‘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.

Friday 27 February 2015

Concept of the Avant-Garde

More 'contra the avant garde' than anything else. A couple of quotations:

'If I had to establish a hierarchy of mystery, I would say that imagination is more mysterious than reason, but reason much more mysterious than unreason.'

'Even though we live in the flux of history and have no fixed and clear basis for our moral and aesthetic assumptions, I still cannot feel that they are arbitrary, and if they are not arbitrary they have to be treated as mysteries, which we can go on trying to understand. Perhaps they correspond to something that might be called evolving human nature and that we might accept as a sort of open-ended working hypothesis. And if all time is equal, there is no more need to rush impetuously into the future than there is to cling stupidly to the past; in any case we can only live in the present by borrowing from the past; we are the past which is living in the present. Indeed, the evolutionary view makes partisan attachment to any one segment of time rather vulgar. In short, although the universe may appear to be meaningless, I don't see why we should try to imitate this apparent meaninglessness in art or in thought, or try to palliate it by methods which fail to satisfy all our faculties.'

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