Matthew Arnold Poems

Victorian Crisis of Faith in Arnold’s Poetry

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Victorian Period of British Literature involved many changes in British culture; one of the defining qualities of Queen Victoria’s reign was a loss of faith in the Church. A number of social changes caused an increasing number of people to question their faith and leave organized religion, resulting in the “crises of faith” that were becoming more common among the population. English poet Matthew Arnold’s “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” best exemplifies the many crises of faith experienced by Englishmen during the Victorian Age through Arnold’s use of description and metaphors. “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” takes place in a monastery in the French Alps. Arnold’s work describes the crisis of faith he has been experiencing. Arnold does not return to the monastery to recover his lost faith in Christianity; he instead chooses to write about his struggle with any kind of faith. Throughout the poem, he makes it clear that he will not and cannot return to the Christian Church.

Upon entering the monastery, Arnold begins to reminisce about youth and his eventual crisis of faith. He recalls how “rigorous teachers seized [his] youth” (67) and indoctrinated him into the Christian faith. Arnold hears his former teachers speaking to him in the monastery. They ask him, “What dost thou in this living tomb?” (72). The reason for Arnold’s visit to the monastery is called into question. Matthew responds to this question in the lines following the inquery. In his response, Arnold first seeks forgiveness for visiting the monastery; he writes, “Forgive me Masters of the Mind! At whose behest I long ago so much unlearnt, and so much resigned – I come not here to be your foe” (73-76). Arnold seeks forgiveness from the great minds of the Victorian Age. For Arnold, men and women like Charles Lyell, the author of Principles of Geology, have defeated the notion that religion is necessary to explain the world. These writers “persuaded Arnold that faith in Christianity was no longer tenable in the modern world” (Norton 1390). Arnold believes that he is offending these men by being at the monastery. This shows that Arnold holds these intellectuals in higher regard than the Christian God he once believed in. He asserts that he is no longer Christian. Arnold is visitor to the monastery as one would be to “some fallen Runic stones” (83). He is visiting the monastery as a historical place, like an old Nordic monument depicting a now-dead religion (Norton 1390). Speaking of Christianity and Nordic religion, Arnold writes, “For both were faiths, and both are gone” (84). Arnold believes Christianity is reaching its end and will soon be viewed as any other ancient religion, such as the Nordic religion. Arnold later writes that he is with the “last of the people who believe” (112). Arnold makes it clear that this is not a trip to restore his lost faith; he is here to visit a part of history that no longer holds any control over him. In the monastery, Arnold finds himself, “wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born, with nowhere yet to rest his head” (85-87). The old age of Christianity (and similar organized religions) is over, but Arnold is unable to define his faith, or lack thereof, as a particular system of belief. The new age of reason has yet to be defined and named; it is still unborn. Until the new system is born, Arnold finds himself searching to be a part of something. He will not go back to his old Christian ways, so he must “wander” (85) until the new system is born.

Arnold suffers from not being a part of the Christian faith. He describes his suffering as a “holy pain” (92). Many believe the pain “is a passed mode, an outworn theme” (100), but Arnold’s pain is “[restless]” (104). If the pain is not eased, Arnold would rather die with the last of the Christians (109-111). Death is preferable to Arnold’s painful wandering between two worlds. Even after death, this pain continues. Other men have felt such pain and it remains long after their deaths. Arnold writes, “Say, is life lighter now than then? The sufferers died, they left their pain – The pangs which tortured them remain” (130-132). Generations of men have experienced the transition Arnold is going through now, yet they resolved nothing during their lives. Arnold also references the Romantics while he visits the monastery. He specifically refers to Byron (133) and Shelley (139) specifically. Arnold believes that their works, although beautiful, did little to ease this pain felt by many. For Arnold, Byron merely shared his “bleeding heart” (136) and “Europe made his woe her own” (138). Future generations will read Byron’s and Shelley’s work, but Arnold wonders if the “inheritors of [their] distress have restless hearts one throb the less?” (143-144). Romanticism is dead and its writers “slumber in [their] silent grave[s]” (151). Further writing to the Romantics, Arnold claims, “The world, which idle for a day Grace to your mood of sadness gave, Long hath flung her weeds away… But we learnt your lore too well” (149-156). After the death of Romanticism, the world moved on, but many people continued to read the Romantics, trapped in a state of suffering. Byron, Shelley, and the other Romantics share similar feelings with Arnold, but this does not help Arnold escape the pain. The Romantics described suffering, but did little to combat it. Although Arnold finds their works are beautiful and praise worthy, the Romantics did nothing to alleviate the suffering of man. Arnold then describes then describes the waiting process again. He does not know how it will be until the new age begins. He believes that “years hence, perhaps, may dawn an age, More fortunate, alas! Than we, Which without hardness will be sage, And gay without frivolity” (157-160). Arnold knows the process could be long and he asks the younger generations to bring about change quickly; he writes, “Sons of the world, oh, speed those years; But while we wait, allow our tears!” (161-162). Arnold needs to suffer and seeks permission to cry while he waits for change to come.

Arnold, while he wanders in suffering, admires those who find tranquility in religious beliefs. He does not seek to end Christianity or any other religions, rather he writes, “Allow them! We admire with awe The exulting thunder of your race; You give the universe your law, You triumph over time and space!” (163-166). Arnold admires the religious because they believe they have control over the universe. Arnold wishes he could live that way, but he cannot go back. Arnold says to them, “Your pride of life, your tireless powers, We laud them, but they are not ours” (167-168). He praises those who are strongly religious, but they live a lifestyle he cannot return to. Even though he may not believe, he does not disrespect those who do. Arnold continues his writing with a metaphor. He uses a simile to compare himself to “children reared in shade Beneath some old-world abbey wall” (169-170). Arnold’s situation is similar to that of the children because they are trapped within a certain lifestyle. Arnold cannot go back to the religious life and the children cannot leave the abbey. They are “forgotten in a forest glade, And secret from the eyes of all. Deep, deep the greenwood round them waves, Their abbey, and its close of graves” (171-174). The children live in the abbey and will likely die in the abbey. Arnold live in his state of wandering and he will likely die in that same state of wandering. Further, the children have little to no adventure in their lives. They hear a call to action (192) but they reply, “Action and pleasure, will ye roam Through these secluded dells to cryand call us? – but too late ye come!” (194-196). The abbey children have already had their lives planned out. They cannot accept the call to action because it comes to them too late. They are destined to live and die in the abbey, rarely doing anything exciting. They further respond to the call, saying, “Too late for us your call ye blow, Whose bent was taken long ago (197-198). Their bent, or “natural inclination” (Norton 1393), was taken long ago by the authorities in the abbey. Naturally, they would accept a call to action, but they have been conditioned to reject such a call. They are trapped within the abbey much like Arnold is trapped in his state of wandering and suffering. Arnold, like the children in the abbey, just wants peace in his life. They children are “fenced early in this cloistral round Of reverie, of shade, of prayer” (205-206). They cannot escape their position, in which they have been stuck for a prolonged period of time. They ask that the “banners, pass, and bugles, cease; and leave [their] desert to its peace!” (209-210). The children are tormented by the outside sounds of lives they will never be able to live because they are stuck in the abbey; similarly, Arnold hears the calls of the abbey to return to a religious life. Like the children, Arnold cannot accept the call of the Christian Church because he is trapped in his state of wandering and suffering. Like the children in the abbey who are conditioned to not accept their calls to action, Arnold will not allow himself to accept the Christian faith.

Through his poetry, Matthew Arnold highlights many of the struggles faced by Victorians who experienced crises of faith. The Victorian Age brought many social changes and one of the areas most greatly affected was religion. Scientific publications, like Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, revolutionized many people’s ways of thinking. God was no longer the answer to everything. Science often conflicted with religious teachings. Because of this, Many people began leaving the Church and organized religion began dying. In response to this growing religious crisis, many Victorians responded with their experiences with their individual struggles with faith. A large number of Victorian authors wrote about their crises of faith, but none better exemplifies the experience than Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold’s “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” best shows an individual’s crisis of faith because of Arnold’s use of description and metaphors in his writing.

