Kant and the Southern New Critics 9780292773141

An author’s true meaning has always been largely a matter of opinion among literary critics, even when only objective la

161 91 9MB

English Pages 126 Year 2014

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Kant and the Southern New Critics

Citation preview

Kant and the Southern New Critics


Kant and the Southern New Critics WILLIAM J. HANDY UNIVERSITY





Copyright © 1963 by the University of Texas Press Copyright © renewed 1991 First paperback printing, 2012 All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America Requests for permission to reproduce material from this work should be sent to:  Permissions   University of Texas Press   P.O. Box 7819   Austin, TX 78713-7819  http://utpress.utexas.edu/index.php/rp-form Library of Congress Catalog Number 63-16062 isbn 978-0-292-74110-2, paperback isbn 978-0-292-77314-1, library e-book isbn 978-0-292-77315-8, individual e-book Originally published with the assistance of a grant from the Ford Foundation under its program for the support of publications in the humanities and social sciences



PREFACE I T IS NOW GENERALLY ACCEPTED that such "new critics" or "formalists" as John Crowe Ransom, Cleanth Brooks, and Allen Tate have had a profound effect on the study of literature in our time. The main principles of their critical theory and practice were set forth more than twenty years ago in books like Brooks and Warren's Understanding Poetry (1938), Brooks' Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), Ransom's The World's Body (1938) and The New Criticism (1941), and Tate's Reason in Madness (1941). Since that time the way literature is studied in the universities has undergone decided changes. A poetry-reading course no longer means the assignment of enormous readings lists, with but cursory treatment of individual works in the lecture hall. Emphasis is no longer on the poet's life or even on the historical, social, and intellectual milieu surrounding his work. These are still regarded as important considerations, but the main emphasis in undergraduate poetry courses is on the poems themselves. Scholarship is still central to the professor of English, but scholarship has expanded to include criticism —especially the practice of poetry criticism. Here the influence of the formalists has been greatest. However, the study of fiction has not followed the same pattern. Courses in the novel still include massive reading



assignments. The works themselves still take a position subordinate to other scholarly interests: usually as documentation for an historical theme, "The Novel Since the Civil War"; or for a regional thesis, "The South in Modern Fiction"; or for a sociological theme, "The Proletarian Novel in America"; or for a philosophical one, "The Concept of Man in the Eighteenth Century Novel"; or for the tracing of intellectual patterns, "The Rise of Realism." Emphasis in such courses of study is characteristically on some principle which is seen as providing integration for the course; seldom in such studies is the work viewed as a unique presentation whose values and meanings can be realized only by regarding them as individual symbolic presentations, by seeking meaning within the forms employed in each instance. Yet in spite of the general agreement among scholars and critics that a closer attention to individual works represents a healthy direction for literary study, many have expressed misgivings. Formalist criticism, it is said, leads to an overpreoccupation with form and technique, to an undue concern with literary language and devices. Certainly the study of literature should not be centered in dissecting works for the purpose of isolating paradoxes and ironies, locating "tensions," or emphasizing "irrelevancies." Is not this, after all, merely a more exacting kind of art-for-art's-sake aestheticism? What, it is asked, is the ultimate significance of close textual analysis? Were it impossible to give satisfactory answers to these questions, were the practices of the Southern New Critics incapable of substantial justification, the revolution in criticism of the past twenty years could hardly have occurred with such resounding effect. Or having occurred, it scarcely could have persisted. The critical theory of John Crowe Ransom, and of his fol-



lowers Allen Tate and Cleanth Brooks, shows the direct influence of the Kantian generative idea. Each begins with an assumption which is the ground of his theory and practice —the assumption that the work of art is, from first to last, the celebration of man's qualitative experience. He knows that the task of distinguishing qualitative experience is an extremely difficult one; he must focus attention on an area of human experience which defies abstract symbolization, which can be adequately represented only in the nondiscursive symbols of the artist. To establish his critical principles he must force thinking to turn upon itself to reveal the fact of a cognition which can apprehend and organize into effective symbols that aspect of experience which is qualitative. His tools are the tools of the philosopher; the knowledge he draws upon is the knowledge of the epistemologist. He desires, as a man of letters, to express his literary theory as clearly and cogently as possible, and he deplores the abstruse, technical diction of philosophical aesthetics. But he realizes the necessity of it if his principles are to have a foundation substantial enough to withstand critical examination, and if they are to make a significant contribution to knowledge of literary theory. Although the basic assumption of this criticism is the uniqueness and particularity of qualitative experience, the Southern New Critic seldom begins the explanation of his theory at this point. Rather, he wishes to show how he arrived at the necessity of his assumption, a process which can be accomplished only negatively, by revealing the inadequacy of the logical concept to represent all aspects of human experience. He begins, in short, with an examination of the differences between scientific and poetic discourse. Once the limitation of scientific abstractions is established,



the formalist critic can demonstrate the real contribution of literary presentations of experience. Here his focus must be on "structural properties." He can explore the kind of "meaning" intended by the language of literature; he can investigate the ways this "meaning" in its particularity inheres in the language of literature. And by comparison with scientific knowledge he can show why he believes literature to be a form of knowledge, a necessary form if a full account of human experience is to be symbolically constructed. The analysis and interpretation of modern poetry, which has been carried on so successfully by the modern critics, is an implicit testimony to the growing awareness that a work of literary art must be regarded as a special employment of language and idea, but the application of these convictions to the criticism of fiction has scarcely begun. One has but to examine the major quarterlies of the last five years to realize that a new criticism of fiction is being sought. The danger is that such a criticism of fiction is often hasty and immature in its mechanical application of the close analytical method. If critical practice is to be something more than the superficial search for ambiguities, paradoxes, and Freudian implications, then criticism must proceed from the clear convictions that motivated the pioneers of philosophical criticism —John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Cleanth Brooks. In the search for a new criticism of fiction the first problem is to isolate the principles governing the new criticism of poetry. The search must be for something more than the discovery of a critical method; it must seek the convictions which underlie critical practice. W. J. H. The University of Texas

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I am grateful to the following journals for permission to reprint essays which they have published: Texas Studies in Literature and Language, the University of Houston Forum, and the Texas Quarterly.



1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Preface . . . . . . . Acknowledgments . . . . Science, Literature, and Modern Criticism The Ontological Theory of the Ransom Critics. The Formalists' Approach: A Re-evaluation. Imagination and Understanding: Contemporary Versions . . . . . . . Literature as Knowledge . . . . From Poetry to Fiction: Criticism through Structure . . . . . Bibliography . . . . Index . . . . . .

vii xi 3 19 31

45 61

77 95 99


Kant and the Southern New Critics But Hegel's thought is a special development of Kant's, and the fact is that I am obliged to think of Kant as my own mentor. Kant is closer to our critical feeling than Hegel is! So I shall talk of Kant's understanding of poetry. If I read Kant correctly, his is the more poetic soul, and the greater piety. I have come to think of him as the most radical and ultimate spokesman for poetry that we have had. JOHN CROWE RANSOM,

"The Concrete Universal'


chapter I

Science, Literature, and Modern Criticism

Poetry is not less serious than science nor less important; nor is is to be disparaged because it employs myths, for science employs myths too, only myths with another purpose and another relevance. CLEANTH BROOKS, "The Poet's Fancy"


To AN AGE USED Tο new and important discoveries and events, the recognition of what is probably the most significant discovery of modern philosophy has been gradual. This should not be surprising, for a philosophical dis-



covery may be a growing awareness rather than an immediate conclusion. It must make its appearance in concrete applications before its significance is recognized and acknowledged. The singular advance made by modern philosophy is one which currently is revolutionizing man's traditional view of what constitutes human knowledge. It is the insistence that the logical formulation of human experience is but one symbolic formulation and that other symbolic formulations are possible, those augmenting logical knowledge by symbolizing aspects of experience which logical abstraction is unable to represent. The writers who have done most to bring the full impact of this discovery in the theory of knowledge to modern consciousness are not supporters of some new form of mysticism or transcendentalism, although their convictions seem revolutionary enough. They are semanticists, scholars whose central interest is the study of the ways in which man formulates his experience symbolically—such theorists, for example, as Ernst Cassirer and his disciple, Susanne Langer. Indeed the modern discovery, according to Mrs. Langer, transcends any possible quarrel between schools. In her Philosophy in a New Key she writes: The study of symbol and meaning is a starting-point of philosophy, not a derivative from Cartesian, Humean, or Kantian premises; and the recognition of its fecundity and depth may be reached from various positions though it is a historical fact that the idealists reached it first, and have given us the most illuminating literature on non-discursive symbolisms—myth, ritual, and art.1 What Mrs. Langer means by a "new key" for the study of philosophy concerns the study of symbol and meaning. She 1

Susanne K. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, p. viii.



intends to show that there are fundamental differences in the symbols and symbolic formulations of science, art, and religion, and further, that each of these distinct kinds of symbol represents a distinct kind of meaning. The impact that this generative theme will have on the ways science, art, and religion will be regarded in the second half of the twentieth century is one of the important considerations for present-day scholarship. Concerning its growing significance for our age, Mrs. Langer says: And all at once, the edifice of human knowledge stands before us, not as a vast collection of sense reports, but as a structure of facts that are symbols and laws that are their meanings. A new philosophical theme has been set forth to a coming age: an epistemological theme, the comprehension of science. The power of symbolism is its cue, as the finality of sense data was the cue of a former epoch. In epistemology—really all that is left of a worn-out philosophical heritage—a new generative idea has dawned. Its power is hardly recognized yet, but if we look at the actual trend of thought —always the surest index to a general prospect—the growing preoccupation with that new theme is quite apparent. One needs only to look at the titles of some philosophical books that have appeared within the last fifteen or twenty years: The Meaning of Meaning (Ogden and Richards); Symbolism and Truth (Eaton); Die Philosophie der symbolischen Formen (Cassirer); Language, Truth and Logic (Ayer); Symbol und Existenz der Wissenschaft (Noack); The Logical Syntax of Language (Carnap); Philosophy and Logical Syntax (Carnap); Meaning and Change of Meaning (Stern); Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect (Whitehead); Language and Reality . . . (Urban).2 2

Ibid., pp. 16-17.



