‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Jameson's Antinomies of Realism (2013)

Here's a quick index (for my own benefit, really) of the posts I wrote annotating my read-through of Jameson's latest book. Also: a link to my friend and colleague Bob Eaglestone's THES review. Bob liked it a lot. My initial bounce-off the book is less enthused than this, but it may grow on me as I ponder it.

One: chapters 1 and 2

Two: chapter 3 (Zola)

Three: chapter 4 (Tolstoy)

Four: chapters 5 ('Pérez Galdós'), 6 ('George Eliot') and 7 ('Realism and the Dissolution of Genre’)

Five: chapters 8-12

That's the lot. There's much here that is stimulating and even exciting; but much more than is clogged and obtuse and dreary. I wonder if the theory stuff Jameson is interested in ('affect', especially) isn't a fortiori a Romantic conceptual category, and mismatched rather to the post-Romantic, and in many cases deliberately anti-Romantic, 'realist' novels he's actually writing about? Perhaps that's a bold and brilliant interpretive strategy. Perhaps Jameson's just gets it wrong. Also: I felt I should have applauded the turn to SF at the book's end (for obvious reasons!). But actually it felt a bit meagre: as if Inception and Cloud Atlas is the best contemporary SF has to show for itself ...

It's left me in a rather sour mood; and since that's never the best state of mind in which to write a review I'll leave it a week or two before I start on that.

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