M S Nagarajan's Classical Criticism Chapter 1: Summary


Chapter one focuses on the contributions made by the major theoretecians of the classical age. A student of literature can easily relate the ancient classical theories with that of the modern theories just by reading this. 


    Though Plato's year of birth seems to be conjectural, it is believed that he was born in 427 BC . He came of a distinguished Athenian family. At the age of twenty he fell under the spell of the great Socrates. As a result, he destroyed all his poems and turned to philpsophy and mathematics.

     According to Plato poetry refers to the most of the fine and performing arts- painting, sculpture, theatre, and dance.
  • The theory of art which he assumes in this discussion is the mimetic theory ie. a work of art is an object or performance which imitates nature.
Plato's theory of forms and  theory of ideas

     According to Plato non physical forms for ideas represent the most accurate reality 
  • every object or quality has a form examples dogs, human beings, mountains, colours ,love etc.
  • the object is essentially or really the form and that the phenomena were mere shadows mimicking the form 
  • these forms are the most pure of all things.
  •  true knowledge is the ability to grasp the world of forms with one's mind .
  • A form is aspatial- transcedent to space
  • A form is atemporal-transcedent to time
  • It doesnt exist within any time period.
  • A form is an objective blue print of perfection
  • They are perfect because they are unchanging
     Plato was the first to expound theory of earth in general terms and his views have exerted a strong influence on every generation of thinkers who came after him.  plato's view are diverse and contradictory.

Sir Philip Sidney says that of all philosophers I have esteemed him most worthy of reverence and with great reason since of all philosophers he is the most poetical.
Shelley says:Plato exhibits the rear Union of closed and subtle logic with the pythian enthusiasm of poetry.

According to Plato art if an imperfect reflection of the real world it is a shadow a pale reflection of the ideal world . Art is an imitation of an imitation .Arts are third -hand distortions of truth. This view goes by the name of the doctrine of ideas of form.

  •      The philosopher is the moral custodian of the Welfare of his people; he has the right to stand in opposition to any form of artistic imitation that deviates from the norms of a reason
  • Plato advocates strict censorship and exhorts poets to inculcate in people the moral virtues of forbearance tolerance and rectitude.
Plato favours the narrative form more than the imitative form for the latter represents evil directly
Truth is the end in such imitation and not pleasure.
 some neoplatonists have modified plato's didacticism to mean that the poet directly imitates reality and not merely copies images of physical nature
Plato inspired people and give directions to criticism and stimulated it . poetry is not just a matter of words and technique but it is a lofty and mysterious creation of man.          Plato is regarded as the fountain of that which is most living in the orthodoxy of later ages
Atkins says that "and his influence reminds to the present day that of one of the greatest of the text in the truest sense and light bring the ever guiding men steps to The Spiritual side of art".
MS Nagarajan Classical Criticism