To this list must, of course, be added Mrs. Langer's own work, Philosophy in a New Key, which, perhaps more than any other single work, has made the century aware of the significance of the great "key" change in modern thinking. Mrs. Langer's book develops the importance to psychology and logic which the "new key" in philosophy represents and, in a more general way, its importance to the study of religion, myth, ritual, and art. But the book scarcely recognizes that the study of literature has also been vitally affected. A list of works whose titles give equal testimony to the impact of the "generative idea" upon the study of literature could likewise be made: Language as Gesture (Blackmur); The Philosophy of Literary Form (Burke); The Place of Meaning in Poetry (Daiches); Meaning and Truth in the Arts (Hospers); Image and Idea (Rahv); Icon and Idea (Read); Science and Poetry (Richards); The Language of Poetry (Tate); The Verbal Icon (Wimsatt); The World's Body (Ransom); The WellWrought Urn (Brooks). Unquestionably, there are differences in points of view and emphases among these works, but they share one major belief in common, a belief which has constituted a major change in the way literature is regarded in the twentieth century. That belief may be stated thus: The special symbolic formulation of language which characterizes the literary work is unique in its ability to represent a part of mans experience that cannot be represented adequately by the abstractions of logic. This is the view that has provided the common integrating theme for one important school of critical belief, that represented by the Southern New Critics: John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Cleanth Brooks. It is the view which has been responsible for their most characteristic practice—close analysis of form and technique. For it is in close examination

9 and interpretation of a literary work that its special contribution is to be found—its way of symbolizing some aspect of human experience that defies formulation in any of the logical disciplines. As the Kantian philosopher Theodore Meyer Greene put it in his The Arts and the Art of Criticism: SCIENCE, LITERATURE, AND MODERN CRITICISM

. . . certain aspects of reality can be apprehended and expressed most adequately and precisely in and through the artistic media, and that which is thus apprehended and expressed cannot be translated into a conceptual medium without vital loss.3 The recognition of the "new key" in literary criticism has been retarded by a general misconception. The New Critics, it is said, typically repudiate scientism or positivism or naturalism. Then, as if there were no connection, they are further characterized as "formalists," who are interested merely in the literary work's structural and formal properties. But the repudiation of science and the attention to form are not separate considerations. One grows necessarily and quite naturally out of the other. Alfred Kazin's criticism of Ransom, Tate, and Brooks in his On Native Grounds is typical of the misconception. Writing specifically on Ransom, he says: "He began by excoriating naturalism and positivism, yet ended by affirming that the analysis of the 'structural properties' of poems was the main business of criticism." 4 The glaring misinterpretation evident in Kazin's thinking is revealed by the word "yet." Had he been able to say that Ransom began by excoriating naturalism and positivism and ended by affirming that the analysis of structural properties was the main business of criticism, he would have indicated his understanding of the central idea of Ransom's criticism, its genera3 4

Theodore Meyer Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism, p. 427. Alfred Kazin, On Native Grounds, p. 429.



tive theme. For there is a tradition of aestheticians and literary theorists from Kant to Ransom who have based their writings on this single discovery: the accounts of human experience provided by science are limited, even distorted, but the unique language of art transcends the limitations which are constitutionally a part of the language of science. It follows that the critics in this tradition have been concerned primarily with the structures of literature because: First, the precise point of difference between scientific formulations and artistic formulations is in their distinct language structures; second, what makes the art work capable of formulating human values in a way science cannot is its special employment of language, its special structure. A precise source for the generative concept which has so profoundly influenced the modern age is difficult, perhaps impossible, to establish. Some writers of earlier centuries, especially Dryden and Addison, seemed at times very close to it. But there was no systematic treatment of the idea before Kant proclaimed the existence of a judgment not based upon logical abstraction, to which he gave the designation "aesthetic judgment": "We have a faculty of mere Aesthetical Judgment by which we judge forms without the aid of concepts."5 The most recent authority to comment on the origin of the generative theme is René Wellek. In his A History of Modern Criticism he writes: The idea of the autonomy of art is not, of course, totally new with Kant: it was being prepared throughout the century by thinkers such as Hutcheson and Mendelssohn. But in Kant the argument 5 Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, trans. J. H. Bernard, p. 179.



was stated for the first time systematically by defending the distinction of the aesthetic realm against all sides: against moralism, intellectualism, and didacticism.6 Kant's aesthetics established the practice of talking about the aesthetic judgment—that is, cognition, symbolic formulation, and universality of communication—as if it were analogous to the logical judgment: The Imagination (as a productive faculty of cognition) is very powerful in creating another nature, as it were, out of the material that actual nature gives it. We entertain ourselves with it when experience proves too commonplace, and by it we remould experience, always indeed in accordance with principles which occupy a higher place in Reason (laws too which are just as natural to us as those by which Understanding comprehends empirical nature).7 The terms of the ancient science of logic—such terms as "symbol" and "concept," "judgment" and "perception," "particularity" and "universality," "predication" and "knowledge" —were the ones in which the principles underlying logical thinking were traditionally given. Kant's adoption of the concepts of logic to describe by analogy aesthetic "thinking" accomplished two purposes at a single stroke. First, it provided terms for the untranslatable sphere of aesthetic experience, terms which, in spite of merely formulating an analogy, were sufficiently familiar to give a more precise meaning to this area of common experience which defied the direct approach to its definition and communication. Second, Kant's method of analogy sharpened the distinction between logical and artistic communication in a way which gave new meaning and 6 7

René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism, I, 230. Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 198.



metaphysical stature to art. The art work became a form of the judgment, but a peculiarly new judgment, the aesthetic. The artistic consciousness was different in kind from the rational consciousness. What was grasped by the artistic consciousness was possible because of a separate kind of cognition, what Kant called "cognition in general." In short, the terms of logic, which provided the analogy by which art could be examined, also suggested that the art work was as real and as significant a form of symbolic representation as the work of science. By employing the analogy between the aesthetic and the logical judgments, Kant was able to provide a clear statement of the meaning of art, which at once clarified its status as an objectively real experience and suggested the course which investigation of its principles would take: logic seeks to formulate the universal in experience; art seeks to formulate the particular. Today the terms of the analogy have been extended; such modern Kantians as Ransom, Tate, and Brooks have arrived at an advanced stage suggested by Kant's analogue; they seek to investigate poetry as a distinct form of knowledge.8 In the Kantian manifesto of 1790, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, was not only an explicit case for art as a separate, distinct, and valid form of the human judgment; present also was an implied distrust of logical reasoning. Τ. Μ. Greene, who has written a valuable essay on Kant's aesthetic position, says: Kant was too suspicious of easy thinking ever to rest content with what other thinkers might regard either as satisfactory or as inevitable. The rationalistic belief in the power of reason to discover the deepest secrets of ultimate reality seemed to him to betray a 8

Cf. Allen Tate, "Poetry as Knowledge," On the Limits of Poetry.



blindness to the limits of human thought, lacking in philosophical insight and spiritual profundity as it was. He revealed the failure of students of aesthetics like Baumgarten and Burke rightly to comprehend the true nature of taste and genius, and challenged the presumptuous claim of science to be able eventually to solve all human problems.9 At each step of Kant's argument the reader is made more conscious of the limitations of the scope of the rational intellect. For example, during an explanation of what he had termed an "aesthetical Idea," that is, to distinguish it from a rational idea, Kant remarks: "Such representations of the Imagination we may call Ideas . . . especially because no concept can be fully adequate to them as internal intuitions." 10 This particular form of anti-intellectualism, the inadequacy of the logical concept, so important to the poetic theory of Wordsworth, Coleridge, and the romantic poets generally, is basically the same form present in the repudiation of science characteristic of present-day criticism. A specific attack on science was merely implicit in the writings of Kant; its full impact was to come over a hundred years later with a twentieth-century philosopher, Henri Bergson. Bergson is directly in the Kantian tradition in his questioning of the belief that the whole of reality can be apprehended in logical concepts. What is of more importance to modern literary theory is not so much his recognition of the limitations of science as the corollary he drew from that recognition. He saw that "because we fail to reconstruct the living reality with stiff and ready-made concepts, it does not follow that we cannot grasp it in some other way." 11 9

