MS Nagarajan's Classical Criticism, Chapter 1- Latin Criticism: Horace summary and simplified notes

Latin criticism
Latin criticism marks the beginning of the second phase in the history of literary criticism. But the whole literature of Romans was itself a kind of critical imitation and their literary genius was somewhat timid and was not literary. The Augustan  era witnessed triumph of the literary movement under the influence of hellenism. The spirit of the age is clearly reflected in literary compositions . The most distinctive characteristics of the age was :-
(a)the honour and Prestige accorded to poets and poetry.
(b)Fresh dignity came to be associated with poetry .
(c) In such an atmosphere of the Augustan era, critical activities flourished.

Horace and Ars Poetica
The greatest figure of this period was Horace who received the classical Legacy of the Ancients and gave a new direction and breadth to criticism.
It is significant that literary criticism forms an integral part of Horace’s works. His critical ideas are embodied in his writings, especially in his satires and Epistles .His more formal utterances are found in his Ars Poetica popularly known as Epistle to Pisos.  It is a dexterous piece of writing produced towards the close of his life . His foremost aim was to establish at Rome, an exalted poetry which should be of service to the state. In the Epistles he appears mainly as a friend and guide of his contemporaries giving counsels on morals and literature .He maintains that life and literature should be intimately connected the aim of poetry should be directed to the study of the serious problems of life and Society .He maintains that hard work and Critical judgement are essential for Poetic creation:” your good poet, when he begins to write ,will assume also the spirit of an honest sensor”. According to Horace ,the poet should be punctilious about the choice of words and should elevate language to a higher level by constantly refining it .He asserted that the Romans though strong and vigorous had not attained the ideal of correctness or “art to blot”. However to have a close look  at the main body of Horace’s theory, we must turn to his Epistle to the Pisos

Salient features of Epistle / Horace’s theory of Poetry.

A Salient  feature of this treatise is that while writing this poem Horace was influenced by some hellenistic treatise .
(a)He advises poets to look into life and manners for their models at the same time he maintains that the poet’s duty is either to improve  or to give delight or to  combine both .
(b)He holds that verse is not necessarily poetry; poetry needs distinctive qualities such as the fire of inspiration and imaginative faculty .
(c)He is very particular about poetic style; he is almost finic  about poetic diction; the proper choice of words and their arrangement and metrical patterns .
(d)The language of poetry is not the same as every day speech
(e)Though the main doctrines of Horace’s pertain to poetry in general, he has to say something about drama; his treatment of plot characterization and style remind us of Aristotle; he explicitly remarks that tragedy, by virtue of its dignified theme, should not be treated in an ordinary and casual manner
(f) comedy should not be treated in the lofty manner of tragedy.
His principles and percepts about poetic art too exercised great influence in later critical theory. he attaches great importance to propriety or fitness ,as it is Central to a work of art .
He maintains that art needs constant practice and endeavour .

Plan and content of Ars Poetica

(a)importance of Unity
unity is fundamental to a work of art. Even though the poets and painters have been conceded the freedom in respect of imagination , they should not join up the sublime and the  ridiculous together .He  says: “ whatever your design let it have, if nothing else ,simplicity and Unity”.

(b)Choice of words
The poet should be careful and discerning in the grouping of words .

(d)Metre and their appropriateness
he says that if one does not know and cannot observe the conventions and forms of poems,he does not deserve to be called a Poet.
(c) Characters
Poets should either follow established tradition or make his invention consistent .

(d) he further says that in good writing the prime essential is wisdom

(e)the aim of the poet is ,either to be beneficial or to delight.

Nagarajan, M S. English Literary Criticism and Theory. Orient Blackswan. 2006. Print.