Christ and Apollo: The Dimensions of the Literary Imagination

Christ and Apollo: The Dimensions of the Literary Imagination

Christ and Apollo: The Dimensions of the Literary Imagination

Christ and Apollo: The Dimensions of the Literary Imagination

Excerpt

In writing this book I have been guided by the general assumption that any effort to keep literature in its rightful relation with the human and the real is a service, no matter how meagre, to the truth and to civilization. Every effort to combat the view which makes literature an esoteric and isolated phenomenon in human history is a service to literature itself. This is especially important in the case of those younger people who stand on the first brink of a literary training. They are simply not attracted if and when we tell them that literature is literature and nothing else, that it stands on its own inward feet as a new reality over against every other reality, that it is absolutely autonomous, that the imagination is a special and isolated faculty of man meant to put a relatively few in touch with a special and isolated field of reality.

It would really be quite difficult to count the number of forms of aesthetic theory or of actual criticism which thus give literature a basically strange character. I can only suggest a few in a single paragraph. There is the theory that the literary imagination is absolutely "creative" and productive of altogether new and selfcontained realities. There is another which says that if the world is pretty bad the imagination can supply a better substitute. Or literature is a Platonic tool (poor Plato) which puts us in touch with absolutes. Or it is a religion, and the writer a new high-priest who alone can put us in touch with the "sacred." Or we are told that the literary vision is made possible by achieving a "psychic distance" from the actual. Then there are all the non-cognitive theories of poetry which locate it in a world of sensibility without sense. Or there are the various equations of poetry with prayer, and of the artistic process with the inner life of the mystics. Far . . .

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