Theodore Meyer Greene, "Introduction," Kant Selections, p. lxx. Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 198. 11 Henri Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 68. 10



The "some other way" meant for Bergson the symbols of art. It is significant that Bergson was read and acknowledged by two literary theorists whose writings have had a profound effect on the criticism of the century, Τ. Ε. Hulme and John Crowe Ransom. Following Bergson's example, both repeatedly emphasize that it is precisely in the limitations of the logical intellect that the special contribution of the artistic imagination has its being. For example, Hulme, in a style which is typical of his conviction, writes: Now the characteristic of the intellect is that it can only represent complexities of the mechanical kind. It can only make diagrams, and diagrams are essentially things whose parts are separate one from another. The intellect always analyses—when there is a synthesis it is baffled. That is why the artist's work seems mysterious. The intellect can't represent it. This is a necessary consequence of the particular nature of the intellect and the purposes for which it is formed. It doesn't mean that your synthesis is ineffable, simply that it can't be definitely stated.12 Later in the century, Ransom echoes the same theme and with the same conviction: Bergson put his finger on the essential weakness when he showed how science is obliged to deal entirely with universais. Particulars are delightful things to contemplate, as the painter contemplates his landscape, or the lover his beloved, but science is practical and purposive and must deal strictly with some selected aspect of the particulars which it encounters.13 Thus in Bergson's philosophy, Kant's basic idea takes on two important ramifications: a renewed skepticism of scientific formulations and a growing consciousness of the sym12 13

T. E. Hulme, Speculations, p. 139. John Crowe Ransom, God Without Thunder, p. 221.



bolizing power of art. As both of these themes grew in the minds of twentieth-century theorists, critical writing, especially that of the "new critics," gradually took on a definite pattern. What appeared to be an attack on science was superficial to its deeper purpose. What was important was not so much the formalist critics' attitude toward science; rather it was their explanation of the special way in which science was limited. In God Without Thunder Ransom declared: "A scientific definition of the object is not false in the sense that it is not the truth, but only in the sense that it is not the whole truth."14 When we examine the criticism of such contemporary critics as Allen Tate and Cleanth Brooks, we find the same attitude toward science. And in each case what seems, to a superficial reading, to be an attack on science is, at closer reading, a consistent aesthetic theory. In his collected critical essays, On the Limits of Poetry, Tate expressed what at first seems to be merely an antiscientific declaration: The point of view here, then, is that historicism, scientism, psychologism, biologism, in general the confident use of the scientific vocabularies in the spiritual realm, has created or at any rate is the expression of a spiritual disorder. That disorder may be briefly described as a dilemma. On the one hand, we assume that all experience can be ordered scientifically, an assumption that we are almost ready to confess has intensified if it has not actually created our distress; but on the other hand this assumption has logically reduced the spiritual realm to irresponsible emotion, to what the positiviste of our time see as irrelevant feeling; it is irrelevant because it cannot be reduced to the terms of positivist procedure. It is my contention here that the high forms of literature offer us the only complete, and 14

Ibid., p. 259.



thus the most responsible, versions of our experience. The point of view of this essay, then, is influenced by the late, neglected Τ. Ε. Hulme (and not this essay alone). It is the belief, philosophically tenable, in a radical discontinuity between the physical and the spiritual realms.15 As in the writings of Bergson, Tate's purpose is to bring to the modern consciousness the view that the very areas of h u m a n experience which cannot be represented adequately in science are the ones which it is the essential purpose of art to present. The criticism of Cleanth Brooks also follows this characteristic pattern. In The Well-Wrought Urn he writes: Urban, in his Language and Reality, has made a full-scale attack on the account of language given by nominalistic positivism—an account which would parcel out the functions of language between the "referential" (scientific) and the "emotive" (poetic). Language, he maintains, has also a "representational" (intuitive or symbolic) function, a function necessary along with the others if language is to convey meaning at all. Poetry is not merely emotive, therefore, but cognitive. It gives us truth, and characteristically gives its truth through its metaphors (though not through metaphor conceived of as mere illustration or decoration).16 And again, in his widely quoted essay "The Heresy of the Paraphrase," Brooks makes clear the reason for the criticism of science which his poetic theory demands. H e points out that the terms of science are abstract symbols which do not change under the pressure of the context. They are pure (or aspire to be pure) denotation; they are defined in advance. They are not to be 15 16

Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 4. Cleanth Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, p. 232.

17 warped into new meanings. But where is the dictionary which contains the terms of a poem?17 SCIENCE, LITERATURE, AND MODERN CRITICISM

Thus the attack on science, so evident in the writings of Ransom, Tate, and Brooks that it constitutes a common characteristic of their criticism, must be seen not so much as a form of anti-intellectualism as a necessary preliminary to their common critical thesis: Literature represents a special employment of language, different in structure and intention from scientific language but fully as valid and significant in its account of human experience. It would be a mistake to say that the intention of these critics is to devalue the language of science or underestimate the contributions of science to knowledge. Rather they must be seen as part of a critical tradition which characteristically wishes to indicate the limitations of science as a complete knowledge, to show that there is a necessary place for a discourse which, by its intention and design, fulfills a function not intended or designed to be fulfilled by science. They seek only the rightful status and recognition for literature as a significant contributor to the whole of knowledge. In The New Criticism Ransom writes: The poetic act is an act of knowledge. The scientific and aesthetic ways of knowledge should illuminate each other; perhaps they are alternative knowledges, and a preference for one knowledge over the other might indicate an elemental or primary bias in temperament.18 The case of these critics against science is, at its foundation, a case against those who fail to see the limitations of scientific accounts, against the destruction of values by a belief in 17


Ibid., p. 192.

John Crowe Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 294.



"abstracted versions." Even the pointed repudiation of modern industrialism and mechanization given in I'll Take My Stand grows out of this basic insight into the limitations of science. A belief that the world of experience is equal only to what science can show it to be is destructive to human values, which lie outside the comprehension of the scientific method. Such values as are symbolized "presentationally," to use Mrs. Langer's term, in art, myth, and religion become meaningless when reduced to abstractions. The informed critical scientist knows this, and the critics in the modern version of Kantian tradition hold no brief against him. Ransom was speaking of poetry when he made a critical pronouncement which sums up the neo-Kantian position against science. But it holds also for all presentational values: "It is not by refutation but by abstraction that science destroys the image."19 19

John Crowe Ransom, The World's Body, p. 115.

chapter 2

The Ontological Theory of the Ransom Critics

The reading of technical philosophy is the critic's home work. JOHN CROWE RANSOM, "The Concrete Universal"





shown a pointed reluctance to explain the philosophical bases underlying modern literary criticism. Perhaps the reluctance is an academic slight and is intended to suggest that criticism



in the twentieth century lacks the significance which would warrant its association with the great traditions of philosophy. Evidence could be brought to support such an observation from the writings of Professor Douglas Bush, for example, or Professor H. J. Muller. Perhaps such instances are more isolated than general and the development of the point more petulant than objective. But there would be no petulance in noting that some scholars have been content with the shallowest bases for their most frequent judgments concerning modern criticism. The members of one group of contemporary critics, for example, have been regarded as "regional reactionaries"—agrarian opponents of an encroaching northern industrialism, characterized by their intention to stand against the technological scientism that fathered that industrialism. But the charge that these critics are political reactionaries has not been borne out and has now been generally discounted. An examination of the intellectual basis for the "stand" of these critics would have revealed that their concern was not so much with regionalism and economics as it was with literary theory and aesthetics. Their concern was for the destructive effect of a one-sided language of science and for the concurrent de-emphasis of the language of aesthetic values, especially in the form of literary art. That they supported the customs and rituals of a "region" was certainly of interest to their philosophical position; that they supported an epistemological belief in the significance of the language of customs, ritual, art, and literature was vital to it and constituted the real basis for classification. Again, one of the most superficial bases for classifying an important group of modern critics inheres in the category "formalist critics," which has become not so much a classifica-



