‘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.

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

This is the The This theme things


Some reactions to The This: Brian Cregg admires, but does not love, the novel. A more expansive (though of course not necessarily more accurate) response to the novel from Alan Jacobs, here. Goodreads is currently running at 4.5 out of 5, Buzzmag seems to like the book (or have I misunderstood?) and there are various other online responses, amazon reviews and so on.

And here is the estimable Phil Christman, praising with reservations The This (and talking a little about my other books too).

Roberts’s more recent books have taken an apocalyptic turn. He wrote a nonfiction study of apocalyptic media that just came out in November ... last year’s Purgatory Mount was apocalyptic, too—an attempt to guess where this will all end. Both it and The This gave me actual nightmares. (They also have one obvious technical flaw: his American characters sound a little too British. Something about the rhythm is off. It’s not that we never end sentences with an interrogative “, yeah?”, but we don’t do it very often, IME.) ... Roberts is kind of an anomaly: He is so smart, interesting, and productive that remembering he exists in this aggressively stupid mediascape always gives my mood a lift, but his books are so vivid in their depictions of suffering that I always get a little depressed when I read them. He’s not, I want to stress, a “grimdark” science fiction writer: his work is as powerful as it is because he sympathizes very much with people who are weak, imperfect, limited, and well-meaning, and he hates to see them lose everything, as, in this world, they inevitably do. Grimdark writers revel in reminding you that this is the case; they scorn you for ever forgetting it.
Sorry for the nightmares, Phil: that's unconscionable of me.  

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