The Rape of the Text deconstructs the history of criticism of ""An Essay on Man"" to account for, and to reverse, over 200 years of deformation and trivialization of Pope's text by literary critics, philosophers and historians of ideas. First published in 1733-34, ""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 is now largely unread or misread. In contrast, Harold Bloom described the ""Essay"" as a ""poetic disaster"" of ""absurd theodicy"". 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 world of ""middle-state"" academic sceptism 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 philosophers interpret philosophical poetry, and, in the final chapter, he calls for a ""naturalization"" of philosophical poetry as a genre as the necessary remedy to what he suggests is our present willful blindness.
Publisher: The University of Alabama Press
Number of pages: 248
Weight: 567 g
Dimensions: 230 x 160 x 25 mm
"Dr. Solomon employs the insights of contemporary criticism and theory to clear away 250 years of debris, and this process of clarification allows us to begin seeing An Essay on Man as if for the first time. A book that, without apologies, shows us how to read An Essay on Man and has also taught us something crucial about poetry." -David B. Morris