tion as a value judgment. A formalist critic is obviously one who is preoccupied with hterary forms to the exclusion of content. It is hardly necessary to add that such a preoccupation is little more than idle—a modern instance of "art for art's sake." A more complete analysis, one based on the principles of philosophical aesthetics, could show more profound ramifications to the study of formalist devices. It might, for example, reveal that the formalist critic views his interest in the literary device as the study of a unique language unit— one capable of communicating something about human experience that could not otherwise be communicated. A formalist in the sense of one who is dedicated to proving what every man of letters must believe—that literature is a significant and distinct symbolization of human experience—is hardly idle. He is a pioneer who has grasped the significance of the "new key" of philosophy and is rigorously applying his new critical methods to a more intense study of literature. It is possible that much of the confusion which has come to be associated with the study of modern criticism is a further result of the failure to establish the aesthetic bases underlying that criticism. One editor of an anthology of critical essays testified to the confusion in the prefatory remarks to that section of his work entitled "Introduction: Modern Critical Theory": Those critics most commonly identified as the "new critics," such authors as T. S. Eliot, Herbert Read, Allen Tate, Cleanth Brooks, John Crowe Ransom, William Empson, and Robert Penn Warren, insist that they are not presenting a new view of literature, but are regaining an old view, lost or obscured by the temper of our age and the demands of an outworn, pseudoscientific scholarship. Those with the most right to be called "new" stem from the early attempts of I. A. Richards to establish a basis for the appreciation



of literature in the admittedly new science of psychology. Yet even here there is no clear-cut basis for deciding who belongs. Certainly Maud Bodkin does, as do William Empson and Kenneth Burke; perhaps Edmund Wilson, less certainly Lionel Trilling and Mark Schorer. Yet most of us would not call these the "new critics." What basis then do we have for assuming a coherence or unity in modern criticism? How can we best express the agreement within disagreement which exists in contemporary criticism?1 One might wonder at the writer's reference in successive sentences to "new critics" and "modern criticism'' as if the classifications were intended further to suggest the absence of distinguishing principles upon which some order might be based. Precisely that attitude would be indicated by his concluding remarks: Perhaps we should resort to a figure of speech and say merely that it is best to view modern criticism as a house with many rooms, its occupants living in an uneasy but on the whole respectful relationship to each other, that it is impossible and misleading to see it as a fixed belief or an organized crusade.2 Malcolm Cowley observes that at one time or another nearly every familiar name in contemporary criticism has been associated with the name "new criticism."3 His list is long and includes some who have taken such disparate critical positions as those of Cleanth Brooks and Alfred Kazin. Clearly, classification of the dominant trends and patterns in twentieth-century criticism must be based on something more substantial than the vintage of a critical concept or its vague 1

Ray B. West, "Introduction: Modern Critical Theory," Essays in Modern Critical Theory, pp. 116-117. 2 Ibid., p. 117. 3 Malcolm Cowley, The Literary Situation, p. 12.



relationship to a "new science." It must encompass even more than a similarity of practice. It must be based upon a philosophical, or more precisely, an aesthetic position. Cowley offers the suggestion that a meaningful basis for classification might be found in Ransom's ontological criticism: . . . the phrase the "new criticism" is being flung about so loosely that Ransom himself has been forced to declare, "I do not know what is meant nowadays by a 'new critic'." But Ransom once used another phrase that casts more light on a current tendency. He called for an "ontological" criticism and seemed to imply that critics should not concern themselves with the sources of a work or with its moral or social effects, but should confine their discussion to the work as a separate entity with its own laws of being. In that sense many of the newer critics might be described as ontological. They like to argue about esthetic questions, they refrain from discussing social movements, and they devote an extremely close and fruitful attention to each new work they discuss.4 The tone of Cowley's remarks indicates that his intention is not so much to provide a meaningful classification for a dominant critical movement as it is to disparage the critical practices of arguing "about esthetic questions" and refraining "from discussing social movements." However, his insistence upon "ontological" as the differentia is a point well taken. Quite apart from the metaphysical connotations which the term suggests, the simple meaning of the Greek onta as "existing things" and logos as "knowing" contains the twofold intention of Ransom's critical theory. Thus ontological criticism requires an examination of the literary product as a 4




unique language—one which transmits not only a logical account of its object, but also an "existing thing" or "texture" knowledge. The application to his own concept of poetic structure is evident: Ransom expands the term "ontological" to "local texture" and "logical core." The poetic symbol thus intends by its special nature, not a logical representation of "existing things" merely, but at once both a "logical" representation and a "thing" or "bodiness" representation. The title to Ransom's work on poetic theory testifies to his concept of the function of poetry: the presentation of The World's Body. Vaguely implicit is the judgment that the function of science is the opposite: the presentation of the analogy, the world's shell. For Ransom, then, poetry constitutes "a revolutionary departure from the convention of logical discourse." He adds, one which "we should provide with a bold and proportionate designation."5 Ransom's designation is "ontological," and Cowley is perceptive in asserting it. But Cowley shows a limited comprehension of the concept when he comments: In 1952 Ransom reviewed a volume of essays on poetry by Richard Blackmur, Language as Gesture. He gave the volume high and justified praise, but then made an unexpected reservation: that Blackmur treated ideas as if they had no value in themselves or in relation to life and as if their only function in the poem was to furnish a scheme of organization. The founder of ontological criticism was reproving Blackmur for being too ontological.6 Cowley's judgment demonstrates a profound fallacy, not his alone, which represents but one example of the most 5 6

Ransom, The New Criticism, p. x. Cowley, The Literary Situation, pp. 12-13.



unjustified charge made against the Ransom school of criticism. The reasoning seems to follow some such pattern as this: Because such critics as Ransom, Tate, Winters, and Brooks emphasize the structure which characterizes the language of literature as something distinct from that of the language of science, their chief interest is with formal aesthetic effects rather than with significant meanings and content. The fallacy lies in the assumption that a significant, or meaningful, or profound judgment can be made only in terms of the logical judgment—either because there is no other judging faculty than the rational and no other language than the logical, or because significant judgments belong only to the province of the rational. But if this is true, what then is the language of art? An embellishment of the judgment furnished by the rational intellect? Kant provided the answer which is supported vigorously by Ransom and his followers. He proclaimed the existence of a judgment not based upon rational abstraction and predication: he called the work of art an "aesthetic judgment"—by which he meant to indicate its distinctness from the logical judgment, not to disparage its significance. Indeed both Kant and his modern followers suggest just the opposite, namely, that the significance of art resides in its unique ability to formulate and express that which cannot be formulated and expressed in the logical judgment. Kant is clear on this point in many passages throughout The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. For example, when he distinguishes an "aesthetical Idea" (an idea of the Imagination) from a logical one he says: And by an aesthetical Idea I understand that representation of the Imagination which occasions much thought without, however, any definite thought, i.e., any concept, being capable of be-



ing adequate to it; it consequently cannot be completely compassed and made intelligible by language. We easily see that it is the counterpart of a rational Idea.7 Ransom follows the same Kantian line in a modern version of Kant's theory which also conceives of the imagination as a distinct but significant faculty of judgment: But I may contemplate also, under another form entirely, the form of art . . . The features which the object discloses then are not those which have their meaning for a science, for a set of practical values. They are those which render the body of the object and constitute a knowledge so radical that the scientist as a scientist can scarcely understand it. . . . The knowledge attained there, and recorded, is a new kind of knowledge, the world in which it is set is a new world.8 Cowley is correct when he points out that the ontological critics "like to argue about aesthetic questions, . . . refrain from discussing social movements, . . . and devote an extremely close and fruitful attention to each new work they discuss." But such a summary is scarcely designed to do justice to Ransom's critical position. Rather the intention seems to be that here is a somewhat interesting minor critical movement, quaintly peculiar in some of its beliefs and practices, yet not wholly lacking in significance. Cowley is misleading when he suggests that "ontological criticism treats ideas as if they had no value in themselves or in relation to life." He has failed to make the critical observation, so vital to a Kantian position, that the significance of the artist's judgment is not a function of the work's content but of its "achieved content." And precisely what constitutes 7 8

Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 45. Ransom, The World's Body, p. 44.



the achieved content of any given work is an "esthetic question," involving the peculiar semantic transformation that occurs when ordinary language symbols are employed in the distinctive syntactical arrangement of literary form. The symbols, syntactical arrangements, and meanings peculiar to the language of science are quite a different matter. Cowley has discerned a dominant trend in modern criticism which he has redesignated "ontological," but his remarks on its distinct character indicate his failure to comprehend its sound philosophical basis in aesthetic principles. The purpose of this work is to account for one major trend in modern criticism, not in terms of "close analysis" or "new psychology," or attention given to social movements but in terms of integrally related critical principles which have their source in Kant's distinction between two kinds of human judgment: the logical judgment which constitutes science and the aesthetic judgment which constitutes art. For the Kantian, or as Cowley suggests, the "ontological critics," significance in literature does not mean formal significance any more than it does social significance. It means that the significance of literature resides in its being a unique form of knowledge, separate and distinct from scientific knowledge, from ethical knowledge, and from practical knowledge in what it seeks to formulate, but equally as important as these to man's complete knowledge of his experience. In his recent work, A History of Modem Criticism, René Wellek comments directly on this problem: "Kant in no way denies the enormous role of art in society. . . . He merely wants to distinguish the object of our investigation from morality, pleasure, truth, and utility."9 9 René Wellek, A History of Modern Criticism, I, 230. Wellek prefers to locate the sources of modern criticism in the themes of neo-



Cowley is unquestionably right in suggesting that amid the confused state of modern criticism, one definable tendency is the ontological criticism of John Crowe Ransom and his followers. But he is wrong in suggesting that the differentia of that critical tendency resides in its preoccupation with the work as a separate entity with its own laws of being, without stating just what it is that the work is separate from. The ontological critics are concerned not with form rather than idea entities, as Cowley seems to suggest, but with knowledge entities—artistic as distinct from scientific, and equally as significant. classical criticism rather than in the aesthetic theory of the German philosophers and Coleridge (pp. 4-5).


