In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

198Philosophy and Literature Blake and Goethe: Psychology, Ontology, Imagination, by Martin Bidney; xvi & 184 pp. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1988, $24.00. Goethe and Blake are two of the greatest mythographers and poets in the history ofWestern literature. To stand them side-by-side, as Martin Bidney has done, is to see them almost as one. Historical contemporaneity notwithstanding, Blake mentions Goethe's Werther only in passing, while for Goethe Blake might never have existed. Bidney, despite adducing significant overlap of afflatus, remains nonplussed. I suspect that each had litde to offer which the other did not already possess to a preeminent degree. Whither does the spirit move, and what coordinates does it inhabit to effect its inscrutable purpose? The highest work ofthe imagination is like a palimpsest, reading various ways, but the slightest turn of the hand brings forth the watermark of its true excellence. Bidney holds the script with steadiness, but one wonders if, without turning it according to the path of its own light, he is able to see it whole. But before I proceed, I would stress the book's intelligence, even though it falls in the end back upon the charm of its own mythologies. Bloom's dread ofthe antecedent totters hereabouts, aided by the unassimilability of the imagination. The central thesis locates impulses of creative contrariety that inform the poets' works; and bedding two such strong and idiosyncratic streams are prosodie and mythopoetic affinities that resonate in the innovative "great odes" of Goethe and in Blake's "lyrical prophecies." "The failure to notice these parallels," Bidney observes, "must be considered a major oversight in the literary history of Romanticism" (p. 23). Self-affirmation, crucial for both poets, is seen metaphorically as a centripetal movement of contraction, and self-transcendence as a centrifugal motion of expansion. The rhythmical alternation between these two generates what Goethe calls "the authentic pulse of life." The book largely devotes itself to the problematics of imaginative becoming generated by this pulse. Both great writers shared not only certain myths, but also the magnitude ofstruggle: along with reason comes what Bidney calls "the gradually increasing tyranny of Order, as it seeks, with growing desperation, to negate its legitimate contrary, Energy" (p. 51). The balance maintained between the two gives rise eventually to formidable powers responsible for the creation, say, of the Holy Quaternities in both poets' work whose outstanding trait is "intensity of focused energy" (p. 101). This, in Bidney's view, makes both men "pioneering mental cartographers" (p. 101). Klages was, of course, the first who astutely remarked that Goethe was indeed the true discoverer of the unconscious—never remaining confined, though, as Freud was, by the Acheron, but reaching for Heaven. Bidney's study is valuable in bringing two of the greatest poetical thinkers Reviews199 of all time into inseparable twinship. There are moments of overreductiveness, and an avoidance of the parlance which in the past served an understanding of ontological issues. For Blake, if we take his word, every action was symbolic, a word eschewed in this study, along with a sense for what the Germans call Gemüt, equivalent to ingenium. Without the symbolon and the ceaseless striving of the soul, compacted in Gemüt, both Goethe and Blake's worlds, I fear, lack the momentum to spin them into an orbit accessible to philosopher and poet alike. University of QueenslandWalter Tonetto The State ofthe Art, by Arthur C. Danto; ? & 228 pp. New York: Prentice Hall, 1987, $19.95. Arthur Danto many years ago abandoned art for philosophy. In moving from the studio to the university, Danto's career follows die Hegelian trajectory by which art comes to its end by turning into philosophy. Given his personal allegiance to the Hegelian conception of history, it is thus ironic to find Danto progressively reverting to the subject of art. The State ofthe Art is Danto's third book devoted to art. But it is his first foray into criticism. This excursion began in 1984 when the author, who isJohnsonian Professor of Philosophy at Columbia University, accepted an assignment as art critic for The Nation. TL· State oftL· Art collects the author's first two seasons in this occupation. With...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 198-199
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.