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Arnold’s Works and Hidden Radicalism in Them

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Matthew Arnold was born in 1822 in Laleham-on-Thames in Middlesex County, England. Due to some temporary childhood leg braces, (Machann, 1) and a competitiveness within the large family of nine (Culler xxi) young Matthew earned the nickname “Crabby”. His disposition was described as active, but since his athletic pursuits were somewhat hindered by this correction of a “bent leg” (Machann 1), intellectual pursuits became more accessible to him. This may have led him to a literary career, but both his parents were literary (his mother wrote occasional verse and kept a journal, Machann 1) and scholarly, also, and this may have been what helped to accomplish the same aim. His father, Thomas Arnold, was a celebrated educator and headmaster of Rugby School, to which Matthew matriculated. He later attended Oxford, and, after a personal secretary-ship to Lord Lansdowne (Machann, 19) he was appointed Inspector of Schools. He spent most of his adult life traveling around England and sometimes the continent observing and reporting on the state of public schools, and his prose on education and social issues continues to be examined today (Machann xi). He also held the Chair of Poetry at Oxford for ten years, and wrote extensive literary criticism (Culler, xxii).

Arnold is probably best known today for this passage of his honeymoon-written (Machann, 31) “Dover Beach”, the only poem of Arnold’s which may be called very famous. This is the last stanza of the poem.

“Ah, love, let us be true

To one another! For the world, which seems

To lie before us like a land of dreams,

So various, so beautiful, so new,

Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,

Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;

And we are here a on a darkling plain

Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

Where ignorant armies clash by night.” (Strand and Boland, 185-186)

This poem, a love poem doubtless, in the end directs us to a love beyond all earthly love, and a rejection of the world as a place of illusions. Religion was the central idea of Arnold’s life, but he thought that poetry was an excellent, and, in fact, vital part of the new society, which he thought absolutely necessary to understanding the spiritual component of life. He wrote in his The Study of Poetry, “But for poetry the idea is everything; the rest is a world of illusion, of divine illusion. Poetry attaches its emotion to the idea; the idea is the fact. The strongest part of our religion to-day is its unconscious poetry.” (463), and “We should conceive of [poetry] as capable of higher uses, and called to higher destinies, than those which in general men have assigned to it hitherto. More and more mankind will discover that we have to turn to poetry to interpret life for us, to console us, and to sustain us.” (464).

So this poet, who was actually not primarily a professional poet for a large part of his life, but instead accomplished all of his great poetic feats during his time off from his employment inspecting schools (Britannica article), argued that poetry was of paramount importance to everyone, and necessary for spiritual health. What kind of poetry would a man like this write? He naturally excelled at lyric and elegy (Schmidt 486,) but he really thought the truly impersonal epics – the “classic virtues of unity, impersonality, universality, and architectonic power and upon the value of the classical masterpieces” (Britannica article) – were the highest form and the best model of poetry. He wrote some long dramatic and narrative poems, such as “Empedocles on Etna” “Sohrab and Rustum, and “Tristram and Iseult”, with classical and legendary themes. He had a classical education at Rugby and Oxford, but distanced himself from the classics (though he thought of them as being the bastion of sanity (Schmidt 486,) but he was also the first Poetry chair at Oxford to deliver his lectures in English instead of Latin (Culler, xxii)). He gave a lecture “On Translating Homer”, but in it refused to translate it himself, and instead provided criticism on the latest two translations. He was very religious, but also was critical of the established religions of his Victorian time, and wrote “most of what now passes with us for religion and philosophy will be replaced by poetry” (Harmon, 464,) which must have been a somewhat shocking claim in his time coming from a man employed in more than one capacity to mold young minds. He was a product of his time, but had deep personal reservations about the state of his world.

His poetry has been criticized, even his greatest poems, as being “an allegory of the state of his own mind.” (Culler, xvii). His talents appear to have lain in the personal poems – the lyric and the elegy, such as “Dover Beach”, but his ambitions perhaps lay in what he considered a higher form of poetry – the epic. “Empedocles on Etna”, for example, doesn’t have the immediacy and the musicality of “Dover Beach” or even his famous (at the time) sonnet “Shakespeare”:

Others abide our question. Thou art free.

We ask and ask – Thou smilest and art still,

Out-topping knowledge. For the loftiest hill,

Who to the stars uncrown his majesty,

Planting his steadfast footsteps in the sea,

Making the heaven of heavens his dwelling-place,

Spares but the cloudy border of his base

To the foil’d searching of mortality;

And thou, who didst the stars and sunbeams know,

Self-school’d, self-scann’d, self-honour’d, self-secure,

Didst tread on earth unguess’d at. – Better so!

All pains the immortal spirit must endure,

All weakness which impairs, all griefs which bow,

Find their sole speech in that victorious brow. (Culler 26)

This poem has the fourteen lines of a sonnet, and the final rhyming couplet, but has additional stanza breaks that Shakespeare’s sonnets did not. Perhaps in this kind of laudatory poetry (perhaps imitating the original form of classical elegies, which were replete with flatteries) Arnold didn’t think he was worthy to directly imitate his subject’s sonnet form. This example of Arnold’s poetry shows his mastery of language – even awkward constructions like “Self-school’d, self-scann’d, self-honor’d, self-secure” trip off the tongue and make sense without seeming simplistic. He uses some of Shakespeare’s language (didst, thou,) but doesn’t make this sound like a piece of Elizabethan poetry, either. He brings the reader to think about what in Shakespeare he or she might have read that is “out-topping knowledge.” The comparison in the second stanza is definitely classical in origin (perhaps the Colossus of Rhodes, or the battles of the Titans and the gods in Greek mythology), showing Shakespeare metaphorically large enough to stand on earth and live in heaven. We humans on earth can only contemplate his lower parts, his “base” (Machann says that it is an image of Shakespeare as a “lofty mountain, 15.)

It is a good way of capturing the wonder and mystery of great art. We “ask and ask”, as Arnold says, be we don’t fully understand a masterpiece or how its creator made it. Also, it’s just self-conscious enough to show Arnold’s modesty about his own talent. He doesn’t put himself in the class with Shakespeare, or with Homer or writers of the other classical epics. He hasn’t quite reconciled himself, I think, to the idea that the future of poetry lay in the personal, which was a kind of poetry he himself was able to write very well.

Arnold’s poetry, especially his lyrics and elegies, are often interesting and thought-provoking. His mastery of English is complete, and his diction shows his full Latin and Greek education, with the deep understanding of the origin of Latinate English words. But he does not shy away from good Anglo-Saxon words, either, like Shakespeare does not, and is fully able to use both high-flown language (such as in Empedocles on Etna, “These rumblings are not Typho’s groans, I know!/These angry smoke-bursts/Are not the passionate breath/Of the mountain-crush’d, tortured, intractable Titan king,” Culler 65) and very simple, lovely images, such as “stars and sunbeams know.” His elegy “Memorial Verses to Wordsworth” is considered one of the best elegies in English. (Schmidt, 485)

Arnold was a product of his time — the old Victorian world of religion and classical education – but he also anticipated the new modern focus on self-choice and the value placed on the personal. He was a poetic talent with a flair for thoughtful poems, with the ability to create beautiful and lasting images.

Works cited:

Machann, C. Matthew Arnold: A Literary Life, New York: St Martin’s Press, 1998

“Arnold, Matthew.” Encyclopedia Britannica. 2006. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 8 Oct. 2006 <http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9009580>.

Culler, A. D., Ed., Poetry and Criticism of Matthew Arnold, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1961.

Strand, M., and Boland, E., Eds., The Making of a Poem, New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2000

Harmon, W. Ed., Classic Writings on Poetry, New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.

Schmidt, M. The Lives of the Poets, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999

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Critical Analysis of Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Famous poet and literary critic, Matthew Arnold was born on 24th December 1822 as the second child of Mary Arnold and Thomas Arnold. He began his career as a poet, getting recognition since his youth as a student at the Rugby School, where his father was a headmaster who was well known for his administration of the school. Arnold completed his undergraduate degree at Oxford in 1844 and returned to Rugby School as a teacher. In June 1851, he married Frances Lucy, daughter of Sir William Wightman, after finally being appointed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspector of Schools, thus solving his problem of financial instability that had long restrained him from getting married. He is considered by some as the third great Victorian poet, along with Alfred Lord Tennyson and Robert Browning. He gained significance in English Literature not only as a poet but also as a great critic, whose criticism focuses on various branches of learning: literature, journalism, and social science, as well as religion. Even after his sudden and untimely death due to heart failure in 1888, Arnold’s position in English literature as a remarkable Victorian writer, poet, and critic remains unchanged.