The Formalists Approach: A Re-cvaluation

. . . and that it is only when we speak of the achieved content, the form, the work of art as a work of art, that we speak as critics. MARK SCHORER, "Technique as Discovery'



IF ONE PRINCIPLE could be singled out as basic to the theory and practice of John Crowe Ransom and his students, Tate and Brooks, that principle necessarily would be concerned with the nature of the language of liter-

KANT AND THE SOUTHERN NEW CRITICS 34 ary art. Perhaps it might be stated like this: The very core of the artistic intention is concretion, which is a "growing together" intention, not an intention to abstract. Every aspect of their poetic theory and critical practice derives, directly or indirectly, from this source principle. It explains why they believe poetry to be a separate and distinct form of knowledge; it determines the role they assign to the moral and practical content of the poem; it relates directly to their belief that the poem must be considered as an objective cognition; it provides a basis for their theory of the structure of the poem; and it conditions the manner in which they approach the poem in their critical practice. In the view of the Southern New Critics, the difference between the language of science and the language of literary art is directly related to the difference between the language of abstraction and the language of concretion. Yet this is not merely a preoccupation with form and technique. Underlying their concern with poetic language is a deep conviction regarding the vital nature and function of poetry. They take the meaning of abstract in its original sense of "taken away." Thus they see the practice of science as the process of "reducing" whatever aspect of experience it formulates, of thereby altering its real existence. Ransom considers poetry's chief reason for being is to act as the necessary restorative for the emasculations of scientific formulations. In The New Criticism, he declares: "We live in a world which must be distinguished from the world or the worlds, for there are many of them, which we treat in our scientific discourse. They are its reduced, emasculated, and docile versions."1 The language of poetry on the other hand is the language 1

Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 251.

35 of concretion. Here again the original meaning of concrete as "grown together" is central to Ransom's theory of poetry. As is evident in the statement quoted above, Ransom's concern is not simply with form and technique but with the deeper function poetry has in offering a more complete formulation of human experience. Ransom concludes: "Poetry intends to recover the denser and more refractory original world which we know loosely through our perceptions and memories. By this supposition it is a kind of knowledge which is radically or ontologically distinct."2 Or, as he had put it in The World's Body: "What we cannot know constitutionally as scientists is the world which is made up of whole and indefeasible objects, and this is the world which poetry recovers for us."3 The scientist wishes to indicate one meaning, not a plurality of meaning; he avoids distracting elements such as the communication of personal attitudes, imagistic associations, and words to which emotional overtones have become attached. In short, he consciously conditions himself against any usage which would fall outside the normal patterns of logical formulation. His vision is directed at the principles which determine the object, and which relate it to other objects. His method is abstraction. On the other hand, when language is used to communicate the object itself rather than information about it, the intention is to seek presentational effects. The literary artist strives for a fullness or plurality of meaning which he knows the object exhibits before it has been reduced to a general concept. He is fully aware of the reader's propensity to grasp eagerly at the structure of logical ideas implicit in any language formulation, and he means to THE FORMALISTS APPROACH



Ibid., p. 281.

Ransom, The World's Body, pp. x-xi.



distract his readers from the practice by offering presentations of qualitative meaning rather than patterns of ideational meaning. Thus, the writer must use language in a way which resists the logical pattern. His method is concretion. Exactly here the principle of poetic particularity becomes apparent. The very fact of logical discourse—the fact that our communication of any judgment, from the simplest sentence to the most complex dissertation, operates to impose a habit pattern on the way we ordinarily use language—gives rise to the possibility of poetic particularity. The reason is obvious : Every poetic device constructed to function as a literary presentation must, in some way, interrupt or violate the established norm of the logical language pattern. Without deviation from the normal language pattern, only logical meaning is possible. The poet strives for relevant departures from the logical. Ransom offers a general statement of the principle: "A feature that obeys the canon of logic is only the mere instance of an universal convention, while the one that violates that canon is an indestructibly private thing."4 Ransom's point is simply that poetic structures characteristically violate the conventional pattern of logical discourse. To give an example: In Wordsworth's lines: "The World is too much with us; late and soon,/ Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers," there are several such departures from the logical or expected thought pattern. The logical statement of the first poetic phrase would be formulated in some such terms as these: "Worldliness is too much a part of our interests." The second phrase, "late and soon," to follow the expected thought pattern should read, "late and early," or more precisely, "early and late." The metaphor "Getting and 4

Ibid., p. 26.



spending, we lay waste our powers" is based on the analogy between the materialistic urge destroying the other faculties of the mind and, for example, the activity of a mercenary horde destroying a city. The poetic phrase has other ramifications of meaning which function by indirection, in contrast to the direct, unambiguous meanings of logical discourse. "Getting and spending" suggests the cheapness, the crassness, which the poet associates with materialistic cravings. The same attitude is expressed in man's thoughtless destruction of his valuable powers, which is like the soldier's wanton destruction of the city's precious cultural objects. But to lay waste is also to let lie and rot, and the analogy in this sense is to the farmer's neglect of his harvest. The farmer's failure to tend his fields is a failure of stewardship just as we fail in stewardship of ourselves by neglecting our intellectual and aesthetic capacities, i.e., "we lay waste our powers." It is obvious that science must carefully avoid structures like these. The scientist must seek one-to-one correspondences between his symbol and its referent and between his predicate and its intended meaning. But the poet's most effective structure is the metaphorical analogy, which in every instance represents some variation from the logical form. None of the critics in the formalist tradition has emphasized the importance of irony as a device for achieving the full particularity of poetic meaning as often as has Cleanth Brooks. Here the literal or strictly logical meaning is purposely not intended. It is the violation of the expected straightforward use of language that results in a literary presentation. In The Well-Wrought Urn, Brooks explains irony as a strictly literary device:



Irony . . . is to be found in Tennyson's "Tears, Idle Tears" as well as in Donne's "Canonization." We have, of course, been taught to expect to find irony in Pope's "Rape of the Lock," but there is a profound irony in Keat's "Ode on a Grecian Urn"; and there is irony of a very powerful sort in Wordsworth's "intimations" ode. For the thrusts and pressures exerted by the various symbols . . . are not avoided by the poet: they are taken into account and played, one against the other. Indeed, the symbols—from a scientific point of view—are used perversely: it is the child who is the best philosopher; it is from a kind of darkness—from something that is "shadowy"—that the light proceeds; growth into manhood is viewed, not as an extrication from, but as an incarceration within, a prison. There should be no mystery as to why this must be so. The terms of science are abstract symbols which do not change under the pressure of the context. They are pure (or aspire to be pure) denotations; they are defined in advance. They are not to be warped into new meanings. But where is the dictionary which contains the terms of a poem? It is a truism that the poet is continually forced to remake language. As Eliot has put it, his task is to "dislocate language into meaning." And, from the standpoint of a scientific vocabulary, this is precisely what he performs: for, rationally considered, the ideal language would contain one term for each meaning, and the relation between term and meaning would be constant. But the word, as the poet uses it, has to be conceived of, not as a discrete particle of meaning, but as a potential of meaning, a nexus or cluster of meanings. 5 Thus, the poetic use of language is one in which "the symbols—from a scientific point of view—are used perversely," and "the poet is continually forced to remake language," to "dislocate language into meaning," The device of paradox functions to achieve poetic particu5

Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, p. 92.



larity by the quite obvious violation of the expected ideational pattern. Brooks contrasts the use of paradox as a method for communicating "the important things which a poet has to say" with the "more direct methods" which "enfeeble and distort what is to be said": And how necessary are the paradoxes? Donne might have said directly, "Love in a cottage is enough." The Canonization contains this admirable thesis, but it contains a great deal more. He might have been as forthright as a later lyricist who wrote, "We'll build a sweet little nest,/ Somewhere out in the West,/ And let the rest of the world go by," He might even have imitated that more metaphysical lyric, which maintains, "You're the cream in my coffee." The Canonization touches on all these observations, but it goes beyond them, not merely in dignity, but in precision. I submit that the only way by which the poet could say what The Canonization says is by paradox. More direct methods may be tempting, but all of them enfeeble and distort what is to be said. This statement may seem the less surprising when we reflect on how many of the important things which the poet has to say have to be said by means of paradox: most of the language of lovers is such—The Canonization is a good example; so is most of the language of religion—"He who would save his life, must lose it"; "The last shall be first." Indeed, almost any insight important enough to warrant a great poem apparently has to be stated in such terms.6 Later in the same passage Brooks shows what would happen to the poet's pronouncements if they were reduced from their function as literary symbols to the pure symbols of abstract science: Deprived of the character of paradox with its twin concomitants of irony and wonder, the matter of Donne's poem unravels into 8

Ibid., p. 16.



