‘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.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Edmund Dulac and the Unerotic Banknote

Famous as an illustrator of children's stories, especially fairy tales, I was reminded of Edmund Dulac's work today when Francis Spufford blogged this lovely image: 'Princess in the Fields at Twilight'

I especially like the as-it-were visual pun between the princess's flowing red-gold hair (running away in the wind towards the top right), and the flowing silver of the stream at her feet, running off towards the bottom left. Indeed, the colour palate of the image is rather remarkable altogether. There's something moneyed about the world Dulac portrays: a lavishness that finds a sensual, even erotic sheen in the fineness of its surfaces.

Then browsing idly online, I discovered this Wikipedia factoid about the French-born, English-naturalised Dulac: after WWI the market for expensively illustrated children's book contracted sharply and he moved onto magazine work and designing stamps. Then: 'in the early 1940s Edmund Dulac also prepared a project for a Polish 20-zlotych note for the Bank of Poland (Bank Polski). This banknote (printed in England in 1942 but dated 1939) was ordered by the Polish Government in Exile and was never issued.' Not only did he design images of a moneyed world, he designed actual money! This intrigued me enough to want to track these banknote designs down, so here they are:

Well well. If I had more time (which I don't) I'd say something more about the visual aesthetic of the banknote, of which this striking but rather dour and charmless design is exemplary. Why would it be so counter-intuitive to talk about the erotics of banknote art, given the well-established libidinal dynamic of money as such? It's odd. It's certainly a long way from this:

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