“Dover Beach,” though originally published in 1867, is believed to have been written around the year 1851. The poem is set near Dover, a town in South East England, where the poet and his wife Frances Lucy spent their honeymoon in 1851. Thus, this arrangement establishes the popular presumption that the characters in this poem, the speaker and the silent listener, are the poet and his wife themselves. The poem, despite its use of simple language and ordinary setting, is not an easy one to analyze. It takes the form of a dramatic monologue, a type of lyric poem very commonly used and perfected by Robert Browning, where the poem is constituted by a speech of the character with a silent audience. However, unlike Browning’s famous dramatic monologues, the poem is commonly considered to be spoken by the poet himself and not by a fictional character. The poem is characterized by numerous metaphors and vivid imagery; beginning with a line “The sea is calm tonight” (Arnold 1), followed by a detailed and lucid description of the setting, the image drawn by the beginning lines is quite a vivid one. Through these simple yet strong lines, Arnold first gives his readers a clear description of the setting where the poem is being written i.e. one night at the beach of Dover, overlooking the calm sea, viewing the full tide and fair moon. The power of visual imagery dominates these beginning lines as the poet continues to give a yet more explicit detail to describe the location, a place where he can see the light gleaming on the French coast, with the vast cliffs of England standing tall, glimmering “out in the tranquil bay” (Arnold 5). This description adds very patent details on the geographical location of the setting. The first stanza, which comprises 14 lines, towards the middle gives an introduction of a listener, whom the poet has asked to “come to the window” (Arnold 6), following this we see a shift from the visual imagery of the beginning lines to aural imageries. The poet asks his listener to listen to the “grating roar” (Arnold 9) of pebbles, giving such powerful description to a sound created by something as trivial as pebbles, the narrative tone can be seen shifting from the subtle, vivid, and simple description of the setting seen in the beginning lines to a much more exaggerated, aggressive, and melancholic tone towards the end of the stanza.

The poem is characterized by numerous metaphors and vivid imagery, beginning with a line “The sea is calm tonight” (Arnold 1), followed by a detailed and lucid description of the setting, the image drawn by the beginning lines is quite a vivid one. Through these simple yet strong lines, Arnold first gives his readers a clear description of the setting where the poem is being written i.e. one night at the beach of Dover, overlooking the calm sea, viewing the full tide and fair moon. The power of visual imagery dominates these beginning lines as the poet continues to give a yet more explicit detail to describe the location: a place where he can see the light gleaming on the French coast, with the vast cliffs of England standing tall, glimmering “out in the tranquil bay” (Arnold 5). This description adds very patent details on the geographical location of the setting. The first stanza, which comprises 14 lines, towards the middle, gives an introduction of a listener whom the poet has asked to “come to the window” (Arnold 6), following this we see a shift from the visual imagery of the beginning lines to aural imageries. The poet asks his listener to listen to the “grating roar” (Arnold 9) of pebbles, giving such powerful description to a sound created by something as trivial as pebbles, the narrative tone can be seen shifting from the subtle, vivid, and simple description of the setting seen in the beginning lines to a much more exaggerated, aggressive, and melancholic tone towards the end of the stanza. “He takes us, as it were, by verbal storm, and the force of what he says becomes for the moment out understanding of what he says.” (Buckler 103). What started as a serene naturalistic scene with its presentation of a somewhat beautiful location with tranquil imagery, ended with a melancholic description of the waves violently bringing in the “eternal note of sadness” (Arnold 14). The following stanza took on the same melancholic tone with which the first stanza ended; by bringing in a Greek allusion of the great classical figure Sophocles, Arnold draws a connection between himself and the great dramatist. He talks of Sophocles contemplating human misery through the “ebb and flow” (Arnold 17) of the Aegean sea like he himself is doing in this poem. The third stanza opens with an introduction to the calm English Channel of the preceding stanzas as a metaphorical “Sea of Faith” (Arnold 21), which was once, like the beginning of the poem, “at the full”, giving an introduction to the poem’s central idea of the withering faith of the Christian society during Arnold’s time. The poet tells the listener of how he now only hears the melancholy of this “Sea of Faith” (Arnold 21), once risen at its full now retreating with a “withdrawing roar”.

The final stanza is often claimed by some to be a separate poem as there is a shift in the narrative tone. However, this stanza can still be connected to the previous stanzas; with a different view of the world after the death of Christian faith seen in the first three stanzas, the poet requests his listener to be true to him, as he will be to her, as that seems to be the only thing that matters to him now that the world seems hopeless and devoid of true joy. The poem, being one of Arnold’s most significant poems, has received several critical appraisals, most of which are contradictory to one another. However, the recurring theme of melancholy that usually constitutes most of his works is undeniably evident in this poem as well. “There is,…, the well known Arnold melancholy: the man of little faith in a world of no faith, who still hopes to maintain the spiritual dignity which the world of no faith seems to deny him.” (Krierger 40). The poem is often read as a record of the changes in viewpoint and belief brought about by the New Science of the mid-nineteenth century. The discovery of fossils by Charles Lylell dating back more than a million years ago, brought about a doubt on the traditional belief that the earth is a creation of just a few six or seven thousand years old, as is seen on the Bible. In addition to this, various scientists like Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace had stated their theories on the evolution of mankind, contradicting the Christian belief that human beings were created by an omnipotent God. Such findings and theories, though rejected by many, still gained numerous following, resulting in a change in the beliefs of a large section of the population. This dying faith in the traditional beliefs of Christianity is what constitutes the main theme of the poem

The poem, being one of Arnold’s most significant poems, has received several critical appraisals, most of which are contradictory to one another. However, the recurring theme of melancholy that usually constitutes most of his works is undeniably evident in this poem as well. “There is,…, the well known Arnold melancholy: the man of little faith in a world of no faith, who still hopes to maintain the spiritual dignity which the world of no faith seems to deny him.” (Krierger 40). The poem is often read as a record of the changes in viewpoint and belief brought about by the New Science of the mid-nineteenth century. The discovery of fossils by Charles Lylell dating back more than a million years ago, brought about a doubt on the traditional belief that the earth is a creation of just a few six or seven thousand years old, as is seen on the Bible. In addition to this, various scientists like Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace had stated their theories on the evolution of mankind, contradicting the Christian belief that human beings were created by an omnipotent God. Such findings and theories, though rejected by many, still gained numerous following, resulting in a change in the beliefs of a large section of the population. This dying faith in the traditional beliefs of Christianity is what constitutes the main theme of the poem Dover Beach. Arnold in this poem, uses the naturalistic setting of Dover beach to metaphorically express this ‘dying faith’ and the despair it brings along to his heart, as well as the way this new light darkened his view towards life. Arnold seem to have been affected immensely by the “withdrawing roar” (Arnold 25) of the “Sea of Faith” (Arnold 21), causing him eternal sadness, which can be seen in his description of his view towards life in the final stanza.

As have been mentioned before, a gradual shift in the setting and narrative tone can be detected from the beginning till the end: first, starting with simple and serene visual imagery of naturalistic setting with no sign of an underlying theme, switching to a more exaggerated and complicated use of aural imagery, with no change in setting and subject matter, finally ending with a melancholic and hopeless emotional outpouring of the poet. This style is often adopted by Arnold in his other works as well, “In this poem, however, the development from the natural scene to the human levels into which it opens is much more successfully handled than elsewhere in his works.” (Krierger 41). Despite the change in setting, these stanzas are not divided into diverse sections lacking any connection; every stanza, from the first till the last are significantly connected. Throughout the poem, the poet uses the natural setting of the English Channel mentioned in the first stanza, even when the tone changes, the same subject matter is still used as a metaphor to introduce us to the ‘dying faith’ which the poet attempts to speak of, and later this natural setting recurred when the poet refers to these “land of dreams, so various, so beautiful, so new” (Arnold 31-32) as lacking an essence of true joy, so as to express his “eternal note of sadness” (Arnold 14). His love for nature is clearly evident from the poem, “His passion for natural scenery was, indeed, Arnold’s strongest aesthetic emotion.”(David 5). This recurring use of nature to express the emotional anguish, through a very simple narrative technique, reinstates Arnolds identity as a Victorian artist often considered to be a bridge between Romanticism and Modernism. “ The speaker of Dover Beach is an embodiment of Romanticism in its most alluring and devastating modern form-existential despair- that Classicism in its most austere and most strengthening ancient form constructively contradicts.”(Buckler 105). The poem is written with a nostalgia towards the classical notion of religion, as well as the romantic idea of love and the emotional connectedness which he believes can gain him the values which had started to fade away with his venture into the new ‘modern world’. “The general decline of faith and Arnold’s own resultant bewilderment and melancholy” (Jump 36), as well as, “the belief that in a successful love-relationship he may discover values which are not readily to be found in ‘modern life’” (Jump 36), constitute this poem. The poem with its Romantic use of simple language and natural setting, expressing so beautifully the agony of the ‘dying faith’ and the darkness it gave to the poet’s perception of the whole world, while hinting a little glimmer of hope attainable through his lover, gives a subtle Romantic element to the poet’s eternal melancholy which drives the whole poem. The vivid imagery of the poet, causing us to experience and feel his gradually shifting mood through the whole poem, has rightly earned its position as one of Arnold’s greatest poems.

