Citizen: An American Lyric
Considering Schiller and Arnold Through Claudia Rankine’s Citizen College
To consider the social function of art is to endeavor to contemplate a question that has haunted great literary critics since the Greek philosophers Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates. Two minds that both considered and offered explanations to this question in the 1700-1800’s were the German Friedrich Schiller and the English Matthew Arnold. Both Schiller and Arnold offer explanations that are heavily focused on presenting literature as the pinnacle and model of self and societal harmony. Schiller’s suppositions from Letters on the Aesthetic Education of Man argue that art is the medium through which humans can defy the fractious nature of specialized society by presenting literature as a mode of balance that interweaves society’s factions. Arnold’s arguments in “On Poetry” and “The Study of Poetry” suggests that poetry, itself, is of the utmost significance in the way it harmonizes human ideals above all other facets of study and consideration. Although Schiller’s and Arnold’s theorizations on the social nature of literature are intertwined in explaining the paramount value of literature in society, Arnold’s arguments suffer from exactly the fragmented systems Schiller warns against.
The second chapter of Claudia Rankine’s ...
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