Scepticism and Poetry: An Essay on the Poetic Imagination

Scepticism and Poetry: An Essay on the Poetic Imagination

Scepticism and Poetry: An Essay on the Poetic Imagination

Scepticism and Poetry: An Essay on the Poetic Imagination

Excerpt

In the following essay I have tried to set out a view of poetry which is by no means new, but of which I believe there is need of reiteration. This view is that a theory of poetry is primarily a theory of the imagination; that the imagination which is present in the making of poetry is present also in all our knowledge of the world; and that its operation in poetry cannot therefore be understood if considered apart from the activity of the imagination in knowledge. In order to express this view I have started from the writings of the critic who, for such a view, is the obvious point of departure—Coleridge; and in order to emphasize Coleridge's famous statement of the nature of the imagination, I have very briefly stated the essentials of Kant's theory of the imagination in perception. To go far and at any length into philosophical issues in an essay of this kind, which is primarily concerned with poetry, is hardly desirable or possible; but it is equally certain that philosophical matters cannot be wholly avoided if we are to frame an adequate theory of poetry. At the same time I have at every point written for the literary rather than the philosophical reader.

It is difficult in these days to reiterate a doctrine of the imagination as creative without coming into polemic with the associationist psychology which has become so fashionable, the psychology from which Coleridge emancipated himself before his famous passage on the imagination was written. I have therefore criticized the literary aesthetic of Mr. I.A.Richards, an aesthetic which, despite the wide popularity it has enjoyed, will not, I think, bear more than the most cursory inspection. Under the influence of such a psychology, Mr.Richards has sought to transfer interest from the theory of the imagination to a theory of the emotional and volitional response to poetry; and with the greatest respect to Mr.Richards, whose writings have done so much to renew the vitality of philosophical . . .

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