J. Dover Wilson (essay date 1955)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Wilson, J. Dover. “Editor's Introduction.” In Landmarks in the History of Education: Culture and Anarchy, edited by J. Dover Wilson, 1932. Reprint, pp. xi-xl. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1955.

[In the following introduction, Wilson considers the development and background of Culture and Anarchy.]

Matthew Arnold holds a position in the history of modern English civilisation which it requires an unusual combination of qualities and interests to appreciate. As a poet and a critic he was the most considerable literary figure of the mid-Victorian period; for though his poetry ranks third after that of Browning and Tennyson, it is a good third, and...

(The entire section is 9943 words.)

William E. Buckler (essay date 1983)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Buckler, William E. “Facing the Enemy Within: An Examination of the Moralist Mythos in Culture and Anarchy.” In Matthew Arnold's Prose: Three Essays in Literary Enlargement, pp. 67-112. New York: AMS Press, Inc., 1983.

[In the following essay, Buckler analyzes Arnold's role as a critical moralist, focusing on the high standard that the author set for himself and the society in which he lived.]

In the “Introduction” to Culture and Anarchy,1 Matthew Arnold said that, in his opinion, “the speech most proper, at present, for a man of culture to make to a body of his fellow-countrymen … is Socrates': Know thyself!” He...

(The entire section is 16586 words.)

Robert Alan Donovan (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Donovan, Robert Alan. “Mill, Arnold, and Scientific Humanism.” In Victorian Science and Victorian Values: Literary Perspectives, edited by James Paradis and Thomas Postlewait, pp. 181-96. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1985.

[In the following essay, Donovan compares Arnold's philosophy with that of John Stuart Mill, discussing Arnold's societal remedy of taking authority out of the hands of the state and placing it into the “hands of those who are able to transcend class spirit and prejudice.”]

In “Bentham” and “Coleridge,” two early essays long considered classics, John Stuart Mill defined the mental postures that, he thought,...

(The entire section is 6748 words.)

Ira B. Nadel (essay date winter 1988-89)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Nadel, Ira B. “Textual Criticism and Non-Fictional Prose: The Case of Matthew Arnold.” University of Toronto Quarterly 58, no. 2 (winter 1988-89): 263-74.

[In the following essay, Nadel discusses the usefulness of applying new critical approaches, such as sociology, historicity, and semiology, to Culture and Anarchy in order to enhance understanding of the text.]

We see threatenings of confusion, and we want a clue to some firm order and authority.

(Matthew Arnold, cancelled passage, Culture and Anarchy)

In 1983 Jerome McGann declared that ‘textual criticism is in the...

(The entire section is 4896 words.)

Richard D. Altick (essay date 1989)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Altick, Richard D. “The Comedy of Culture and Anarchy.” In Victorian Perspectives: Six Essays, edited by John Clubbe and Jerome Meckier, pp. 120-44. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1989.

[In the following essay, Altick examines Arnold's use of wit and satire in portraying the governors of Victorian society as enemies of the people.]

Banter, levity, raillery, superciliousness, badinage, facetiousness, playfulness: all these terms, as well as the less common ‘coxcombry’ and ‘vivacities’, have been used by Matthew Arnold's critics, contemporary and modern, to describe his comic manner in Culture and Anarchy. He himself spoke of it...

(The entire section is 10143 words.)

Wendell V. Harris (essay date March 1990)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Harris, Wendell V. “Interpretive Historicism: ‘Signs of the Times’ and Culture and Anarchy in Their Contexts.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 44, no. 4 (March 1990): 441-64.

[In the following essay, Harris compares Thomas Carlyle's “Signs of the Times” with Arnold's Culture and Anarchy, concluding that Arnold's societal solutions are much more radical.]

To adapt Northrop Frye's metaphor, Carlyle's stock has been steadily falling. To the contemporary reader his works are likely to look like mere rhetorical steam—at high pressure, but vaporous nonetheless—becoming substantial only when politically ominous. That Carlyle created the...

(The entire section is 8778 words.)

Steven Marcus (essay date summer 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Marcus, Steven. “Culture and Anarchy Today.” The Southern Review 29, no. 3 (summer 1993): 433-52.

