Dunciad Minor: An Heroick Poem

Dunciad Minor: An Heroick Poem

Dunciad Minor: An Heroick Poem

Dunciad Minor: An Heroick Poem

Excerpt

The following poem is now something of a museum piece and
my reasons for publishing it after a lapse of twenty years as
well as my reasons for writing it in the first place require some
explanation since it began partly as a private joke never meant
for publication and partly as an exercise in a form of literary
criticism with which most readers nowadays are not familiar.

In 1950 the Australian Broadcasting Commission got up a
series of literary talks entitled: ‘Standard Works I’d Like to
Burn’. It was perhaps a rather silly title and not a very bright
idea in any case, but reappraisal of established literary reputa
tions was then very much in the air and it gave an opening
which promised some lively controversy. A number of well
known literary critics were invited to take part, including
myself and my old acquaintance A. A. Phillips. He was then
senior English master at Wesley College, Melbourne, and
known as one of the outstanding teachers of the subject in
Victoria. I was senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne.
The speakers were encouraged to be provocative and to hit
hard, but to keep the tone of their attacks reasonably light and
amused and, as I recollect, most of us managed to do this. I
chose Matthew Arnold as my butt. Arnold is not difficult to
make fun of but he was a great man for whom I have liking
and respect and I am now rather ashamed of my performance
which consisted mainly of scoring points rather than of serious
criticism. Mr Phillips chose the works of Alexander Pope and
though his tone was light and suggested a certain humorous
exaggeration, it was a serious enough attack on Pope’s standing
as a poet. Indeed it took up the long-standing debate initiated
by the romantic poets and given its most forceful expression
by Matthew Arnold in a famous essay, The Study of Poetry.
It pointed this traditional depreciation of Pope as a poet by . . .

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