"facts," biological, sociological, and economic. What happens to Donne's lovers if we consider them "scientifically," without benefit of the supernaturalism which the poet confers upon them? Well, what happens to Shakespeare's lovers, for Shakespeare uses the basic metaphor of The Canonization in his Romeo and Juliet? In their first conversation, the lovers play with the analogy between the lover and the pilgrim to the Holy Land. Juliet says: For saints have hands that pilgrims' hands do touch And palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss Considered scientifically, the lovers become Mr. Aldous Huxley's animals, "quietly sweating, palm to palm." 7 The passage indicates not only the profound difference in meaning of poetic symbols considered first as literary language and then literally, but it also indicates the significant contribution to a whole formulation of human experience made possible by the literary meanings furnished by the poet. Tate distinguishes the "poetic experience" in terms of the fuller meanings which the poem offers in contrast to the reduced version offered by the logical statement: "If you find that exhaustive analysis applied to the texture of image and metaphor fails to turn up any inconsistency, and at the same time fails to get all the meaning of the poem into a logical statement, you are participating in a poetic experience."8 Thus the poetic device, itself determined by the principle of logical violation, contains a fullness of meaning that cannot be encompassed by the logical statement. The formalist critics use such terms as "embodiment of meaning," "the literary presentation," and the "concrete nbid. 8

Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 124.



image" or "icon." Each of these is a way of saying that something has been done to the language which is different from the straightforward logical use of it. Even the concept of "poetic quality" denotes that what is communicated is a kind of meaning generically different in intention and essence from what is communicated by any use whatsoever of a logical formulation. Tone, attitude, and atmosphere may be qualities which are distinct and significant in their meanings in the poem. They are not so clearly recognized as the sharpedged concrete image, but they possess the same quality of being particular, and they are the direct result of an intended nonlogical use of language. In a strictly logical assertion, such qualities are intentionally neutralized because they offer meanings which distract. The scientist, recognizing the fact, strives for qualitative neutrality in his formulations. The poet, on the other hand, continually works to achieve a poetically meaningful distraction from the logical pattern. Ransom calls the formation of these literary distractions, "irrelevances." In the sense in which he uses the term, an irrelevance is any poetic phrase, which, as has been shown, derives from some meaningful variation from, or violation of, the logical norm. It is logically irrelevant, which is the necessary condition for poetic relevance: An "irrelevance" may feel forced at first, and its overplus of meaning unwanted, because it means the importation of a little foreign or extraneous content into what should be determinate, and limited; but soon the poet comes upon a kind of irrelevance that seems desirable, and he begins to indulge it voluntarily, as a new and positive asset to the meaning. And this is the principle: the importations, which the imagination introduces into discourse, have the value of developing the "particularity" which lurks in the "body," and under the surface, of apparently deter-



minate situations. When Marvell is persuaded by the rhymeconsideration to invest the Humber with a tide, or to furnish his abstract calendar with specifications about the Flood, and the conversion of the Jews, he does not make these additions reluctantly. On the contrary, he knows that the brilliance of the poetry depends on the shock, accompanied at once by the realism or the naturalness of its powerful particularity.9 Literary meanings cannot be the outcome of logical thinking; they are more accurately described as discoveries, or the result of artistic experimentation. But in any case they represent presentational meanings which are logically irrelevant but which successfully embody the particularity of experience in its unabstracted state. The historical critics have charged the formalists, especially Ransom, Tate, and Brooks, with seeking nothing but aesthetic meanings, without a full acknowledgment of what the formalists intend by their emphasis on aesthetic meanings. On the other hand, the Southern New Critics have attacked the historical scholar for reducing the poem to historical, biographical, and philosophical meanings, and have not sufficiently recognized that the poem does contain, however poetically transcribed, such meanings. Yet it is now evident that a meeting ground is possible for these opposing schools of critics. The recent critical study of Blake and Yeats by Hazard Adams and the new analysis of Milton by Kester Svendsen, both appearing within the past ten years, are sufficient testimony that a critical evolution is underway. In the criticism of fiction, Edwin Bowden's The Themes of Henry James and A. J. Guerard's Conrad the Novelist follow a similar critical approach. Most important is that all of these writ9

Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 314.

43 ers seem to reflect an insight that colors their critical practice —a recognition that literature must be regarded as a distinctive language, as a special symbolic form into which meaning is uniquely embodied. Not only are these works characterized by sound literary scholarship, but all are excellent examples of formalist criticism, of close analysis based upon sensitive interpretation. To say that meanings are embodied in literature is to suggest that they are not directly offered as they are in logical discourse, that they are vital presences invested with body. But a body is a concrete thing, a particular. Its individual particularity we apprehend with an immediacy; it is a sense presentation, rich in qualitative meanings. As such, the poetic body resembles the objects which we encounter all about us as part of our conscious experience, not in being a pictorial duplication of them, but in being a special symbol which adequately represents their full unabstracted particularity. Ransom sees the embodiment of meaning in the poem as its "texture," that part of the poem which fulfills its function by symbolizing the fullness or bodiness of experience. He says that "we attend also to the texture as the body behind the abstract. Otherwise I cannot see that what we call a poem is specifically anything at all; or for that matter, what we call the fullness of experience." 10 Thus, in Ransom's view, the meanings which are invested with body in the poem formulate, through a special employment of language, the "world's body." The critical belief which holds consciously to this principle must necessarily be concerned with the technique and devices through which literary art is able to construct its unique achievement. Such a view is hardly art for art's sake; THE FORMALISTS' APPROACH


Ibid., p. 114.



it is more nearly art for the sake of capturing man's real experience—which, the Southern formalist critics insist, is a full-bodied, not an abstracted, experience. Although the techniques for achieving concretion in fiction are often markedly different from those of poetry, the basic principle is the same. The novelist does not write about a world; he presents one. He seldom gives information about a character; he offers his developing image directly. Even in those instances when the author seems to obtrude his own presence into the action, the intention, if the work is successful, is to present qualitative rather than ideational meanings. Whether the writer's task is the development of a scene through dialogue, description, or narration, his employment of language is always in the direction of concretion. How a writer develops concrete presentations defines his particular style, which is simply to provide a designation for the deviations from the logical norm of language that a writer discovers when he constructs a literary work. The task of the critic of fiction is to discover and disclose the particular language forms which are operating to embody meaning. His approach cannot be so much a method of analysis as it is an attitude toward analysis. Paradoxically he must at once strive toward a developing sophistication, an ever-increasing sensitivity toward the complexities of fictional forms, while at the same time he must practice a humility which will permit the inherent forms within a work to disclose themselves—a process too often blocked when the critic is not on guard against imposing critical criteria and preconceived categories upon the work.


Imagination and Understanding: Contemporary Versions

The Imagination (as a productive faculty of Cognition) is very powerful in creating another nature, as it were, out of the material that actual nature gives it. We entertain ourselves with it when experience proves too commonplace, and by it we remould experience, always indeed in accordance with principles which occupy a higher place in Reason (laws too which are just as natural to us as those by which Understanding comprehends empirical nature). IMMANUEL KANT,

The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment

But I may contemplate also, under another form entirely, the form of art . . . JOHN CROWE RANSOM, The World's Body



It Is DIFFICULT to approach the kind of meaning represented by literary discourse through a consideration of the mental faculty which formulates such discourse. It would be much more immediately rewarding to



examine the work itself and note its distinctive characteristics. Yet it is possible to reason back from a poetic formulation, such as the metaphor or image, to a realization of the distinctive mental faculty which gave rise to it, which made possible its formulation at all. We can readily see that the study of logic, in its own sphere, performs just such an activity, when we realize that logic provides insight not merely into the correct or incorrect use of rational formulations, but insight into the thought process itself. To recognize the distinctive natures of logical formulations and poetic formulations is the central task of the modern Kantian theorists. That task is aided by recognizing also the distinctive mental faculties which discern the aesthetic and the logical and produce their respective accounts of human experience: art and science. Kant and his nineteenth-century followers, chiefly Coleridge in England and Emerson in America, spoke of the faculty of the imagination and differentiated it from the faculty of the understanding. Bergson and Hulme refer to the intuition and to its function as the faculty "by which we seize an intensive manifold, a thing absolutely unseizable by the intellect."1 Ransom, Tate, and Brooks seldom deal specifically with the faculties of cognition. They prefer, as they repeatedly tell us, to make their distinctions solely within the poem viewed as an object, rather than to make them through a consideration of the subject. But this is simply a matter of emphasis. They do, from time to time, indicate their support of the Kantian distinction between the respective activities of the cognitive faculties. Their statements, in this respect, are clear and direct and provide further integration to their over-all literary theory. 1

Hulme, Speculations, p. 179.

