by seeing the objects as they’re and never as they are imagined to be. Therefore, the critic and poet are each interdependent on one another and need the other to function properly. Furthermore, Arnold formulated a principle during which the world of artwork passes via intervals which are referred to as epochs. There are two epochs: epoch of expansion and the other epoch is an epoch of focus.

Matthew Arnold outlined the epoch of growth as a interval in time in which the poets give you new ideas, ideas that are very rare. Arnold believes that only the artistic world would cross via these two epochs. According to Arnold, the epoch of expansion was seen in two very important durations, the first epoch of enlargement is Periclean Athens, in which the best voices and works of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides existed, and the second epoch of growth is Elizabethan England, the place the best voices and works of William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson flourished. Arnold states that the importance of these intervals in the historical past of art is as a end result of they shaped many new concepts that were uncommon on the time. Therefore, in accordance with Arnold’s definition, an epoch of enlargement concerned the poet synthesizing and making a inventive work of literature from the intellectual cultural moments on the time into a great work of literature.

Arnold additionally defines the epoch of focus as the epochs by which the critics discover the nice use of the ideas introduced within the epoch of expansion and so they analyze it, and by analyzing them, they provide you with new ideas to current to the poets. In other words, the epoch of growth consists of numerous new concepts which would possibly be emerge up and a lot of sources in these periods that when they pass, the critics have a look at them, break them down, analyze them after which produce new ideas. The critic’s role can be of a rational nature during which he analyzes the item or work of literature. Then after the epoch of concentration presents the new ideas to the poets, one other epoch of growth involves life by the poets during which they synthesized and put together newer concepts from the analysis of the critics to find a way to current a extra moderen epoch of growth.

Time then passes as properly and the critic takes those new concepts, breaks them down again, and analyzes them to come up with fresher ideas. Furthermore, the critics and poets are working one after the other, and each epoch completes the subsequent by displaying its features. Yet, in the epoch of focus, the criticism produced “must maintain its independence of the practical spirit and its purpose.” (Leitch 822) This quote in simpler phrases states that the critic should be an unbiased individual that does not let his emotions, ideas, or any motion within the nation on the time to affect his analysis and that the evaluation presented is predicated solely on the work of art offered to him. Therefore, the critic’s position “in all branches of knowledge, theology, philosophy, historical past, art, science [is] to see the object as in itself it absolutely is.” (Leitch 806) The critics work in a while influences the inventive powers of the poet’s creativity and therefore precipitates the “creative epochs of literature.” (Leitch 808) Arnold states that the nice force of the epoch of concentration was England and the best voice of this epoch was Burke.

The goal theorists made it their job to float away from the Romantic values and set up their own similar to the Expressive theorists and their rebellions in opposition to the Neoclassicists. Therefore, they gave the critic a stronger position in producing nice literature, which was not given by previous and older theorists and theories. Hence, Arnold aid that a critic is as necessary as the poet in this inventive process, which is very similar to Alexander Pope’s ideas. Arnold additionally acknowledged that the critic must have a disinterested means of trying on the world, being pure and not subjective, however goal.

Therefore, a few of Matthew Arnold’s influences on his theories had been of Aristotle, in the emphasis of the synthesizing course of of the poet as a artistic creator. An influence of Burke in referencing that the poet is a inventive pressure and the critic is a rational force much like the concept of Imagination and Judgment. There is also the influence of Alexander Pope in relating that the role of criticism is a positive and noble task and that the critic is as necessary if no more necessary than the poet himself. Finally, another influence would be that of the Pragmatic way of asserting that criticism must be a neutral task and not biased.

There is little doubt that Arnold influenced numerous individuals along with his crucial concept that a kind of influenced by Arnold is T.S. Elliot, in the manner of replacig the Romantic emphasis on spontaneity, originality, and novelty with the model new concentrate on historical past, tradition and tradition. Elliot also presents his critical work “The Function of Criticism” being derived from the identical title Arnold utilized in his crucial work “The Function of Criticism at the Present Time.” Arnold’s criticism also had a serious impression on the work of writers corresponding to Walter Pater, Oscar Wilde, George Eliot, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and even George Santayana, and Wallace Stevens. Another critic influenced by Matthew Arnold is Harold Bloom, a critic who expresses a lofty disregard for Arnold.

Matthew Arnold, due to this fact, “defines criticism as involving flexibility, openness, to new experiences, and curiosity…He insists, too, on the ‘free play’ of mind.” (Leitch 805) Within Arnold’s definition lies the concept of an epoch of expansion and an epoch of focus being interdependent and associated to every other. This view contributed to laying down the roles of every the poet and the critic as being the inventive and rational individuals who synthesize and analyze nice works of literature. Criticism may reward certain components of literature, however must preserve dissatisfaction with the whole as lengthy as it falls in want of the “fullness of spiritual perfection.” (Leitch 822) The critic is subsequently the propagator of art, tradition, and society. Through the critic’s work, fresh and true ideas are observed and handed into the world so as to shape and affect the inventive mind. Without criticism, the flow of creativity and progress can be detained, according to Arnold’s ideas.

In conclusion, Matthew Arnold, a Romantic poet transformed right into a critic of the Romantic Age contributed highly to the Objective theorist approach to criticism. This contribution is introduced by way of his nice prose work “The Function of Criticism on the Present Time,” during which, the critical idea of an epoch of growth and an epoch of concentration is presented. An epoch of enlargement being an period, by which a poet creatively synthesizes an mental cultural moment into a great work of literature and the critic therefore in his epoch of concentration, analyzes this work disinterestedly and presents the weak spot and powerful points of this, therefore presenting fresher and newer ideas to the poet to be taken in consideration.

The poet subsequently, takes these ideas and applies them to the later works, which presents the interdependent relationship of both the critic and poet. This concept in a while influenced a selection of writers and critics and their works and contributed highly to the trendy critical principle. I imagine that throughout this analysis paper, I benefited lots from the information researched and offered and perceive Arnold’s perspective and principle to an extent that I can agree to his principle of the critic and poet being codependent on each others.

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"Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion" StudyScroll, 25 December 2021,

StudyScroll. (2021). Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 9 August, 2022]

"Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion" StudyScroll, Dec 25, 2021. Accessed Aug 9, 2022.

"Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion" StudyScroll, Dec 25, 2021.

"Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion" StudyScroll, 25-Dec-2021. [Online]. Available: [Accessed: 9-Aug-2022]

StudyScroll. (2021). Arnold”s Epochs of Expansion. [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: 9-Aug-2022]

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