More Solid Learning: New Perspectives on Alexander Pope's Dunciad

More Solid Learning: New Perspectives on Alexander Pope's Dunciad

More Solid Learning: New Perspectives on Alexander Pope's Dunciad

More Solid Learning: New Perspectives on Alexander Pope's Dunciad

Synopsis

"Until this book, there has not been a collection that focuses exclusively on Pope's satiric masterpiece. The essays in this volume attempt to teach the poem from a variety of perspectives and, in doing so, to illuminate its role as literary history, cultural artifact, and material object. They suggest the ways the poem interacts with and influences the dynamic milieu from which it springs." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Catherine ingrassia and claudia N. thomas

On the day the dunciad was first published in march 1728, according to Richard Savage, a mob of Alexander Pope’s literary opponents descended upon his bookseller and attempted to stop sale of the poem. Although we may question whether such a scene ever took place, the image captures the aura of pitched battle that surrounded the poem at its appearance, and that has characterized critical response to Pope’s masterpiece ever since. Pope himself set the agenda for aesthetic debate not only over The Dunciad, but over many artistic genres. By casting himself as the lone opponent of English cultural decline, Pope synopsized and then perpetuated certain arguments over cultural production. Who has the authority to determine cultural values and standards? Is popular culture inherently less valuable than socalled “high” culture, and what variables determine which is which? What role do aesthetic productions play in a society, and are these productions more influential on or influenced by the historical eras and environments in which they appear? What degree of financial independence ensures an artist’s integrity? What level of education is requisite? Is it possible—or desirable—for an artist to produce artifacts that are not implicated in his or her social and political circumstances? Pope’s position on most of these questions reflected his opinion that the artist ideally spoke from a privileged position as his culture’s representative, and that the progressive marginalization of poets such as himself indicated a decline in public taste and, worse, values. His imaginative reconstruction of this situation as a literal progress of dull writers into the halls of power, with himself as helpless witness of the incursion, not only infuriated competitors but cast aesthetic disagreements as rigidly opposed, and inimical, debates between high and low, immortal and ephemeral, or good and evil.

Pope was undoubtedly influenced by John Dryden’s Mac Fleck-

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