Inspiration: Bacchus and the Cultural History of a Creation Myth

By John F. Moffitt | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION:
A PERSONIFICATION OF "INSPIRATION"

This book provides the reader with a detailed examination of the historical sources of, and evolving contexts for a certain idea deemed crucial to most praiseworthy modernist art-making.1 Of particular interest here is a global notion of creative "Inspiration." The reader perhaps needs to be forewarned that what follows here is largely unburdened by currently trendy, academic applications of "theory." Instead, and whenever these are available, I prefer to quote eyewitness reports, so allowing the modern reader to become a direct participant in the shifting historical experience of creative inspiration. However, given the chronological moment of conception for this particular investigation, at the portentous end of the second Christian Millennium, the reigning attitude is (naturally) "post-modernist." This mainly means that the reigning tone is "ironic," but specifically when dealing with the post-classical phenomena, especially those arising after the Romantic era, when the traditional meanings attached to terms like "artist" were radically altered, so leading to the coining of such wholly unprecedented terminology as "self-expression" and "alienation," among many others to be discussed here.

Inspiration was—and still is—commonly discussed as representing a uniquely privileged psychological condition accepted to be nearly obligatory in order to attain any measure of creative excellence in the Fine Arts. Our immediate task, often verging upon "deconstruction" of a highly esteemed "orthodox" modernist creation-myth, is to show how the idea is itself much older than most of its postmodernist celebrants would now probably guess. According to the original—Greco-Latin—terminology, one might arrive at this highly desirable creative condition of Inspiration specifically by means of ecstasy, transport, enthusiasm, or even intoxication. Along with the revival of classical letters in the Renaissance, the prestige and the ancient terminology of Inspiration was likewise resuscitated. Besides being

1 Funding for this investigation was generously provided by the H.M.S. Phake-
Potter Literary Foundation (http://www.xlibris.com/HMSPhakePotter.html).

-1-

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