Literary Criticism Of Horace & Longinus

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Quintus Horatius Flaccus or better known by the name Horace is a world famous poet and critic who uses the Latin language. He is the leading Roman poet in ancient Roman times. Horace is famous for his insinuations in the form of criticism poured through the poems he made.

Horace who was born on December 8, 65 BC is actually not too familiar with the world of literature since childhood. The first literary work he produced at school was Odyssia of Livius Andronicus in the form of poetry which tells of a child who was abused by his teacher. Then as a teenager Horace left Rome to continue his formal education in Athens which made him familiar with ancient Greek poetry. But unfortunately at that time there was a crisis that forced him to return to Italy to become an army following the defeat of Julius Caesar. In the midst of his military education, Horace apparently still had time to write some poetry that illustrates how hard the battles that occurred including the Battle of Philippi.

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After the war ended, Horace returned to his native land and found that his family went bankrupt after his father’s death. So in order to make a living Horace explored the world of art and became a poet. From then on he began writing Satires and Epodes.

Epodes itself is a poem that tells about the social conditions of Rome which experienced destruction due to looting and corruption and competition between Julius Caesar, Mark Antony and Sextus Pompey. Then in a row he issued works like hexameter poems in the form of Sermones and Epistles. Contrary to Epodes, hexameters are lighter and funnier.

According to some observers of poetry, Horace’s work has a common thread that criticizes the occupation, the regime of the rulers, and how to maintain independence. John Dryden, a famous literary critic, said that Horace himself was a well-mannered court slave.

One of Horoce’s worldwide works, ‘Ars Poetica’ (‘The Art of Poetry’ or ‘About the Nature of Poetry’), is sometimes known by its original title, ‘Epistula Ad Pisones’ (‘Letters to the Pisos’), is a treatise or essay literature published around 18 or 19 BC.


Longinus was the first romantic critic. He is a pioneer in the field of literary appreciation. ‘On the Sublime’ is his first and unique work on style. The recipe for greatness is universal. He was the first European critic to emphasize the importance of style. He uses historical and comparative methods in literary criticism.

He asked very different questions about literature from those asked by Plato and Aristotle. He constantly sees poetry in relation to the author and the author’s time. He makes use of comments that provoke historical thought and thought.

Longinus thought in making or criticizing a work is always free from prejudice and has a permanent or universal meaning. He is concerned with emotions, imagination and the beauty of words. He later became a pioneer in the field of aesthetic appreciation. According to him, the literary function is not didactic, but aesthetic. That’s why other critics call him the first romantic critic.

He is a romantic critic because he believes in the romantic function of literature and discards the moral function of literature. But he joined romanticism with classicism. On the one hand, there is something important for emotions, on the other hand, there is something important for greatness.

Longinus is an angry temper. For him literature is not a mechanical work but something from the spirit of imagination, feelings and the gift of communication. Again and again he directed attention from the technical side to the more illusive and spiritual side of literature. He emphasizes passion, ecstasy, beauty, transportation, imagination, intensity, inspiration, exaltation, subjectivity and emotions. His love of beauty, art, for violating ancient rules made him a romantic critic. He is the one who sowed the seeds of romance. He can be called a pioneer in the field of aesthetic appreciation of literature. It’s no exaggeration to call him grandfather of romanticism. So Scott James was right when he said that he was the first person to elaborate on the doctrine on which romanticism was based.

The polemic regarding the existence and essence of literature in the vortex of science has begun since the time of classical Greek scientists (Greco-Roman period) Plato, Aristotle, Horace and Longinus. In the book Classical Literary Criticism (1965), describes the differences in the views of these classical thinkers about how to put literature in the right place according to the view at that time.

Plato considered that literary works were only an artificial world, so what was reflected in them was the result of imitation of the world and human life. Plato doubts the perfection of that imitation, because according to him:

‘The production of the poets (and artists) are therefore imitations of imperfect copies of an ideal life, they are third-hand and unreal, and can teach nothing of value about life’

As a result of his doubts about the accuracy of this imitation, Plato then requires that a good literary work is ‘must describe the truth’. Although Plato’s views sounded very pessimistic to produce a picture of the truth, his view of literature as a mock world then gave birth to theories and literary criticism in mimetic orientation. This theory and criticism later became the forerunner to the birth of modern literary realism theories and developed to become more complex.

Aristotle criticized Plato’s view as if it underestimated literature as a result of imitation. In Poetics’s book, Aristotle considers that although literature is only a real-world record, it is carefully changed and only certain humans are able to do it. He said that ‘poetry is something more philosophical and more worthy of serious attention than history. This view of Aristotle gave birth to expressive criticism that emphasizes the relationship of literature with the author. This view was then continued and developed by romantic critics from the 18th century to the present.

Continuing the views of Plato and Aristotle, Horace in Ars Poetica’s work sees the importance of the audience as connoisseurs of literature. According to him, the audience gets effects from the aesthetic of literature, so that its existence is also important in the circle of literary production. He said that ‘the inventiveness which produces fictions is designed to give pleasure’. Horace’s view then becomes the forerunner to the emergence of pragmatic criticism that emphasizes the reader. Pragmatic criticism views literature as something that is built to achieve certain effects on the reader in the form of pleasure effects, educational teachings, and other effects. This criticism then developed until now, especially in the theories of act of reading.

The name Longinus later emerged through his famous treatise entitled On The Sublime. Sublime in the sense of Longinus is ‘an outstanding and unusual exaltation of conception and style’ (Dorsch, 1965: 24) which refers to the greatness of expression and uniqueness that has made the author gain fame that never dies. This Longinus thought gave birth to objective literary criticism which focused on the literary work itself. According to this criticism, literary works are intact objects that are self sufficient (autonomous), so they do not have to be approached or linked to outside issues, such as politics, social, and others. This criticism echoed in the 1920s in the criticism of the Chicago School, Russian Formalism, Prague Structuralism, and American New Criticism.

These four thoughts directly influence the process of production and literary criticism not only in the western world but also in Indonesia. Although later it was realized that these four thoughts had their own emphasis and could not be seen as one right opinion and the other wrong. Nor can one view that is obsolete while the other view is new. In practice, the four always mixed around the process of production and literary criticism throughout the ages which Abrams called the orientation of literary criticism (Abrams, 1979). Universe, author, reader, and literary works are literary elements that influence each other and criticism can be focused on one of these elements, depending on each point of view.


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