A little learning is dangerous essay

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A little learning is dangerous essay

An Overview Alexander Pope's Essay on Criticism is an ambitious work of art written in heroic couplet. Published inthis poetic essay was a venture to identify and define his own role as a poet and a critic. He strongly puts his ideas on the ongoing question of if poetry should be natural or written as per the predetermined artificial rules set by the classical poets.

Alexander Pope This essay by Pope is neoclassical in its premises; in the tradition of Horace and Boileau. Pope believes that the value of literary work depends not on its being ancient or modern, but on its being true to Nature. This truth to Nature is found in true wit.

Nature is to be found both in the matter and in the manner of expression, the two being inseparable. The truth of human nature is to be found in common humanity, not in any eccentricity.

Pope argued that human nature is ever the same. He does not negate the possibility of transgressing the rules if the basic aim of poetry is achieved and this transgression brings hope closer to the idea of the sublime.

Clearly, the poet must have a strong sense of literary tradition in order to make intelligent judgments as the critic must have it too. Pope says an artist imitates the nature. Classical artist already discovers the natural rules and laws.

Now, it is not necessary to go to nature again because to follow the classical artist is to go to the nature. So, sources of art are society and ancient artists.

Pope claims that artists possess genius whereas critics possess taste classical taste developed by classical artist.

Types of Couplets

By taking the ideas of classical artists, a critic has to judge the text. He should not be over ambitious and over imaginative but critics can go beyond their intention. Artist has to undergo practice, learning and experiences. Which are equally important to critics too.


So, critic must not be proud. To be good critic, one should have courage, modesty and honesty. Decorum, for Pope, is the proper balance between expression and sound of content and form and it comes under versification. Pope considers wit as the polished and decorated form of language. Style and thought should go together.

Pope implies that if the artist needs to break rules and regulation, he should use poetic license.'A little knowledge is a dangerous thing' and 'a little learning is a dangerous thing' have been used synonymously since the 18th century.

The 'little learning' version . too much knowledge is a dangerous thing Our age is the age of information and quickly developing technologies, for modern people knowledge is a necessity to survive in this world.

Every day people acquire more and more new knowledge. “A little learning is a dangerous thing. Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring; There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again.”. An Essay on Criticism was famously and fiercely attacked by John Dennis, who is mentioned mockingly in the work.

Consequently, Dennis also appears in Pope's later satire, The Dunciad. Part II of An Essay on Criticism includes a famous couplet: A little learning .

Look at other dictionaries: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing — The Pierian spring in quot.

An idiomatic essay on “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”

refers to the classical tradition that the Muses were born in the Pieria region of northern Greece. The original learning is also used instead of knowledge.

A little learning is dangerous essay

POPE Essay on Criticism 1. A little Learning . A little knowledge is a dangerous thing means that though one may know something, one does not know what one doesn’t know, and you will make faulty decisions based on a the three data points when one should make a decision based on twenty.

An Essay on Criticism - Wikipedia