Arnold’s poem is written with a nostalgia towards the classical notion of religion, as well as the romantic idea of love and the emotional connectedness which he believes can gain him the values which had started to fade away with his venture into the new ‘modern world’. “The general decline of faith and Arnold’s own resultant bewilderment and melancholy” (Jump 36), as well as, “the belief that in a successful love-relationship he may discover values which are not readily to be found in ‘modern life’” (Jump 36), constitute this poem. The poem with its Romantic use of simple language and natural setting, expressing so beautifully the agony of the ‘dying faith’ and the darkness it gave to the poet’s perception of the whole world, while hinting a little glimmer of hope attainable through his lover, gives a subtle Romantic element to the poet’s eternal melancholy which drives the whole poem. The vivid imagery of the poet, causing us to experience and feel his gradually shifting mood through the whole poem, has rightly earned its position as one of Arnold’s greatest poems.

Works cited Arnold, Matthew. “Dover Beach”. Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. N.d. Web. 23 May 2016. Buckler, William. E.

Buckler, William. E. On the Poetry of Matthew Arnold : Essays in Critical Reconstruction. New York: Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication Data. 1982. Print. David, C.

David, C. Matthew Arnold: A Critical Study. New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd. 2007. Print. Jump, J.D. “Dover Beach”.

Jump, J.D. “Dover Beach”. Critics on Matthew Arnold. Ed. Jacqueline F.M.Latham. Plymouth: Clarke, Doble & Brendon Ltd. 1973. 36-39. Print. Krierger, Murray. “Dover Beach and the Tragic Sense of Eternal Recurrence”.

Krierger, Murray. “Dover Beach and the Tragic Sense of Eternal Recurrence”. Critics on Matthew Arnold. Ed. Jacqueline F.M. Latham. Plymouth: Clarke, Doble & Brendon Ltd. 1973. 40-47. Print.

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Considering Schiller and Arnold Through Claudia Rankine’s Citizen

July 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

To consider the social function of art is to endeavor to contemplate a question that has haunted great literary critics since the Greek philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Two minds that both considered and offered explanations to this question in the 1700-1800’s were the German Friedrich Schiller and the English Matthew Arnold. Both Schiller and Arnold offer explanations that are heavily focused on presenting literature as the pinnacle and model of self and societal harmony. Schiller’s suppositions from Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man argue that art is the medium through which humans can defy the fractious nature of specialized society by presenting literature as a mode of balance that interweaves society’s factions. Arnold’s arguments in “On Poetry” and “The Study of Poetry” suggests that poetry, itself, is of the utmost significance in the way it harmonizes human ideals above all other facets of study and consideration. Although Schiller’s and Arnold’s theorizations on the social nature of literature are intertwined in explaining the paramount value of literature in society, Arnold’s arguments suffer from exactly the fragmented systems Schiller warns against.

The second chapter of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric depicts Schiller evaluation of art being able to transcend fixed occupational categories as being supreme to Arnold’s commentary where literature functions as both an expansion and a source of division. In summary of the second chapter of Citizen, it is a provocative evaluation of race and gender through the juxtaposition of Serena Williams against tennis, or black against Zora Neal Hurston’s “sharp white background” (25). In this chapter, regardless of blatant and systemic racism, both of which Rankine explicitly points out, the overarching critiques expose blatant white racial and cultural superiority through microagressions, which run rampantly on a societal scale much larger than the international tennis setting. Rankine’s critique continues by questioning the predetermined behavioral molds institutions inflicts on minorities, and how Serena, a black female who is the best tennis player in the world, is expected to act like “smiling blond goodness” by tennis commentators (36). Throughout this chapter, the most poignant moments are the one’s that rhetorically consider language, once by pointing out that when Serena was an aggressive tennis player she was characterized as “insane, crass, crazy” and having “bad sportsmanship” (30). Ultimately, Citizen ponders the question of societal harmony by pondering societal and social injustices, guiding readers to consider the hurtfulness of language and the systems in which it operates.

Citizen is then engaged deliberately with a component of societal division, and is also a work both Schiller and Arnold would argue brings the self and society closer to harmony through the poetic address of fractious society. The multidimensionality of the work, though, would be more greatly and fairly appreciated by Schiller than Arnold. The dimensions that add artistic layers to Citizen are found in the presentation and visuals Rankine includes. The presentation of the work functions as an extended metaphor for precisely the tennis-sphere Serena finds herself in, as the chapter itself consists black lettering against a stark white background. Through this chapter’s presentation and visuals, which artistically delve beyond words, letters, and prose, the paradox between invisibility and hypervisibility for black “citizens” can be addressed in multiple formats and in the multitude of societal formats in which it exists. This paradox is in the way black citizens are marginalized in general representation spanning from education to government, yet, ostracized or differentiated when in the forefront of whitewashed backdrops.

Arnold’s arguments in “On Poetry” suggest that “poetry is more intellectual than art” and more interpretive (183). While Arnold accepts literature in an expansive variety, he still argued that it is “in closer correspondence with the intelligential nature of man” and that “poetry thinks and the arts do no not” (183). Arnold’s expansive literary canon, then, may accept the second chapter of Citizen in its’ evolved dimensions, but it would discount the integrity of the visuals a standalone and equal component of the piece. Whereas Schiller’s work denotes the importance of not fragmenting human knowledge forms, arguing that when divided “the inner unity of human nature” would then be “severed too and a disastrous conflict set its’ harmonious nature at variance” (486). The open mind of Schiller, which lacks the literature-focused hierarchy of arts of Arnold, is a more practical approach to how the arts might elevate self and human harmony.

Another aspect Schiller and Arnold can be compared critically is by discussion of the differential or commensurable qualities between literature and the rest of major human knowledge forms. In terms of history, Schiller doesn’t directly discuss it as a medium, but uses ancient Greece as a historical example of harmonious society and calls for a lack of division in human knowledge forms. Using the Greeks as both an example of the harmonious society and a “fallen” society, Schiller notes that the “Greeks were wedded to the delights of dignity and wisdom, without falling prey to their seduction,” but warns that the eventual separation and singular specialization of human knowledge forms create division within “the inner unity of human nature” (485, 486). However, in “On Poetry,” Arnold specifically delineates the human knowledge forms of literature, art, science, philosophy, and religion. Rather than a harmonious society that calls to commensurate between these modes of knowledge, as does Schiller, Arnold creates a hierarchy with literature at the pinnacle, in part because “it is the most adequate and happy of the modes of manifestation through which the human pours its’ force (183). Rankine’s work is a work of poetry, but being poetry is not just what makes this work so powerful.

To fully consider this chapter of Citizen is also to consider the modern and historical context of the work as it is intertwined with history, popular culture, science, and art. To argue, as Arnold does though, that literature is all-inclusive of the best of these categories, while the individual categories themselves are limited and mutually exclusive is an unfounded conclusion. For instance, Rankine’s use of the line “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” is originally from Zora Neale Hurston’s “How it feels to be colored me.” Hurston’s essay was published in 1928 during segregation and Jim Crow oppression. To unearth this is to not only consider Hurston’s work, which partially discusses racial tensions from a childhood perspective, but to draw parallels between hidden historical and blatant ongoing forms of racial inequality. In terms of knowledge forms, again, Arnold’s lack of clear reasoning and evidence to support literature as the elite culmination of knowledge forms render Schiller’s open minded approach more feasible as an explanation for literature’s role in achieving societal harmony. More difficult to explain are Schiller’s and Arnold’s arguments for how literature would actually play a role in societal harmony. Perhaps Schiller’s theory is easier to grant approval because it is rooted in the claim specialized society is fragmented. Thus, it is easier to accept “Fine art” is Schiller’s key to address disconnected society because the true artist and true art “gaze upwards” with high moral and free standards that stray from the market and “fortune” (491). The artist and the observer are both shown the freedom of artistic experience that is beyond the confining faculties of fortune, and this free artistic model of art is then the harmony- standard for the faculties it has released from the grip of market driven specialization.

