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Eliot begins with the appearance of poetry criticism in the age of Dryden, when poetry became the province of an intellectual aristocracy rather than part of the mind and popular tradition of a whole people. Wordsworth and Coleridge, in their attempt to revolutionize the language of poetry at the end of the eighteenth century, made exaggerated claims for poetry and the poet, culminating in Shelley's assertion that "poets are the unacknowledged legislators of mankind." And, in the doubt and decaying moral definitions of the nineteenth century, Arnold transformed poetry into a surrogate for religion.
By studying poetry and criticism in the context of its time, Eliot suggests that we can learn what is permanent about the nature of poetry, and makes a powerful case for both its autonomy and its pluralism in this century.
2. Apology for the Countness of Pembroke
3. The Age of Dryden
4. Wordsworth and Coleridge
5. Shelley and Keats
6. Matthew Arnold
7. The Modern Mind