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REVIEWS 107 To discuss Plato's personal morality is a waste of time: the worth of an argument does not depend on the worth of the arguer. The effect of all this attacking and defending is to distract attention from the reasoning with which Plato supports his views, and to emphasize the immediate emotional reaction to them. But those of us who study Plato use his works as a basis for argument, not as dogma. To counter argument with abuse or misinterpretation is not to defend one's opinion , but to admit that no defence is possible. If democracy can be defended by reasoning, if Plato's arguments can be matched by better , the enemies of Plato are no true friends of the institutions in which they claim to believe. The book under review is an excellent antidote, but one from which none but the poisoned can expect to benefit. THE POETIC PROCESS' MILLAR MACLuRE "A poem," says Professor Whalley, "is not first conceived and then expressed; a poem in the making discovers itself to the poet." This is that kind of oracular statement the truth of which depends on how one chooses to interpret it. Anyone who has ever written anything (even a review) will find it axiomatic in one sense, that no composition really exists until it is in process of becoming, that there is no blueprint for what is really made. So far as Professor Whalley reiterates this and related facts, supports them by elaborate quotation, and illuminates them by careful analysis, we may be grateful for his book. His distinction between the contemplative and the technical ways of mind, his definition of the artistic process as "at once an act of discovery and self-discovery ... an act of self-realization which at the same time makes the world more real" (p. II ), these are valuable ideas, the more so for being set forth with real feeling. In effect, he claims that poetry is a discovery of reality, not in tenns of abstract relations but in tenns of value; that it is neither self-expression nor impersonal diagram, but a prelogical revelation of the integral relationship between man the creator and "creation." This doctrine, elaborated in terms of the imagination, of symbolic language, of metaphor and myth, of music and rhythm, forms the basis of a quite impressive argument. Yet this existential theory of poetic creation seems to me at once narrow and pretentious. What are we to think of a philosopher-critic who, while affirming the unity of the arts, virtually excludes, by omis- *Poetic Process. By GEORGE WHALLEY. London: Routledge & Kcgan Paul Ltd. [Toronto: British Book Service (Canada) Ltd.], 1953. pp. xl, 256. $4.25. 108 UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY sion or negation, the epic and dramatic forms in favour of the lyric, and who assumes the priority of suffering over craftsmanship in the artist? Considered in this light, each work of art is a unique irreducible psychological event, "a poem is a poem is a poem" (p. 225) , and criticism is inevitably reduced to something very like an act of contrition . And even if we agree to disagree on these points, it is hard not to boggle at the claims Professor Whalley makes for art when he asserts that "only in art can eternal truth ever be expressed" (p. xxxi) or that "art claims to engage the whole person and to make the person whole" (p. 10); when he quotes with approval Herbert Read's analogy between the quality of poetry and a state of grace (p. 13), and concludes that only poetry can " 'body forth' reality and Being" (p. 224). One does not have to be either philistine or puritan to complain of this aesthetic deism. But the texture of this book is so dense that it is perhaps damaged by citation of proof texts, and besides Professor Whalley is under no obligation to convince me or anyone else. He says in his preface that an inquiry of this kind "marvellously sharpens the wits" of its author; I will add for him that it should do the same for his readers. BOOKS RECEIVED CAPONIORI, A. ROBERT. Time and Idea: The Theory of History in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 107-108
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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