5 The Genius and the Prophet

And the Sibyl with raving mouth, uttering words solemn, unadorned, and unsweetened, reaches with her voice a thousand years because of the god in her.

HERACLITUS

The Genius as Irrational

Plato's deliverance of the poet from bondage to imitation and technique is couched in terminology which, through the connotations of the word "inspiration," suggests that the poet's frenzy is identical with madness. Indeed, invention is a condition for poetry and for this the poet must be ". . . out of his senses and the mind no longer in him." The historical notion of poetic inspiration is closely associated with Plato's statement. Elaborations of the assertions that poets do not speak by any rules of art and that "God takes away [their] minds, and uses them as his ministers, as he also uses diviners and holy prophets, in order that we who hear them may know them to be speaking not of themselves who utter these priceless words in a state of unconsciousness, but that God himself is the speaker,"1. have appeared to be poetic metaphor. It is startling, consequently, to note that so rationalist a philosopher as Aristotle not only offers "a strain of madness" as the alternative explanation of poetry to "a happy gift of nature" (in which case a man is "lifted out of his proper self"),2. but that in Problems, the Stagarite speculates upon the close relation between insanity and genius.3

It is necessary here neither to suggest the close relation of

____________________
1
Ion534, trans. B. Jowett
2
Poetics XVII
3
Op. cit., XXX.I. "Why . . ." he asks, "are all men who are outstanding in philosophy, poetry or the arts, melancholic?" Most of those who have handled poetry, he asserts, have suffered from "black bile."

-153-

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The Artist as Creator
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iv
  • Preface vii
  • Contents xi
  • I - The Great Analogy"" 1
  • 1 - Creativity and Freedom 3
  • 2 - The Great Analogy"" 63
  • 3 - The Ugly 84
  • 4 - The Genius 125
  • 5 - The Genius and the Prophet 153
  • 6 - Genius, Its Philosophical Signifi­ Cance: The Sublime and the Beautiful 177
  • II - The Structure of Art and Fine Art 211
  • 7 - The Structure of the Work of Art 213
  • 8 - Structure and the Judgment of Art: Concrete Significant Form and the Free­ Dom of Making 241
  • 9 - The Aesthetic Relation of the Arts: 270
  • 10 281
  • 11 - The Structure of Fine Art: 292
  • 12 - Conclusion: The Freedom Of The Fine Artist 328
  • Bibliography 331
  • Index 345
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