By contrast, Arnold argues that “the reasons why the human spirit feel itself to attain a more adequate and satisfying expression in poetry than in any other of its modes of activity” cannot be fully pinned down (183). However, in “The Study of Poetry” Arnold does specify that poetry provokes “a higher truth and higher seriousness” than all other human studies (185). Then, the lasting seriousness and truth that poetry offers are the keys to the actualized self and a harmonious society. Aside from mentioning that that the truth and seriousness are “inseparable from the diction and movement marking its style and manner,” Arnold’s theory does lack a clear role and path for the poet outside of simply being innately good because great poetry inspires the greatest harmony. Therefore, Schiller’s argument again, pairs more fluidly with Citizen because of the clarified stipulations for the artist and description of how this harmonious society would look. In Citizen Rankine engages with the injustice of racism and artistically meditates on the mentality and institutions which foster its’ continuance. About art, Rankine criticizes an artist that speculates black artist need to act white and the separation of black, “slavery,” art from the expansive arts, saying that “any relationship between the white viewer and the black artist immediately becomes one between white persons and black property, which was the legal state of things once upon time” (34). In doing so, the prose is addressing the fractiousness of race in society by holding a higher moral standard for art, with the end goal of a society not separated by the fractiousness. A reason that this may further Schiller’s point for the artist functioning as the mediator, is addressed in the chapter as well, stating that those who call out racism in society are “called insane, crass, [and] crazy” (30). While this point might function also to prove Arnold’s point that poetry is truly superior to achieve harmony, the weight of the argument Rankine is making about racism escalates the moral standard Rankine is subjecting society to above the skilled writing. The freedom of the artist to make this point, even though in normal conversation it cannot be said sides most with Schiller. Therefore, although Arnold’s argument does connect with the second chapter of citizen, Schiller’s arguments connect more fluidly with Citizen by addressing the high moral standard necessary to foster discussion of how society becomes less fragmented.

In conclusion, Schiller’s arguments about the role of literature in fostering a harmonious society by way of an open-minded approach with a clear specification for the purpose of the poet and clarification of what justifies a harmonious society make it superior to Arnold’s argument. Arnold’s argument lacks a clear role for the poet and a description of the harmonious society. Citizen is ultimately a good work of literature to serve as a test between the theories of Arnold and Schiller, partially due to its’ modernity allowing for a comparison which stands the test of time, but most importantly because it engages with a disunity of the individual and society. A weakness of this analysis might be that Citizen is a lyric overly engaged with fractiousness in society and is therefore catered to render Schiller’s argument supreme. If a work less engaged with the societal division were presented, the skillful diction and style of good poetry could be argued as the source of inspired self and communal harmony. Although, this argument would still suffer from a lack of evidence due the self-acknowledged absence of explanation Arnold offers for poetry being able to trigger this harmony. In the end, though it seems, both Schiller and Arnold desire an environment fully accessible to the individual to actualize their harmonious self within their greater world environment.

Works Cited

Arnold, Matthew. “On Poetry.” Eds. Singer, Alan, and Dunn Allen. Literary Aesthetics: A Reader. Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass., USA: Blackwell, 2000. 182-85.

Arnold, Matthew. “The Study of Poetry.” Eds. Singer, Alan, and Dunn Allen. Literary Aesthetics: A Reader. Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass., USA: Blackwell, 2000. 185-86.

Rankine, Claudia. Citizen : An American Lyric. 2014. Print.

Schiller, Friedrich. From Letters on the Aesthetic education of man. Ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 483-490.

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Matthew Arnold and Perfectionism

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

Matthew Arnold is known for his well-proposed essay, poetry, and his provocative books. Born in Middlesex in 1822, he began his career as a poet and soon earned recognition at school, Rugby school, and later graduated from Oxford University. Throughout his lifetime Arnold honed interest in poetics and education and soon published his most famous writings. One of his most controversial works was his book: Culture and Anarchy, published in 1869, in which he critiques the view of culture. Arnold describes culture as a desire for doing good and act as a moral compass to make things better than they are or, as he puts it, by seeking perfection. Because of the hue of an idealistic culture and a mission for perfection Arnold fails to recognize the superstructure of an evolving democracy. Where people that are not part of the elite do also play a significant role in the evolution of culture as a whole. Democracy today cannot solely cater to the elite but also needs to cater to the larger populace. For example, Hispanics, Blacks, and other racial groups. Denial of such groups has caused cases of public outrage and hate crimes that are widely prevalent in current media. That which I will also explain in my essay.

Arnold claims that not seeking knowledge, which is central to a perfectionist, would entail barbarism and without regards to a greater good. Arnold here differentiates from the people who got it, and the ones who have not: The elite versus the masses. Consequently, applying a class distinction that detaches the ‘elite’ from the masses. “It is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it” For example, Donald Trump has echoed hate and ruled on divisive action on immigration of Hispanics and refugees in propagating white supremacy. Current data revealed from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed an increment in hate crimes since Trump had won the presidency, ten percent of which targeted Latinos. Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, was indicted with the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas that left 22 dead and 24 injured; Officials cite the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism and a possible hate crime. Prosecutors said that Crusius surrendered after the attack saying, “I’m the shooter,” and that he was targeting Mexicans “in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.” Official documentation reflected President Trump’s divisive rhetoric on Hispanics has made Democrats, protestors, and El Paso residents blame Trump for spurring racial tension in the country. The Arnoldian view here holds; Trump can be seen as the Elitist in his endeavors to eradicate the masses by sprawling bigotry and partiality of the White in conflict with the masses of American immigrants.

Furthermore, Arnold believed that liberal reforms brought society closer to anarchy, “because it regarded the reforms as ends rather than means toward a harmonious totality of human existence”. Arnold’s one-sided belief system, in which authority has to internalized, and since nonconformity leads to anarchy; it is interlinked to his belief on the perfect culture. For example, Donald Trump landed in a vicious brawl with 4 female democrats of color, telling them to “go back to the broken and crime-infested places from which they came”; However, three-fourths of the female was born in the US. Trump’s racial rhetoric provoked them into a response from Capitol Hill in which they claimed that Trump was pushing on white nationalist agenda right from the White House. Nevertheless, Trump has a history of exploiting racial groups for his benefit, experts claim that he is using his presidency title and reelection campaign to appeal to white voters. In essence, Arnold tries to describe a fundamental counterpart of authority that everyone, despite social or religious bias, should follow; or in this case the appraisal of the white nationalist party.

In conclusion, The Arnoldian view compromises culture in the most idealistic terms as something to strive for, by placing an internal condition of seeking knowledge to achieve elitism; However, this ideology of the elitist versus the masses has caused fury by how Arnold’s view echoes with how white supremacy is the dominant race. That of which has caused further divisions than unity.

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Depressing and Cynical Love in Poetry (matthew Arnold’s Dover Beach and Anthony Hecht’s Dover Bitch)

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

The poems “Dover Beach” and “Dover Bitch” were written by Matthew Arnold and Anthony Hecht respectively. Although having two different authors the poem is referring to the same couple and the relationship these two people have. The first poem focuses on inside the relationship, between the man and woman and gives the reader a glimpse into their love life. The second poem is looked at from outside the couple, by a third party. It is taken from the view of another man who knows the woman from the first poem, and from him we learn a bit more of the intricacies of their relationship.

The first poem “Dover Beach” starts with just the man. He is staring at the beach and looks at how peaceful it is. He is watching from a window inside and he calls his love to the window to look at the scene with him. He describes the scenery as, “Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.” (ln 5) He wants his love to appreciate the peacefulness of the night with him, giving a sense of calm happiness between him and the woman. However the second verse takes the poem in another direction, and his words become much more harsh and sudden. He begins to describe the sea and sounds as a “grating roar of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling.” (ln 9-10) This shift to a more aggressive phrase leads the reader to believe that the couple perhaps is not as happy as they seemed to be in the first verse. The sudden shift as his love joins him at the window implies that there is not complete peace in the relationship. He even reflects on the story of Sophocles and of “the turbid ebb and flow of human misery.” (ln 17-18) This piece of thought implies that it is the writer, the man, who is unhappy in his relationship. He thoughts of human misery and sadness would suggest that he is sad about something in his relationship.

The last two sections of the poem “Dover Beach” turn more towards his actual relationship as he compares it to the sea. He suddenly sees the ocean only as the “melancholy, long withdrawing roar,” (ln 25) which is odd because at the beginning he seemed so at peace. It is only with his love that he begins to see it as a depressing thing. He then turns directly to the woman and pleads with her “to be true to one another.” (ln 29-30) His immediate focus on this aspect shows that this may have been why he is not pleased with her. It seems that he does love her, and wants to be with her, but he either suspects that she is unfaithful or he knows that she is. Ultimately though, he does love her and wants to stay with her trying to make it work as an “ignorant armies clash by night,” (ln 37) which suggests that he might know that it is a losing battle, but he is still willing to try.

