The study of poetry by Matthew Arnold || Arnold views of literary evaluation according to "The study of poetry" || Learning The Easy way

Arnold views of literary evaluation according to "The study of poetry"


Mathew Arnold is a  Victorian poet. He is born in 1822. He is the eldest son of his parents. He is one of the best Victorian poets. He is the 3rd ranked famous poet of the Victorian period. He is called the first modern critic. He is also called Critics-critic. He is also a founder of sociological criticism. He has begun a champion not only of great poetry but also of literary criticism itself.
Arnold's evaluations of Romantic poets such as Wordsworth, Byron, Shelley, and Keats are landmarks in descriptive criticism, and as a poet-critic, he occupies an eminent position in the rich galaxy of poet-critics of English literature.

T. S. Eliot praised Arnold's objective approach to critical evaluation, particularly his tools of comparison and analysis, and Allen Tate in his essay Tension in Poetry imitates Arnold's touchstone method to discover 'tension', or the proper balance between connotation and denotation, in poetry. These new critics have come a long way from the Romantic approach to poetry, and this change in attitude could be attributed to Arnold, who comes midway between the two schools.

The study of poetry is an essay. It is not a poem. It is an important essay. It is called a seminal essay. The study of poetry is not a simple word. It is a very significant word.
In the study of poetry, we find 4 kinds of literary evaluation as shown by Mathew Arnold. There are flowing:

1. Historic estimate
2. Real estimate
3. Touchstone method

Historic estimate: 
The historic estimate is likely in especial to affect our judgement. Our language when we are dealing with ancient poets. The course of development of a nation's language, thought, poetry, is profoundly interesting and by regarding a poet’s work as a stage in the course of this development, we may easily bring ourselves to make it of more importance as poetry than itself it really is, so arises our poetic judgement the fallacy caused by the estimate which we may call historic. The historical estimate, the other false standard of judgement according to Arnold, In the historical estimate. It can be misleading. A work of a poet may be great if considered in historical context. The idea of tracing historic origins and historical relationships cannot be absent from a compilation like the present. And naturally, the poets to be exhibited in it will be assigned to those persons for exhibition who are known to prize them highly, rather than to those who have no special inclination towards them. Moreover, the very occupation with an author, and the business of exhibiting him, disposes us to affirm and amplify his importance. In the present work, therefore, we are sure of frequent temptation to adopt the historic estimate Arnold’s distrust of the historical estimate is surprising.

Real estimate:
Arnold is of the opinion that it is useless to lay down specific abstract characteristics of a great poet as a guideline to critics. It is better to have recourse to concrete examples to take specimens of the poetry of  high to the very highest quality and to say: the characters of high quality of poetry are what is expressed there.”
the real estimate is accomplished by learning to feel and enjoy a work of classic and appreciate the wide difference between it and all lesser works. The comparative method of criticism which will lead to the real estimate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
The touchstone methods:
Matthew Arnold's Touchstone Method of Criticism was really a comparative system of criticism.  Arnold was basically a classicist.  He admired the ancient Greek, Roman and French authors as the models to be followed by the modern English authors.  The old English like Shakespeare, Spenser or Milton was also to be taken as models.  Arnold took selected passages from the modern authors and compared them with selected passages from the ancient authors and thus decided their merits.  This method was called Arnold's Touchstone Method.

However, this system of judgement has its own limitations.  The method of comparing passage with a passage is not a sufficient test for determining the value of work as a whole.  Arnold himself insisted that we must judge a poem by the 'total impression' and not by its fragments.  But we can further extend this method of comparison from passages to the poems as whole units.  The comparative method is an invaluable aid to the appreciation of any kind of art.  It is helpful not merely thus to compare the masterpiece and the lesser work, but the good with the not so good, the sincere with the not quite sincere, and so on.

Those who do not agree with this theory of comparative criticism say that Arnold is too austere, too exacting in comparing a simple modern poet with the ancient master poet.  It is not fair to expect that all hills maybe The Alps.  The mass of current literature is much better disregarded.  By this method we can set apart the alive, the vital, the sincere from the shoddy, the showy and the insincere.
According to this method, in order to judge a poet's work properly, a critic should compare it to passages taken from works of great masters of poetry, and that these passages should be applied as touchstones to other poetry. Even a single line or selected quotation will serve the purpose. If the other work moves us in the same way as these lines and expressions do, then it is really great work, otherwise not.

This method was recommended by Arnold to overcome the shortcomings of the personal and historical estimates of a poem. Both historical and personal estimate goes in vain. In a personal estimate, we cannot wholly leave out personal and subjective factors. In the historical estimate, historical importance often makes us rate work as higher than it really deserves. In order to form a real estimate, one should have the ability to distinguish a real classic. At this point, Arnold offers his theory of Touchstone Method. A real classic, says Arnold, is a work, which belongs to the class of the very best. It can be recognized by placing it beside the known classics of the world. Those known classics can serve as the touchstone by which the merit of contemporary poetic work can be tested. This is the central idea of Arnold’s Touchstone Method.
The poet said about touchstone method that:

“Indeed there can be no more useful help for discovering what poetry belongs to the class of the truly excellent and can therefore do us most good, then to have always in ones mind lines and expressions of the great masters, and to apply them as a touchstone  to other poetry.

Arnold disagrees with critics who give themselves great labour “to draw out what is the abstract constitutes the characteristics of high quality of poetry.” He believes that it is much better simply to keep in mind concrete examples, to take specimens of the poetry of the very highest quality and to use them as touchstones for judging the poetry that is before us.

Arnold is apparently influenced by Longinus in advocating the touchstone method of the comparative method of criticism. In the study of poetry, he also said about poetic truth and poetic beauty. Poetic truth reflection of real-life and poetic beauty is the wonderful style of poetry. He has provided us with an excellent example of how to use the comparative method in arriving at real estimate of a poet’s works. Arnold has shown with his examples of how a critic of tack and intelligence can employ the touchstone method successfully.

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