239. (Matthew Arnold)

Matthew Arnold suggests how a thoroughgoing Platonism might help us think through art, criticism, and more: “the application of ideas to life” in his suggestive phrase, art becomes, if we take “ideas” as a surrogate for the “ideas” that are Platonic forms, the application itself. Whereas the study of philosophy is the study of forms themselves, such as Justice, Truth, Beauty, all at a level … Continue reading 239. (Matthew Arnold)

238. (Matthew Arnold)i

One of Matthew Arnold’s most famous, or infamous, phrases as a critic comes in “The Study of Poetry” where he mysteriously describes poetry as consisting in “the application of ideas to life.” Because of the frequency of “ideas” in our daily conversation, it is easy to overlook the peculiarity of that word, along with the word “application.” It is also easy to take “idea” to … Continue reading 238. (Matthew Arnold)i

176. (Robert Burns)

It’s difficult to know what to do with Robert Burns, besides read and enjoy him, and take fortification from him; he doesn’t seem to play games with words that invite others to play along, and the poetry is disarming for criticism of a certain fervent close-reading type, less by its honesty than by its plausible claims to honesty. Maybe it’s easier, initially, to appreciate the … Continue reading 176. (Robert Burns)

139. (Matthew Arnold)

Showing, earlier this week, some poems I’d written to a critic I admire and trust, I received back some critical suggestions that struck at a peculiar blind-spot: the first-person singular, where it is needed and where not, how it shifts the weight of a poem, dragging a great deal in with it, and excluding a great deal also. To write, for instance, “I would say” … Continue reading 139. (Matthew Arnold)

77. (R.H. Hutton)

One of the chief differences between eighteenth- and nineteenth-century voices of critical prose is that the former wrote for the salon or coffee house; for rooms that could hold fewer voices, where no voice dominated quite as easily. The critical prose of the nineteenth-century, on the other hand, comes, with Hazlitt being a definitive early case, to be written for a lecture hall, in the … Continue reading 77. (R.H. Hutton)

76. (Robert Burns)

“Now Burns loses prodigiously by translation.” Thus Hopkins in a letter to Robert Bridges. Though prejudiced against the Scots, Hopkins expresses a fundamental doubt motivated by more than prejudice: whether dialect is intrinsic to Burns’ success, or whether it is a trapping of national pride and performance. These days, we mis-trust such dismissals. That English is a web of dialectic tissues, that the political and … Continue reading 76. (Robert Burns)