49 In The World's Body, Ransom writes: "I should say that imagination is an organ of knowledge whose technique is images. It presents to the reflective mind the particularity of nature; whereas there is quite another organ, working by a technique of universais, which gives us science." 2 The concern of Ransom is to call attention to the peculiar contribution made by artistic formulations. He wishes to emphasize that when we comprehend a poetic image we have been made aware of an aspect of experience which is ontologically distinct 3 from our more readily understood logical comprehensions and awareness. But he is also concerned here with the distinctive role of the imagination, with the aesthetic principle that "a reader's imagination works with the presented texture of a poem." To comprehend Ransom's meaning here, it is necessary to consider the activity of the imaginative faculty as something more than the mere recollection or revival of sense images. Artistic creation may indeed be a kind of "recollection in tranquillity," but there is a prior function necessary that is prerequisite to artistic creation: the perception of individual wholes. Mrs. Langer writes: IMAGINATION AND UNDERSTANDING

The symbolic material given to our senses, the Gestalten or fundamental perceptual forms which invite us to construe the pandemonium of sheer impression into a world of things and occasions, belong to the "presentational" order. They furnish the elementary abstractions in terms of which ordinary sense-experience is understood. This kind of understanding is directly reflected in the pattern of physical reaction, impulse and instinct.4 Whether such wholes are merely the sense images of our 2 3 4

Ransom, The World's Body, p. 156. Cf. Chapter 5, n. 2. Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, p. 79.



everyday experience, or even ideas as they are embodied in the image, the problem is the same. We must grant the existence of a cognitive faculty through which the full quality of experience in its particularity may be grasped by the mind. Like Ransom, Tate also points out that the imagination is the faculty whose "vision" is uniquely distinct from the scientific vision. Again, the underlying principle is Kantian: the imagination deals with the meaningful qualities of experience. Tate writes: . . . the power of seizing the inward meaning of experience, the power of poetic creation that I shall call here the vision of the whole of life, is a quality of the imagination. The apologists of science speak as if this were the scientific attitude, but the aim of science is to produce a dynamic whole for the service of the practical will. Our experience of nuclear energy seems to be very different from our capacity to control it. For the imaginative whole of life is the wholeness of vision at a particular moment of experience; it yields us the quality of the experience.5 It is "the power of poetic creation" alone which is capable of grasping and representing meaningfully the "quality of the experience." By "quality" Tate means the fullness or unabstracted body of experience. A vision of the "whole of life" is given by science only in the sense that such a whole is the mechanical total of the abstractions contributed by the various scientific disciplines. Further, Tate relegates the products of the scientific vision to what Ransom says is the "service of the practical will."6 It will be remembered that for Kant, one 5

Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 92. Ransom, The World's Body, p. 123: "We love to view the world under universal or scientific ideas to which we give the name truth; and this is because the ideas seem to make not for righteousness but for mastery." 6



of the essential characteristics of art is its nonpractical nature. Brooks, in his widely read essay "The Language of Paradox," discusses "the union which the creative imagination itself effects." In considering the ways that ideas are contained within the poem, he insists that the unity achieved by the poet is an imaginative one. His argument depends entirely upon the Kantian distinction between the two separate cognitive faculties: "For the fusion is not logical; it apparently violates science and common sense; it welds together the discordant and the contradictory. Coleridge has of course given us the classic description of its nature and power. It 'reveals itself in the balance or reconcilement of discordant qualities . . . 7 The task of these critics, then, is to establish two axioms of Kantian aesthetic theory—axioms upon which they develop their critical positions: the subject matter of literary art is man's qualitative experience, and the perception and formulation of qualitative experience are functions of the imaginative faculty. To enjoy a sunrise is to perceive its individual qualities; to appreciate a panoramic view of one's city is to grasp its qualitative aspects; to participate in the sudden realization of a mutual comradeship is to experience the unique quality of a human relationship. To employ symbols to represent the experience in a way which communicates its distinctive nature is to formulate the experience artistically, that is, to utilize the faculty of artistic creation. Classifying the various cloud formations of a sunrise, or surveying the elevation of a city, or examining the motivations of a friendship is to reduce the experience, to abstract from it some characteristic which it has in common with known principles. This is the 7

Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, p. 18.



function of the faculty of the understanding. But it was the creative imagination at work when the poet wrote, "The morn in russet mantle clad," or "This city now doth, like a garment, wear/ The beauty of the morning," or when the novelist wrote, "There was this comradeship, that the correspondent, . . . who had been taught to be cynical of men, knew even at the time was the best experience of his life. But no one said that it was so. No one mentioned it." To the scientific cognition, the nonreduced, nonabstracted bodiness of the object is never a matter of primary consideration. Indeed, the scientist disciplines himself to see through the stuff of his object to the underlying principles which govern its activity. There is, for example, little difference between the meteorologist, who ignores the aesthetic qualities of a sunset in order to focus on the principles of cloud formations, and the theoretical psychologist, who ignores the particular quality of a client's burst of anger or the dramatic quality of his inner struggle in order to get through to the principles governing the adjustment problems involved. On the other hand, to apprehend experience aesthetically and to formulate it artistically are to retain what is intentionally avoided by scientific apprehension, the full concrete particularity of the object "regarded as complete and perfect in itself." Thus the faculty of the understanding alone would forever imprison man in a mechanical interpretation of nature. It is the aesthetic sense, the faculty of the imagination, which sets him free and makes possible his "vision of the whole of life." Emphasis on the distinction between logical and aesthetic perception has a further use. It is one of the most valuable devices for making clear the nature of the aesthetic mode. T. S. Eliot, who frequently exhibits the influence of Kantian aesthetics, but whose theory usually incorporates psychological



connotations, provides a striking example: "Tennyson and Browning are poets, and they think; but they do not feel their thought as immediately as the odour of a rose. A thought to Donne was an experience; it modified his sensibility." 8 To have a thought which is as immediate "as the odour of a rose" is to "think" sensations instead of concepts. The figure is extreme, but it is helpful in making clear the kind of perception and symbolization which must, in some such fashion, characterize aesthetic apprehension.9 Kant reminds us that the faculty of imagination is remarkable in its ability to handle its presentational materials: "In a way quite incomprehensible by us, the Imagination cannot only recall, on occasion, the signs for concepts long past, but can also reproduce the image of the figure of the object out of an unspeakable number of objects of different kinds or even of the same kind." 10 The intention here is merely to point to the distinctive mode of mental activity involved in aesthetic "thinking." Mrs. Langer provides a statement of the process, the professional ring of which might offset possible criticism 8

T. S. Eliot, "The Metaphysical Poets," Selected Essays, 1917-1932, p. 247. 9 Cf. Eliseo Vivas, "A Natural History of the Aesthetic Transaction," Naturalism and the Human Spirit, p. 103: "Not all apprehension of immanent meaning is distinctively aesthetic. And this calls for an important distinction, introduced and fully exploited by Mr. Dewey, between mere recognition and the vivid apprehension which constitutes aesthetic response. In recognition the response approaches the purely automatic and involves an insignificant temporal span and a minimum of effort and of feeling tone. But let an object arouse curiosity, and the time span becomes an important factor; effort changes recognition into intransitive alert attention, and feeling enters if interest is objective. The elicited pattern of responses is not stereotyped, and the object is seen freshly. This is the distinctively aesthetic response." 10 Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 87.



from the psychologist whose business is human perception: "Our perception organizes [the concrete form], giving it an individual definite Gestalt" 11 But the meaning of our purpose is the same: the perception of aesthetic quality is distinct from logical perception. Kant provides a clear statement of the way in which the faculties function in aesthetic perception: "The excitement of both faculties (Imagination and Understanding) to indeterminate, but yet, through the stimulus of the given sensation, harmonious activity, viz., that which belongs to cognition in general, is the sensation whose universal communicability is postulated by the judgment of taste." 12 It should be noted that the faculty of the understanding, whose sole function Kant has defined as cognitive in the logical sense, is operative in the process of aesthetic apprehension. The main point of disagreement between the theory of Ransom and that of Brooks occurs precisely here: it is a difference in their respective views on the structure of a poem. Ransom holds that the poem's structure is logical; Brooks argues that the poem has a qualitative structure. His well-known essay, "The Heresy of the Paraphrase," elaborates his convictions. Kant, it is clear, emphasizes the distinctive differences between the aesthetic "cognition in general," which maintains and exalts the image, and the logical cognition which reduces it immediately to a concept. The "harmonious activity" means only that the understanding performs its role of reduction to a concept only insofar as is necessary to give a modicum of order to the otherwise undifferentiated texture of sensation; but once that order is imparted and the sensation logically differentiated, the re11 12

Langer, Philosophy in a New Key, p. 232. Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 66.



