This essay explores the conceptions of the classic, and of literary value more generally, in T. S. Eliot's “What Is a Classic?” and Matthew Arnold's “Study of Poetry.” Eliot's address heavily depends on Arnold's study, but there are significant points of difference, especially when it comes to the question of Homer and Virgil. Fundamentally, though, both Arnold and Eliot reach toward a transcendental, even religious, view of the classic. The essay concludes by developing the implications of Eliot's “last poet” and the silencing qualities of the classic hinted at in his address. These qualities have not been sufficiently understood, but taking them seriously shows why the current defense of the classic is dubious.

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