The Theory of Poetry

The Theory of Poetry

The Theory of Poetry

The Theory of Poetry

Excerpt

This volume consists of two distinct treatises, each of which is meant to be complete in itself. They are, however, closely related, not only in subject, but also in the nature and conduct of their argument. Both, in fact, are attempts to substantiate and illustrate a general theory of art in the facts of a particular art. But, while the first treatise, The Theory of Poetry, organises the data of poetical criticism at large, the second, The Idea of Great Poetry, is concerned with a peculiar and recognisable variety of poetical achievement, and discusses this in order to show how actual critical judgement (and not merely the methods of criticism) may be derived from æsthetic theory. That there are limits to the validity of intellectual criticism in art, I hope I have shown myself properly aware: temperament and feeling are no more to be denied here than anywhere else. But where they come in, criticism, in any strict sense of the word, must stand aside. Enjoyment, no question, is the main thing; but the case for criticism is just this, that enjoyment varies directly with understanding. Now criticism is precisely an attempt to improve and secure understanding; and if criticism must stand aside to let temperament and feeling pass, it does so in order to allow them to pass forward, on the path its pioneering has cleared; and intelligence is its hatchet.

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