In Alexander Pope's "An Essay on Criticism," isolate the major critical points relevant to the analysis of a literary text.

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Alexander Pope's poetic essay "An Essay on Criticism," Pope makes points about the personal qualities needed by a critic and about the rightful points of critical judgment. First, Pope claims that a critic must know her/is limitations and abilities; possess good taste and judgment; know Nature which is loosely defined by Pope as the elemental forces that inspire and bestows poetic gifts and understanding on poet and critic alike; find the rules of poetry from within the success of ancient poets rather than devise arbitrary rules to superimpose on to poet efforts; be intelligent , knowledgeable (:drink deep") and of good character.

The elements for sound critical judgment Pope describes as being: judge by the whole and not the parts, not the "lip, or eye" or “by a love to parts” but by the whole; judge on the writer's intent and purpose not on what he failed to achieve if he never sought to achieve it; confine not judgment to the outer decorations of poetry. such as conceits, metaphor, images; don't praise style and language that has no valuable content (we might add don't praise content that has no style and no mastery of language); meter in poems may be roughly and imperfectly worked or smoothly and uniformly worked for each is fitted to a particular need; don't judge according to fashionable trends or special interest groups; don't judge by personal preferences, envy or personal motives; expose unworthy elements in poetry like obscenity, dullness, immodesty (this criterion is no longer noticed).