The second poem shows us the outside of the relationship, through the eyes of another man. He believes the first man to be foolish because while he was going on about the sea she “had in mind

The notion of what his whiskers would feel like on the back of her neck.”(ln 9-10) So the concern between the first man of unfaithfulness was warranted, and is apparently true as told by the second man. She doesn’t seem to have the same affection for the first man, but stay with him anyway while going to visit another at times. She stays with this man even though she doesn’t seem happy in the relationship and explains that she is sad because of everything she is missing out on such as “the wine and enormous beds and blandishments in French and the perfumes,” (ln 13-14) The girl is more concerned with material goods, and seems angry that the man she is with does not provide that. But instead of leaving him, she just goes out to visit another. In the end we learn that it is because he is “fat, but dependable as they come,” (ln 27) that she stays with him. She wants the comfort of being taken care of and not having to worry even if he isn’t who she loves.

These two poems together have a very cynical view on love, and a pretty depressing one. We see a man completely in love with a woman and willing to do what it takes to keep her. He wants to be happy and only wants the woman to be faithful to him. But then we see that the woman does not love him and goes to another man, only staying with him out of convenience. These stories show the different perspective a relationship can take, in this case a man hopelessly in love and a woman who is only using him.

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Matthew Arnold’s Unique Philosophical Beliefs

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

Before delving into the beliefs and ideas of the theories discussed over the course of the semester, first I will clarify what exactly Matthew Arnold himself believed in order to effectively compare his ideas to others. Arnold viewed culture as “The best that has been thought and said in the world,” a unified world where class is nonexistent. He saw the class structure of his time as problematic because he believed that class division should be demolished in order to create a social “perfection” (in his eyes) where everyone agreed on the standard of “the best that has been thought and said.” The fact that the working class had a drastically different culture than that of the aristocracy was Arnold’s definition of anarchy. The working class was the true majority of people, so their form of culture was what Arnold considered popular culture, and he did not like it. To Arnold, culture should be unified, not popular. Of course, there could never be such a thing as a classless society, so Arnold’s concept of social perfection never came to fruition.

Structuralism is based heavily on the complexity of language. Language can only be understood through binary oppositions; it is impossible to know what day is unless night exists as its binary opposite. Structuralists believe that linguistic signs are completely arbitrary, as exemplified in the very idea of language itself. Every word (sign) acts as a signifier, but every foreign language has a different sign for every word. A universally understood object can have countless signifiers depending on where you are. Above all, signs are always relational and polysemic. Structuralists would denounce Arnold’s ideas because of the diversity of language. There can be no one culture where everyone agrees on “the best that has been thought and said” because there is no way for everyone to agree on what is being thought and said in the first place. Interpretation of linguistic meaning is completely arbitrary, and the existence of various races, ethnicities, and cultural values throughout the world emphasize that. For instance, Americans place little importance on the life of a cow because our culture uses it as food. In the Hindu culture, cows are sacred because they represent all other living creatures. The cow has a different symbolic meaning to different people. There would be no way for these two groups to agree on what is inherently an opposition of their cultures. Structuralists also believe that consumers of popular culture are unaware of how prominent language and signifiers are in their everyday lives. We are controlled by what we think we know and understand which is completely based on how we interpret linguistic meaning.

Marxism is a theory that is almost comically opposite of the ideas of Matthew Arnold. Everything in classical Marxism is based on class conflict. Everything is determined by society’s economic structure. While Arnold dreams of a world where class is absent, Marxists build their entire theory on the separation of base (industrial means of production) and superstructure (institutions of culture, education, religion, family, etc.), a unique twist on standard class systems. The base consists of the worker bees that create necessary basics of everyday life, while the superstructure consists of the artists that define culture for the base to enjoy. To Marxists, popular culture is a distortion of reality, fooling normal people into believing what is false to be true. Marxists are the ones who claim the ability to see through the façade of popular culture and live in their perceived exclusive reality that only the ones who have the superior sight can reside in. While Arnold dismisses popular culture as a product of the working class, Marxists view popular culture as a sickness that affects everyone. Only true Marxists can understand “how things work.” This deception is not exclusive to a critique of Arnold’s theory; Marxists believe everyone is fooled by popular culture, especially those that consume it.

Psychoanalysis, founded in the ideas of Sigmund Freud, is anchored in biology. The human mind is divided into the id, the ego, and the super-ego. The id is our most instinctual nature of self that cannot be controlled. The ego keeps the power of the id in check, like the example in our book that compares the id to a horse and the ego to its rider. The super-ego is a compilation of the actions of authority over time, usually referred to as the conscience. This psyche structure is the core idea of psychoanalysis; all other ideas under its umbrella stem from this construction of the mind. Because we are born with and id while the ego and super-ego develop over time, what most people call “human nature” is actually a direct product of culture. Everyone’s most innate tendencies are the result of the cultural environment they are surrounded by. Psychoanalysts would see some problems with Arnold’s idea of a unified classless culture because if we were all a product of a singular culture then most people would not be inherently different. Popular culture is a significant part of who we turn out to be. This is also what most people do not understand about popular culture from a psychoanalytic point of view, that it is an essential influence on who you turn out to be. It is impossible to ignore or reject the effect popular culture has on the Freudian psyche.

Post-Structuralism centers around the ideas of differance and discourses. Jacques Derrida extended the oppositional nature of language with the word differance, the idea that language and text have no inherent meaning because meaning is the result of individual interpretation depending on the context and the signifier/signified. Unlike in Structuralism, Derrida believed that binary opposition is always a relation of power, which is where discourses come in. Michael Foucault said that discourses are ultimately about power; so much power that differance could be meaningless in the context of a discourse because within a discourse certain words or phrases could have very specific meanings that are not open to interpretation. To quickly sum up the idea of a discourse: discourses produce knowledge, which supplies power, which produces reality. These discourses are a direct source of popular culture. Post-Structuralists might have a problem with Arnold’s desire for a unified culture because it would likely result in the limitation of discourses, at least in terms of who may control them. Limiting discourse limits reality, which would limit creative prowess for further addition to the vast world of popular culture. Post-Structuralists would also think that consumers of popular culture do not realize that they as consumers do not have as much power as they think because it is the institutional procedures controlling discourses that have the power.

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Matthew Arnold. Life and Literary Works

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

One cannot understand Matthew Arnold without first understanding his family and the weighty influence they had over his life and works. His father, Dr. Thomas Arnold, was educated at Winchester, where Matthew Arnold soon attended. Because of his father, Matthew rejected the Christian tradition while adhering to some of its observations and principles. One must bear in mind the Victorian spirit of religious skepticism and atheism which undermined and challenged Christianity’s hegemony. Victorians remained in awe of religion but detested its dogmatic control. Dr. Thomas Arnold was a life-long educator and likewise, Matthew Arnold spent his life in the field of education. They both shared a Rugby School connection although in different capacities: his father, Dr. Thomas Arnold served as a school master for Rugby while Matthew Arnold was an alumnus. Matthew Arnold also went on to become a tutor at Rugby school and emerged a renowned professor of history, poetry and literature at Oxford University. Dr. Thomas Arnold was also an historian and honoured fellow of Oxford University. They both wrote prolifically and authored acclaimed books. Politically, they share the same view, for they both are against the High Church Party. Dr. Thomas Arnold died suddenly of angina pectoris while his son, Matthew Arnold, also died suddenly of heart failure. Matthew Arnold’s brothers are a moulding influence in his life. Tom Arnold was a literary professor and William Arnold was a novelist and colonial administrator. Other influences include, William Wordsworth, illustrious Victorian poet, was a neighbour and close friend of the Arnolds. In a famous preface to a selection of poems by William Wordsworth, Arnold identified himself, as a “Wordsworthian.” The influence of Wordsworth, both in ideology and form, is most evident in Arnold’s best poetry.

Matthew Arnold was a proponent of Victorian High Culture. High Culture and he represented his view in his book, Culture and Anarchy (1868), the work from which he received the most recognition. High Culture encompasses the fine arts or liberal arts of a distinguished group which are tokens of its civilisation. Arnold’s definition of culture was “the disinterested endeavour after man’s perfection” and that having culture meant to “know the best that has been said and thought in the world.” Matthew Arnold believes that high culture was a great moral and political tool which when wielded in the right way can be an instrument for good. His espousal of Victorian High Culture is a reactionary movement against Philistinism which defines an attitude opposing art, beauty, intellectual content and spiritual values. Philistinism also is the ready acceptance and observation of conventional social values without critical reason hence one can see the reasons for the prevailing questioning and disbelief peculiar to the Victorian period in England.

The well-known children’s novel, Tom Brown’s Schooldays, was written in tribute to Dr. Thomas Arnold who reformed the education system at Rugby School, a male public school, making it an eminent and prestigious institute of learning. The Victorian period is characterized by an interest in children. Due to this concern, children’s literature is born as a genre. Tom Brown’s Schooldays is authored by Thomas Hughes published in 1857. It was first called By An Old Boy of Rugby. Dr. Thomas Arnold is depicted as the teacher and school master par excellence who deftly administers.

