An Analysis of Arnold's Essay, The Function of Criticism at The Present Time

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The first thing to start with is the title. In order to understand Arnold’s essay we should first understand the title of the essay. As we notice that Matthew Arnold associates criticism with one function not many functions, but which function? He also mentions that this function of criticism is limited within a specific and particular time which is the present time and the past or the future time. Therefore, answering the questions of function and time of criticism goes with analyzing Matthew Arnold‘s essay through my reading of his essay. It becomes clear that Arnold defends the importance of criticism. That’s to say he tries to display that the critical mind is of a paramount importance as well as the creative mind.

A Brief Biography

Arnold, Matthew 1822-1888, English poet and critic, he was a leading literary figure of the Victorian period, and the foremost literary figure of his age. His writings have a distinct style which is characterized by the use of symbolism and earnestness.

Arnold, Matthew was born in Lalehan, Middlesex; he is the son of Thomas Arnold, a famous historian and head master of rugby school the famous independent school. Arnold himself studied at this school and Balliol College, university of Oxford. In 1851, Arnold served as an inspector of schools for the British government. Most of his poems were published between 1849 and 1855. His first book of poetry, The Strayed Reveller and Other Poems, was published in 1849.his first piece as a critic was Preface to the Poems which appeared in 1853. In 1857, Arnold became a professor of poetry at Oxford University and retained this position for ten years 1867.

In this essay, Arnold Matthew discusses the tenuous relationship between criticism and...

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...ety. In fact, both art and society are closely late in Arnold’s world view, thus the first and the last purpose of the critic is to attain truth so as to enlarge ideas which will provide an intellectual atmosphere in the future.


To sum up, Matthew Arnold tries in his essay to provide a mode about the importance of criticism and to refute the idea that criticism is of less importance than the creative power, asserting that writing criticism actually produces in its practitioner a sense of ecstatic creative joy very similar to that enjoy by the person who engages in creative writing. Therefore, criticism should be disinterested and objective so as to obtain the best known and thought in the world. Matthew Arnold’s essay “The Function of Criticism in the Present Time”, is in fact an important critical work which theorises the politics of criticism.

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