The Rape of the Text: Reading and Misreading Pope's Essay on Man
Normal0falsefalsefalseMicrosoftInternetExplorer4First published in 1733-1734, An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope's best-known philosophical poem, was highly praised by many of Pope's European contemporaries, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant, and Hume. The poem, divided into four Epistles, deals with the nature of man and his place in the universe, man as an individual, man in society, and man in pursuit of happiness. Voltaire called An Essay on Man "the most beautiful, most useful, most sublime didactic poem" in the English language, but what was formerly regarded as the pinnacle of 18th-century poetry now languishes largely unread or misread as a quaint period piece. In contrast, Harold Bloom recently described the Essay as a "poetic disaster" of "absurd theodicy." The Rape of the Text deconstructs the history of criticism for An Essay on Man to account for and to reverse over two hundred years of deformation and trivialization of Pope's text by literary critics, philosophers, and historians of ideas. After showing why the commonplaces about the Essay inscribed in Pope scholarship are suspect because of the mutual and abiding hostility of logocentric and aesthetic traditions of misreading, Solomon rebuts the objections made to Pope's "philosophy" in a series of chapters demonstrating more appropriate strategies for interpreting Pope's persona, tone, methodology, argument, and figurality. Cumulatively the chapters characterize a discourse work of "middle-state" Academic Skepticism that Pope shared with his admirers. Although the characterization of Pope's discourse world in The Rape of the Text has implications for Pope and for 18th-century scholarship beyond the Essay on Man, it also has implications for reading all philosophical poetry. Solomon contends that criticism of the Essay on Man is only an extreme example of the deformation that occurs routinely when literary critics or philosopher interpret philosophical poetry, and in the final chapter he calls for a "naturalization" of philosophical poetry as a genre as the necessary remedy to our present willful blindness.
What people are saying - Write a review
We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.
Academic discourse Academic skepticism aesthetic Alexander Pope allusion argues argument asserts Bayle Blackmore Blackmore's Bolingbroke Butler characterizes Charron Christian Cicero commentary concludes constative contemporaries contrast Creation critics Crousaz Crousazian deconstruction dialect dichotomy discourse worlds Divine dogmatic doubt Dryden edition eighteenth-century Elwin epistemological Epistle ethical genre Harold Bloom Heraclitus human Hume Hume's ideas inconsistency intellectual interpretation intertextual irony John Johnson Johnson's Crousaz Joseph Butler Joseph Warton judgment Kant knowledge Leibniz literary Locke logical logocentric London Lucretius Maynard Mack maze metaphysical mind misreading Montaigne moral nature Newton Nuttall objective Oxford paradox Pascal Passion Pattison perspective philosophical philosophical poem philosophical poetry Plutarch poet poetic Pope's Essay Pope's metaphor Pope's poem Pope's text praise presumption Pyrrhonian Pyrrhonism rational readers reason Robert Dodsley Rousseau says Sherlock Socrates Stanley steering betwixt Stoic theodicy theology things tion translation truth University Press univocal verse verse paragraph vindicate Voltaire Warburton Warton William Wisdom writes