Matthew Arnold’s works reflect influence of both Romanticism and Modernism. He illustrates in his poems the pastoral landscape, and the simple, bucolic life and the tone echoes sentiments of longing, nostalgia and meditation. At the same time, Arnold betrays pessimism and scepticism concerning certain subjects. Poems such as Dover Beach, Consolation, The Scholar Gypsy, Growing Old, The Last Word, A Wish and The Voice all express Romanticism while … convey the principles of Modernism.

When Matthew Arnold was 20, his father, Dr. Thomas Arnold died. In 1850, when he was 28 he met and fell in love with Frances Lucy Wightman, the daughter of Sir William Wightman, Justice of the Queen’s Bench. A year later, At age 29, they got married. Born of their union were six children: Thomas, born 1852, died in 1868 at age sixteen; Trevenen William, born 1853, died 1872 at age eighteen; Richard Penrose, born 1855, died 1908, an inspector of factories (he befriended composer Edward Elgar who dedicated one of the Enigma Variations to Richard); Lucy Charlotte born 1858, died 1934, who married Frederick W. Whitridge of New York, whom she had met during Arnold’s American lecture tour; Eleanore Mary Caroline, born 1861, died 1936, married (1) Hon. Armine Wodehouse in 1889, (2) William Masefield, Baron Sandhurst, in 1909 and Basil Francis, born 1866 who was not quite two years old when he died in 1868.

During his later life, Arnold made a noteworthy shift from writing poetry to prose. His scholarly lectures and treatises were written in England rather than the traditional Latin. As a school inspector, he travelled widely to France, and Sweden, reporting on the state of public education and while seeking to improve Britain’s own. He retired from his public labours in education in 1883. From that point on, with a much more flexible schedule, Arnold travelled to America where he wrote Discourses on America. His daughter ended up marrying an American. When she left America to visit him in 1888, he went to Liverpool to meet her. While running to catch a tramcar, he suddenly died. The cause was heart failure. He was aged 60.

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Matthew Arnold – an Outstanding Figure of Victorian Age

May 5, 2021 by Essay Writer

Matthew Arnold is an outstanding figure of Victorian Age. This period is extremely sublime in the historical backdrop of England on account of It’s an excellent advance in all branches of life. This age is exceptionally well known by its material success, political arousing, fair changes, modern and mechanical advance, logical improvement, social agitation and so forth. He remained doubter in the age because of a contention amongst religion and science. He composed a book ‘Culture and Anarchy’ with a view to restoring the qualities which resembled nectar in antiquated Greek. He checks the estimations of his own opportunity by the light of that culture.

Matthew Arnold’s Culture and Anarchy is a quarrelsome philosophical work. Which was composed in the midst of a period out of excellent social and political change, the article fights for a modifying of England’s social belief system. It reflects Arnold’s energy for a conviction, that the insensible English masses could be shaped into innovative individuals who gain ground towards human flawlessness through the pleasant advancement of most of their capacities and gifts. A pressing province of Arnold’s theory is that a state-controlled course of action of training must supplant the religious program which concentrates on inflexible individual great direct to the disservice of free idea and promise to network.

Arnold presents the key subjects of Culture and Anarchy straightforwardly in the exposition’s title. Culture includes a functioning individual mission to neglect egocentricity, preference, and extremism and to grasp a similarly adjusted advancement of every single human ability a transformation from self-enthusiasm to good faith and illuminated comprehension of one’s solitary commitment to a comprehensive idealistic culture. As per Stefan Collini, culture is “a perfect of human life, a standard of brilliance and totality for the advancement of our abilities, stylish, scholarly, and moral.” By differentiate insurgency speaks to the nonappearance of a managing rule in one’s life which keeps one from endeavoring to accomplish flawlessness. This absence of reason show itself in such social and religious imperfections as free enterprise corporate greed and rigid false reverence.

Here, we examine his idea about ‘Sweetness and Light’. In this treatise, his focal spotlight and contention is on interest. It is characterized as a liberal and clever enthusiasm about the things of brain or mental exercises. As per him, the natal place of interest is a longing. It is wants that influence some person to seek after. Crafted by want is to see the things as they seem to be. On the off chance that it is sought after by a savvy individual with a fair-minded comprehension of brain, it ends up commendable. It bears a honest to goodness logical enthusiasm that is the correct sort of interest. Such interest drives us to genuine culture. Along these lines, past the man of culture is interest.

Matthew Arnold sees about a social part of culture. It turns out from the affection for neighbor. At the end of the day, one might say that this part of culture gets birth from the craving for expelling human mistakes and reducing human hopelessness. It is a man of culture who works in the general public for its improvement. Such want sees the things as they may be, and the man of culture works fairly with energy. Along these lines, it brings forth sweetness and light. He calls it a genuine culture that rouses a man to lean the world preferred and more joyful over he discovered it. Without a doubt, it involves a honest to goodness logical enthusiasm and an adjust and direction of brain to battle against the ailing tendency of psyche.

The creator goes to the birthplace of culture that lies in the affection for flawlessness. As it were, it can be called that culture is an investigation of flawlessness. In it two predominant wants work in harmony__the logical enthusiasm for unadulterated information and good and social energy for doing admirably. The man of culture ought to have the quest for unadulterated information with fair want or energy and win it in the public arena for decreasing human torments. Such agonies can be reduced by winning sweetness and light that is the activity of a man of culture or a man of seeking after flawlessness. Such employment is simple for a man of culture.

Culture is slanted to genuine reason and the will of God to win. It comprises of the examination and the quest for flawlessness. The immediate motivation for man to want for flawlessness originates from religion. Arnold calls religion’ the voice of the most profound of human experience’. Every one of the voices of human experience are accessible in workmanship, science, verse, reasoning and history which a man of genuine culture tunes in with a recognized consideration. All the above fields make man consummate inside, or its point is add up to human flawlessness. The outward articulation of culture is appeared in the general sweet extension of considerations and emotions, wealthy in respect, riches and satisfaction of human instinct. The way of life brings inside and in addition outside flawlessness of human. It stops all prejudices and blunders of man. Inclinations and mistakes make political agitation in the public arena.

Arnold finds true and certifiable association amongst culture and the possibility of sweetness and light. His optimal man of culture is a Greek man called Euphausia. Arnold obtained the expression ‘sweetness and light’ from Swift. The character of a man of culture is formed by religion and verse. The point of religion is to make man consummate morally, while the verse has the possibility of magnificence and of human instinct immaculate on the entirety of its sides. Culture has the ability to win peace and fulfillment by executing our brutishness and moving closer to the universe of otherworldliness with flawlessness. Surely, religion neglects to lead us to such flawlessness. He depicts about religious associations of his opportunity in England that they appear to have flopped ethically. He submits case of Puritanism that depends on the drive of man towards moral advancement and self – triumph. This flawlessness prompts the thought or drive of slenderness and inadequacy. He bounces to such conclusion by judging the religious associations as far as sweetness and light.

Culture has flawlessness that is free from a wide range of narrowness.it remains against all the naughtiness men who have dazzle confidence in apparatus. As he would see it, the quest for flawlessness is the quest for sweetness and light. He who works for sweetness works at last for light likewise; he who works for light works at last for sweetness moreover. The individuals who work joined for sweetness and light, work to make the reason and the will of God to win. Culture looks past machinery___ social, political and monetary, past populace, riches and industry, past working class radicalism and maintains a strategic distance from a wide range of limitation and contempt. Culture has one incredible conclusion, the energy for sweetness and light.

Arnold indicates joy to demand the stirring of his counterparts in all circles of inventive exercises in workmanship, writing and life. He demands that the light of culture must guide this national re-arousing to sweetness and light. Culture works in an unexpected way, and it doesn’t work with instant judgment and watch words. Its allure isn’t restricted to any one exceptional class in the public arena. It manages the best self that has been thought and known on the planet current all over the place. Culture suggests itself to make all men to live in an air of sweetness and light, where they may utilize thoughts as it utilizes them itself uninhibitedly.

The immense men of culture put stock in uniformity and expansive mindedness. They are controlled by an enthusiasm to spread culture from one end of society to the next. They convey the best information and the best thoughts of their circumstances. It is the obligation of these men to acculturate information, and in this manner, it turns into the best learning and thought of the ages and turns into a genuine wellspring of sweetness and light. The colossal men of culture widen the premise of life and insight and work intensely to grow sweetness and light to make reason and the will of God to win.

