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A Review of Arnold's 'High Seriousness', 'Criticism of Life', and 'Touchstone Method'

Mathew Arnold

Mathew Arnold

Mathew Arnold’s significance of English literary criticism is quite popular in the world of literature. Particularly, he is conspicuously regarded for having a goal in writing poetry. He put forth this aim which he endeavored to live up to. In “high seriousness” Mathew Arnold advocates for the sincerity of emotions and feelings as the best poetry. This high seriousness which makes poetry to be the best is characterized by excellence and representation of diction. In particular, by high seriousness, the author implies the grand style inherent in poetry whereby; a serious subject is treated both intensely and simply. According to the peculiar yet fast-witted poet, Arnold Mathew, the term or phrase High Seriousness stands to characterize poems that are linked with the sincerity of sentiments and emotions. In the same fashion, the poem should express the truth of representation, brilliance of diction and most importantly, high seriousness. This concept of theoretical criticism is one of the countless areas Matthew Arnold had contributed so enormously (thinkertank786). In other words. perhaps poetic terms, high seriousness refers to a grand and classic style, where the poem’s composer addresses issues of grave importance with subtility and intensity. The poem’s critical subject matter is relayed in a simple yet intense manner.

In his “criticism of life concept” Mathew Arnold implied a profound and noble application of ideas to human context. It also implies poetry is not for solely the purpose of creating beauty or achieving pleasure. Instead, it has to harbour high ideas. This ideal in this sense has to present life in such a way it inspires and illumines the audience. Stated simply, Arnold advocated that poetry should be used chiefly to make man feel good. However, the ideas to be applied should be moral ones.

The touchstone method by Arnold refers to a comparative method used in literature criticisms. In line with this method, for a proper judgment of a poets work to occur, a critic needs to make comparison of the particular work with those of others and especially masters of poetry which act as the basis of touchstones to other works. According to Arnold, every single line or quotation can serve the purpose. Among Arnold's ideal poets whose work can be used as “touchstones” include Sophocles, Homer, Milton, Dante and the recent Wordsworth and Goethe.

On a personal note, I find the touchstone method as not an ideal tool to use for literary works comparison. This is because it is too restrictive and limits the creativity of an individual author. It should also be noted that humans are independent and so they need to have the freedom to explore their minds and creativity in a way that suits them. Another consideration is the differences of contexts, and cultures through which poets live in. In this regard, it may not be possible to confine a poets mind into a particular culture or context which may not be suitable to the current one.

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