Literature and Education: Recalling Matthew Arnold

Martha Moore Crowley

Literature and Education: Recalling Matthew Arnold
Crowley, Martha Moore
Thesis Advisor(s):
Hansen, David
Ph.D., Teachers College
Philosophy and Education
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In a democracy, every individual is thought to have the potential to achieve what Matthew Arnold considers the supreme characteristic of intellectual freedom, "the intellectual maturity of man himself; the tendency to observe facts with a critical spirit; to search for their law, not to wander among them at random; to judge by the rule of reason, not by the impulse of prejudice or caprice" (The Complete Prose Works of Matthew Arnold, Vol. 1, p. 21). But Arnold finds a critical opposition between man's instinctive efforts to develop "fully and freely" and the economic forces of the industrial culture of modern democracies, consumed with work and wealth accumulation. He maintains that in the aesthetic experience of literature we behold the being we are capable of. First in his poetry, and later in his critical prose, Arnold confronts the malaise of modernity and the spiritual fragmentation at the heart of contemporary literature. The hope for his project for education is that it can free us to find new critical consciousness and recover the moral authority of aesthetic judgment. In this study I try to explicate Arnold's conviction that collapsing the duality of literature and science expands our knowledge of the world and that cultivating humanity through the experience of ideas in literature affirms the integrity of the individual and reconciles his or her relation to nature and the human community. The aim of this work is twofold. First it recasts Arnold's uncertain legacy among philosophers of education in the perspective of philosophy as a way of life. I hope it also invites further inquiry into his synthesis of intellect and imagination in the aesthetic phenomenon and its capacity to critique conditions of existence.
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Suggested Citation:
Martha Moore Crowley, , Literature and Education: Recalling Matthew Arnold, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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