[In the following essay, Marcus argues that Arnold's work, while powerful in its own time, is still applicable to the societal problems of today.]

Culture and Anarchy is one of the chief English books of the nineteenth century. It occupies a prominent place among the canonical Victorian works of cultural criticism—both of the words that go into this characterizing descriptive term being permanently associated with Matthew Arnold's intellectual and spiritual life's project. It is, moreover, an integral part of a tradition to which the principal writings...

(The entire section is 8413 words.)

Stefan Collini (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Collini, Stefan. Introduction to Matthew Arnold: Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings, edited by Stefan Collini, pp. ix-xxxiv. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

[In the following essay, Collini discusses the purpose and style of Culture and Anarchy, while also commenting on the lasting impact the work has had on the debate about the relationship between politics and culture.]

Matthew Arnold is not primarily read or remembered for his contribution to the history of what has come to be known as ‘political thought’, and at first sight it may seem surprising to find him in such company. ‘Literary critic’ is the label most readily applied...

(The entire section is 7186 words.)

John Gross (essay date July 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Gross, John. “Matthew Arnold and Us.” Commentary 98, no. 1 (July 1994): 38-42.

[In the following essay, Gross presents an overview of the critical response to Arnold's work and concludes that Culture and Anarchy remains relevant to readers in modern times.]

A hundred twenty-five years after it was first published, a new edition of Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy—the classic defense of high culture against the depredations of modernity—is still an event. This is a work that speaks to us directly, even intimately; a work that still sets a challenge. And yet a reader coming to Culture and Anarchy for the first time, knowing...

(The entire section is 3950 words.)

Maurice Cowling (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Cowling, Maurice. “One-and-a-Half Cheers for Matthew Arnold.” In Culture and Anarchy, edited by Samuel Lipman, pp. 202-12. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Cowling analyzes the intent of Culture and Anarchy and the difficulty of trying to translate the work into modern terms.]

In 1984 William Bennett, then chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and later President Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Education, published a pamphlet which implied that Matthew Arnold could be put to conservative use in American public discussion.1 What Bennett meant by this was not anything directly political, but that...

(The entire section is 4584 words.)

Samuel Lipman (essay date 1994)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Lipman, Samuel. “Why Should We Read Culture and Anarchy?” In Culture and Anarchy, edited by Samuel Lipman, pp. 213-27. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.

[In the following essay, Lipman comments on the importance of Culture and Anarchy as a seminal text in helping form a society that has abolished anarchy.]

This essay is written by way of both conclusion and introduction, though it may well be said that I am using each of these words in a curious way. It is a conclusion in the sense that I have attempted to summarize Arnold's views in his time, a time different, like all times past, from our own; it is an introduction in that I have...

(The entire section is 6531 words.)

Vincent P. Pecora (essay date spring 1998)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pecora, Vincent P. “Arnoldian Ethnology.” Victorian Studies 41, no. 3 (spring 1998): 355-79.

[In the following essay, Pecora considers various critical approaches to Culture and Anarchy, paying particular attention to Arnold's notion, or lack thereof, of race.]

In the light shed by current trends in “cultural studies,” Matthew Arnold's version of culture would seem to be precisely that which must be contested: a grand edifice housing only those Europeans responsible for what Culture and Anarchy (1869) calls “the best that has been thought and known in the world” (Arnold 5: 113), dead white males whose “desire after the things...

(The entire section is 10194 words.)

Linda Ray Pratt (essay date 2000)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Pratt, Linda Ray. “Culture against Anarchy.” In Matthew Arnold Revisited, pp. 94-120. New York: Twayne Publishers, 2000.

[In the following essay, Pratt traces the development of Arnold's philosophy in works written prior to Culture and Anarchy, commenting on the incorporation of these ideas into his most well-known work.]

Looking back on Arnold's career from the perspective of more than a century, the break between the poet and the critic appears more sharply defined than it really was. As the poetry waned, the critical essay bloomed, but the ideas and concerns that marked his later work grew out of themes that were lifelong interests. Poems such as...

(The entire section is 12304 words.)