Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Tuesday, 7 June 2005

"The mirror and the lamp" by M.H. Abrams

I should read more books like this one. On p.6 as a very rough framework he points out that the Work can be situated in relation to the Universe, the Artist and the Audience, with some theories leaning heavily towards a single factor.

  • Mimetic theories for example, consider the Universe perspective. If words are considered as a copy of the world, which is in turn only a semblance of Platonic Ideas, then poems are pretty shabby, but if one thinks of words as trying directly to invoke Ideas, then poems aren't so bad.
  • If it's thought that poems should aim to please or educate readers, then the audience perspective dominates
  • If the poet is viewed as a shaper or seer, then the Artist takes prime position in the theory, though the poet may claim to be seeing a deeper reality (i.e. copying Platonic Ideas). This aligns with the Romantic viewpoint.

There's also a strand of development leading from Aristotle's notion of unity to Coleridge's Organicism, where the poet's life-force holds potentially conflicting concepts in harmony using Imagination rather than Fancy - another Artist-based idea. The type of theory correspondingly affects the type of criticism: mimesis leads to assessment of truth; reader-based work leads to assessment of morality; artist-based work leads to assessment of sincerity.

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