Thus, a man of culture resembles a bumble bee. The activity of bumble bee is to suck the juice from all blooms (sweet or sharp) and to make nectar. Nectar is sweet and loved by with everything taken into account shapes. Nectar has wax that isn’t futile on the grounds that the candles are made of it light. Consequently, toward the finish of sweetness is light. Along these lines, a man of culture looks for information from all offices and offers it to all. He isn’t intolerant on the grounds that such learning brings flawlessness. Along these lines, his quest for flawlessness is sweetness and light.

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Matthew Arnold’s Crisis of Faith

July 8, 2019 by Essay Writer

The Victorian Period of British Literature involved many changes in British culture; one of the defining qualities of Queen Victoria’s reign was a loss of faith in the Church. A number of social changes caused an increasing number of people to question their faith and leave organized religion, resulting in the “crises of faith” that were becoming more common among the population. English poet Matthew Arnold’s “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” best exemplifies the many crises of faith experienced by Englishmen during the Victorian Age through Arnold’s use of description and metaphors. “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” takes place in a monastery in the French Alps. Arnold’s work describes the crisis of faith he has been experiencing. Arnold does not return to the monastery to recover his lost faith in Christianity; he instead chooses to write about his struggle with any kind of faith. Throughout the poem, he makes it clear that he will not and cannot return to the Christian Church.

Upon entering the monastery, Arnold begins to reminisce about youth and his eventual crisis of faith. He recalls how “rigorous teachers seized [his] youth” (67) and indoctrinated him into the Christian faith. Arnold hears his former teachers speaking to him in the monastery. They ask him, “What dost thou in this living tomb?” (72). The reason for Arnold’s visit to the monastery is called into question. Matthew responds to this question in the lines following the inquery. In his response, Arnold first seeks forgiveness for visiting the monastery; he writes, “Forgive me Masters of the Mind! At whose behest I long ago so much unlearnt, and so much resigned – I come not here to be your foe” (73-76). Arnold seeks forgiveness from the great minds of the Victorian Age. For Arnold, men and women like Charles Lyell, the author of Principles of Geology, have defeated the notion that religion is necessary to explain the world. These writers “persuaded Arnold that faith in Christianity was no longer tenable in the modern world” (Norton 1390). Arnold believes that he is offending these men by being at the monastery. This shows that Arnold holds these intellectuals in higher regard than the Christian God he once believed in. He asserts that he is no longer Christian. Arnold is visitor to the monastery as one would be to “some fallen Runic stones” (83). He is visiting the monastery as a historical place, like an old Nordic monument depicting a now-dead religion (Norton 1390). Speaking of Christianity and Nordic religion, Arnold writes, “For both were faiths, and both are gone” (84). Arnold believes Christianity is reaching its end and will soon be viewed as any other ancient religion, such as the Nordic religion. Arnold later writes that he is with the “last of the people who believe” (112). Arnold makes it clear that this is not a trip to restore his lost faith; he is here to visit a part of history that no longer holds any control over him. In the monastery, Arnold finds himself, “wandering between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born, with nowhere yet to rest his head” (85-87). The old age of Christianity (and similar organized religions) is over, but Arnold is unable to define his faith, or lack thereof, as a particular system of belief. The new age of reason has yet to be defined and named; it is still unborn. Until the new system is born, Arnold finds himself searching to be a part of something. He will not go back to his old Christian ways, so he must “wander” (85) until the new system is born.

Arnold suffers from not being a part of the Christian faith. He describes his suffering as a “holy pain” (92). Many believe the pain “is a passed mode, an outworn theme” (100), but Arnold’s pain is “[restless]” (104). If the pain is not eased, Arnold would rather die with the last of the Christians (109-111). Death is preferable to Arnold’s painful wandering between two worlds. Even after death, this pain continues. Other men have felt such pain and it remains long after their deaths. Arnold writes, “Say, is life lighter now than then? The sufferers died, they left their pain – The pangs which tortured them remain” (130-132). Generations of men have experienced the transition Arnold is going through now, yet they resolved nothing during their lives. Arnold also references the Romantics while he visits the monastery. He specifically refers to Byron (133) and Shelley (139) specifically. Arnold believes that their works, although beautiful, did little to ease this pain felt by many. For Arnold, Byron merely shared his “bleeding heart” (136) and “Europe made his woe her own” (138). Future generations will read Byron’s and Shelley’s work, but Arnold wonders if the “inheritors of [their] distress have restless hearts one throb the less?” (143-144). Romanticism is dead and its writers “slumber in [their] silent grave[s]” (151). Further writing to the Romantics, Arnold claims, “The world, which idle for a day Grace to your mood of sadness gave, Long hath flung her weeds away… But we learnt your lore too well” (149-156). After the death of Romanticism, the world moved on, but many people continued to read the Romantics, trapped in a state of suffering. Byron, Shelley, and the other Romantics share similar feelings with Arnold, but this does not help Arnold escape the pain. The Romantics described suffering, but did little to combat it. Although Arnold finds their works are beautiful and praise worthy, the Romantics did nothing to alleviate the suffering of man. Arnold then describes then describes the waiting process again. He does not know how it will be until the new age begins. He believes that “years hence, perhaps, may dawn an age, More fortunate, alas! Than we, Which without hardness will be sage, And gay without frivolity” (157-160). Arnold knows the process could be long and he asks the younger generations to bring about change quickly; he writes, “Sons of the world, oh, speed those years; But while we wait, allow our tears!” (161-162). Arnold needs to suffer and seeks permission to cry while he waits for change to come.

Arnold, while he wanders in suffering, admires those who find tranquility in religious beliefs. He does not seek to end Christianity or any other religions, rather he writes, “Allow them! We admire with awe The exulting thunder of your race; You give the universe your law, You triumph over time and space!” (163-166). Arnold admires the religious because they believe they have control over the universe. Arnold wishes he could live that way, but he cannot go back. Arnold says to them, “Your pride of life, your tireless powers, We laud them, but they are not ours” (167-168). He praises those who are strongly religious, but they live a lifestyle he cannot return to. Even though he may not believe, he does not disrespect those who do. Arnold continues his writing with a metaphor. He uses a simile to compare himself to “children reared in shade Beneath some old-world abbey wall” (169-170). Arnold’s situation is similar to that of the children because they are trapped within a certain lifestyle. Arnold cannot go back to the religious life and the children cannot leave the abbey. They are “forgotten in a forest glade, And secret from the eyes of all. Deep, deep the greenwood round them waves, Their abbey, and its close of graves” (171-174). The children live in the abbey and will likely die in the abbey. Arnold live in his state of wandering and he will likely die in that same state of wandering. Further, the children have little to no adventure in their lives. They hear a call to action (192) but they reply, “Action and pleasure, will ye roam Through these secluded dells to cryand call us? – but too late ye come!” (194-196). The abbey children have already had their lives planned out. They cannot accept the call to action because it comes to them too late. They are destined to live and die in the abbey, rarely doing anything exciting. They further respond to the call, saying, “Too late for us your call ye blow, Whose bent was taken long ago (197-198). Their bent, or “natural inclination” (Norton 1393), was taken long ago by the authorities in the abbey. Naturally, they would accept a call to action, but they have been conditioned to reject such a call. They are trapped within the abbey much like Arnold is trapped in his state of wandering and suffering. Arnold, like the children in the abbey, just wants peace in his life. They children are “fenced early in this cloistral round Of reverie, of shade, of prayer” (205-206). They cannot escape their position, in which they have been stuck for a prolonged period of time. They ask that the “banners, pass, and bugles, cease; and leave [their] desert to its peace!” (209-210). The children are tormented by the outside sounds of lives they will never be able to live because they are stuck in the abbey; similarly, Arnold hears the calls of the abbey to return to a religious life. Like the children, Arnold cannot accept the call of the Christian Church because he is trapped in his state of wandering and suffering. Like the children in the abbey who are conditioned to not accept their calls to action, Arnold will not allow himself to accept the Christian faith.

Through his poetry, Matthew Arnold highlights many of the struggles faced by Victorians who experienced crises of faith. The Victorian Age brought many social changes and one of the areas most greatly affected was religion. Scientific publications, like Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology, revolutionized many people’s ways of thinking. God was no longer the answer to everything. Science often conflicted with religious teachings. Because of this, Many people began leaving the Church and organized religion began dying. In response to this growing religious crisis, many Victorians responded with their experiences with their individual struggles with faith. A large number of Victorian authors wrote about their crises of faith, but none better exemplifies the experience than Matthew Arnold. Matthew Arnold’s “Stanzas from the Grand Chartreuse” best shows an individual’s crisis of faith because of Arnold’s use of description and metaphors in his writing.

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