The form of Pope’s Essay on Criticism is an example of the “hybrid” nature of this class. The work is both a poem and an essay: a series of couplets aiming to revise and question the methods of literary critics. I found the aesthetics of the poem very interesting—many words are capitalized and italicized throughout the work, indicating an emphasis on their importance and meaning. There does not appear to be a specific pattern for when Pope does this. In some lines in the poem, the emphasized words are opposites of one another (“some few in that, but Numbers err in this,” “false Learning is good sense,” “so vast is Art, so narrow Human Wit”), but in other parts, the words complement one another (“Kings/Conquests, Science/Genius, Man and Wife, Doctor’s Bills/Doctor’s Part). This contradiction makes the poem difficult to decode. These contradictions might mirror Pope’s critique of critiques: the critiques are proceeding in a manner that Pope feels opposes the correct methods of criticism.
Edmund Burke’s On Taste explores the nature of Taste and how it functions in the world. He argues that there is a universal standard of taste, a function of judgment and perception. I find it interesting that that he suggests there is good taste and bad taste—I imagine some people have found the implication that some people are “better” at tasting than others offensive, but I found it to be interesting, and a supposition based on the culture and perceptions at the time. The division of taste into three parts (sense, imagination, and judgment) allows Burke to expand his claim even further. He claims that other senses too can be understood in the same way as Taste—he suggests that no one could think a goose is more beautiful than a swan. If they did, they must be crazy. I disagree with this. Preferences and perceptions are subjective; there is generally not a hierarchy among them. If someone thinks a goose is more beautiful than a swan, they are not crazy, but rather, have different (not better or worse) perceptions and preferences than someone else who disagrees. But, there are some hierarchies that seem to exist among preferences. Gourmet food made at an expensive restaurant might be valued more than a convenience store-bought beef jerky. A child that doesn’t use drugs or get into trouble at school is thought of as a “good” child, and the latter is thought of as a “bad” child. The taste of plain Crisco is generally inferior to that of a warm cookie. But, there are still some people that could disagree with these claims.