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A Philosophy of Poetry: Bm~ed on Thomistic Principles. By Rev. JoHN DuFFY, C. SS. R. The Catholic University Press. Washington, D. C. 1945. pp. 258 with bibliography and index. Because the question what a poem is or why and how it is made is prior to the question whether this poem at hand is a good one, the practice of poetic criticism rests ultimately on some opinion as to the nature and purpose of poetry. The philosophy of poetry, then, assumes the position of a foundation for criticism and a standard for literary judgment. As one's philosophy goes, so will follow criticism. This is indicated clearly by contemporary confusion in literary matters. The same poetry is variously evaluated by the Marxists, the liberals, the sociologists, the classicists, the purists and the modernists. Only a divergence in philosophy can explain this variety of opinion. Catholic criticism, though it clings to several general principles, is perplexed and at odds with itself. The diversity of Catholic opinions of the work of Waugh, Eliot, Joyce, Farrell, Kilmer, indeed the whole literary field, serves only to point up the necessity for some examination into the foundations of literary expression, its purpose, its nature, and its creation. This task is the one undertaken by Father Duffy in this book. There has been little done to help him. Aristotle, in the Poetics, has stood as the master in the tradition for twenty-two centuries. When St. Thomas wrote he conceded the question of poetics settled by Aristotle, at least in its principles. Because there was little poetry in that time that needed analysis the problem scarcely vexed him or his contemporaries. \Vith the Renaissance, however, the humanities and the literary arts flourished. But at that time theologians were too busy defending the faith against the errors of the humanists to write philosophical tracts on the nature of the humanist art. Cardinal Cajctan's debate with Pico della Mirandola is an indication of the opposition that existed between the two schools. Contemporary Thomism has produced little on the philosophy of literature. The foundations of philosophy, the problem of knowledge, the relations between reason and faith, and lately between science and philosophy , have successively taken the attention of philosophers. Poetry, literature, and music have only recently been examined and studied. Further Duffy's dissertation on poetry is the largest and most complete treatment on the subject to be presented from a Thomistic viewpoint. The book, then, is welcome. As a contribution of real speculative effort, in an attempt to apply Thomistic principles to a painfully pressing modern 588 BOOK REVmW 589 problem, it merits a wide reception and discussion. To the writer and the faculty that guig the imitation, or the tool or chair. Thus an understanding of Aristotle's teaching would have completed Fr. Duffy's opinion, and given it an aspect of reality. His observation, furthermore, that the aYcrage artist operates with plensure as an end is Aristotelian, and bears out the high consonance of the Poetics with contemporary poetry. But the pleasure the poet aims at causing is the pleasure caused by the creation and experience of an imitation, and not of beauty or a beautiful artefact. In a word, then, Fr. Duffy developed his dissertation by interpreting the problem of poetry in terms of beauty; and because of this structure he failed to penetrate the nature of poetry. As a result, also, he has misconcciYed the form of poetry, its ends, and the cause of poetic delight. Choosing "beautiful artefact" as the genus of his definition of poetry, Fr. Duffy failed to attain the real genus: delightful imitation. And having failed to teach the doctrine of imitation he necessarily departed from the traditional teaching on the questions of the delight, and the effect and purpose, of poetic knowledge. He lwei special difficulty, moreover, in interpreting several texts of St. Thomas in the light of his own analysis, BOOK RJ

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 588-597
Launched on MUSE
2017-06-15
Open Access
No
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