Pope's Poems and Prose

Homer and the Influence of Material Excess in Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” and “The Dunciad” College

‘From Pope’s perspective as satirist’, writes Michael Seidel, ‘London is stuffed with the bodies of dunces and awash in printer’s ink’, hitting upon the early 18th century’s proliferation of print culture and its wider implications that Pope was so interested in. This proliferation manifests itself in multifarious ways in his satires The Rape of the Lock [1712] and The Dunciad [published and revised in 1728, 1729, 1742 and 1743] in which material culture saturates and overwhelms both poems. Both texts also share their roots in Homer’s Iliad, a choice which elides in some ways with the saturation of material culture, as the ‘epic’ by its very nature is concerned with grandeur, prizes, and trophies. Although some critics have perceived Pope’s satires as mocking works, outrageous parodies of sincere matter, in this essay I will discuss his use of Homer’s work as a framing and comparative device to ridicule his contemporary material culture as petty and illusory, during an age which was just beginning to develop self-awareness about its legacy and place in history as well as the world, in literary debates about newness vs returning to classical antiquity, and the emerging perception of England as a mercantile capital of the world....

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