duction ceases, and the full rich quality of the image is restored.13 It is quite natural for us to minimize or even to try to ignore the part played by logical cognition in the process of aesthetic apprehension. We are very much aware that logical cognition means reduction and leads either to the abstract principles of science or to the construction of the moral standards of the practical world. And since both are destructive to the aesthetic intention to maintain its perceptions in the unreduced state, we hesitate to acknowledge the necessity of the logical element either in the apprehension of the artistic work or in its structure. It is understandable that Ransom, a Kantian in the strictest sense, should praise Winters for his attention to the logical structures in the poem, and at the same time deplore his insistence on the moral function of poetry.14 13

Cf. Vivas, "A Natural History of the Aesthetic Transaction," Naturalism and the Human Spirit, p. 102: "In referential meaning an object—whether sign or symbol—serves as stimulus to call forth an organized succession of patterns of response; the stimulus evokes another. In an immanent meaning an object or its symbol calls forth a pattern, but the pattern itself, instead of calling forth another, remains available and in exclusive dominance of the faculties—the nervous and motor system—which sustain it." 14 Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 226: "Morality is for the practical rather than the aesthetic stage; coordinate with greed, or envy, or lust, or whatever appetites and affections it sets itself up in opposition to. The moral interest may be as binding and blinding as any other single obsession. Most aestheticians following Kant have seen this, and located the aesthetic experience at a stage further along, after the moral issue has been decided; or in fields of content which look neutral, or immune to moral passion. 'The satisfaction which occasions the judgment of taste is disinterested,' said Kant in the second principle of his First Moment; but presently, in the fourth principle, he said also, 'The satisfaction in the good is interested'." Also cf. Ibid., p. 212: "When I planned to write about Winters as a



The modern critics in the Kantian tradition reflect a coherence of critical thought in their pronouncements on aesthetic apprehension. Mrs. Langer echoes Kant's description of the faculties of perception in her explanation of how presentational (i.e., her "non-discursive") and "discursive" forms are perceived: Non-discursive [presentational] intelligence, reading emotive import into the concrete form, meets it with purely sensitive appreciation; and even more promptly, the language-habit causes us to assimilate it to some literal concept and give it a place in discursive thought. Here is a crossing of two activities; for discursive symbolism is always general, and requires application to the concrete datum, whereas non-discursive symbolism is specific, is the "given" itself . . .15 Here Kant's faculty of the imagination becomes, in Mrs. Langer's terms, the "non-discursive intelligence." It is the faculty which "meets [the concrete form] with purely sensitive appreciation." What we have seen in Kant as the "harmonious activity" of both faculties becomes, in her description, "the crossing of two activities." And the function of "discursive intelligence," similar to Kant's description of understanding, is "to assimilate [the concrete form] to some literal concept and give it a place in discursive thought." Ransom reminds us that the world of sense perception is logical critic, several advisors expressed concern over the adjectives. Mr. Delmore Schwartz wrote suggesting ethical-logical. He knew of Winters's interest in the structure of poetry, but he also knew that Winters's professed interest was in its morality. In order to treat him as a logician it is necessary to disengage the logician from the moralist. It is not easy. I am suggesting that his value to criticism is not in his moralism but in his structural analysis." 15 Langer, p. 232.



the point from which to start in our symbolization of experience. Symbolic formulation may move, according to intention, either in the direction of abstraction or in the direction of concretion: I suppose we do not understand in any rational sense a particular object, such as an apple, holding together not by mathematical composition but by its own heterogeneity. But we recognize it perceptually. The World of Appearance (or opinion) seemed to Plato inferior to the World of Pure Being (or reason), but he acknowledged that the former was the world which our perceptions took hold of, and indeed was the world of nature.16 The fact of perceptual apprehension of particularity is the ground and possibility for aesthetic enjoyment and artistic selection and organization. To intend to see the world in its concreteness is to seek an intimate knowledge of its qualitative substance, rather than a masterful knowledge of its determining principles. Qualitative perception always lags behind its object, is never able to exhaust its manifold of particularity. It celebrates its special cognitions in a kind of symbolic formulation which records the object's excessive richness of meaning. Ransom notes this intention of artistic perception: I prefer to think that these images or assertions which exceed observation are the form that certain cognitions take with us because of our natural propensities as knowers; perhaps that is a Kantian sort of position. The poet wants to particularize his objects in order to understand them fully, and images of this sort are habitual to our particularization.17 The image, in the Kantian view, is never fully apprehended 16 17

Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 328. Ransom, The World's Body, p. 161.



in all its qualities, but must be explored continually for new meanings. One of the foremost commentators on literary aesthetics, Eliseo Vivas, emphasizes this characteristic of aesthetic perception, the integral relationship between discovery and creation: The artist creates then, in the sense that he makes a dramatic structure out of subject matter in which the ordinary ungifted mind would not think of looking for it. But the structure is not more invented by him than it is by the physicist when the latter discovers the laws of the physical world and expresses them in the tools he has at hand. The writer discovers this structure, in the sense that the forms and the substance of his work are found by him in the data of experience which is the subject matter of his art.18 We know little about the creative process; Vivas' description of the discovery principle leads quite naturally to the question of the form which qualitative particularity takes when it is aesthetically apprehended. The question relates to the larger problem of artistic consciousness. Perhaps one answer is possible here to the question which students of literature continually press: Did the artist consciously intend this or that meaning? The form which artistic apprehension takes must be a symbolic one; the artist must think through his symbolic medium. Brooks quotes the aesthetician W. M. Urban on this problem: As W. M. Urban puts it in his Language and Reality: "The general principle of the inseparability of intuition and expression 18

Eliseo Vivas, "Literature and Knowledge," Sewanee Review, LX (1952), p. 588.

59 holds with special force for the aesthetic intuition. Here it means that form and content, or content and medium, are inseparable. The artist does not first intuit his object and then find the appropriate medium. It is rather in and through his medium that he intuits the object."19 IMAGINATION AND UNDERSTANDING

In short, if practical criticism by its own process of discovery can uncover meanings which relate to the dominant artistic idea in a work, then those meanings can probably be ascribed to the intention of the artist.20 Even if the artist were to later deny the critic's insight as part of his intention, the principle would, in one sense, be the same. The artist cannot be expected to be sufficiently expert in the critic's medium, which involves translation of the artistic symbol into a rational pointer,21 merely because he has displayed his ability in his own artistic medium. It is, of course, possible that critical discovery may have disclosed qualitative meanings which were not fully grasped in the act of creative perception and formulation.22 The image of literary work, in its infinite rich19

Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, p. 182. John Crowe Ransom, "Mr. Empson's Muddles," Southern Review, IV (1938-39), 323: "The second situation [with respect to the post-expositor relation] occurs when the poet has not been conscious of all the meanings discovered by the critic for the excellent reason that some of them came out of his unconscious mind; they would not necessarily be for that less willed than the others, nor less important." 21 Cf. Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism, p. 371: "Really to re-create a work of art is to apprehend the content which its author actually expressed in it, i.e., to interpret it correctly as a vehicle of communication. Such apprehension implies not only a general understanding of the medium employed but a familiarity with the artist's language and idiom, and these, in turn, are determined by his school, period, and culture as well as by his own personality." 22 Cf. Greene, Kant Selections, p. lxiv: "Genius," says Kant, "baffles mere scientific explanation . . . though each work of art which he 20



ness of meaning, may be more than the artist had perceived. But this does not operate to discredit critical insight; rather it acclaims it. Complex artistic ideas as well as simple aesthetic perceptions follow the same pattern of perception. They constitute the direct apprehension of meanings which are the particular qualities embodied in an objective presentation.23 produces is an expression of his artistic insight, he is himself more often than not unaware of what he meant to say until, in the finished product, it has said itself." 23 Cf. Greene, The Arts and the Art of Criticism, p. 128: "An artistic 'idea' is as concrete and as objective to sense and imagination as is the work of art of which it is a part, and it is apprehensible only through imaginative artistic re-creation."


Literature as Knowledge

Art and science focus upon different aspects of reality and human experience, and the farther they advance, the more pronounced the difference between them becomes. τ.


The Arts and the Art of Criticism



THE ARTIST'S DESIRE to know is equally valid and as much a part of man's nature as is that of the scientist whose method is abstraction. Aristotle did not develop the subject in his Metaphysics, but his opening remarks are significant:



All men by nature desire to know. An indication of this is the delight we take in our senses; for even apart from their usefulness they are loved for themselves; and above all others the sense of sight. For not only with a view to action, but even when we are not going to do anything, we prefer seeing (one might say) to everything else.1 Aristotle makes some convincing judgments here about man's basic values. He supports his assertion that man's desire is to know, by pointing to "man's delight" in sensing his experience. He seems explicitly to mean that man's "desire" and "delight" and "love" are for a more complete knowledge of his experience than that furnished in reduced versions by abstract science. Our modern thinkers, especially John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Cleanth Brooks, have pursued the problem of man's knowledge further in the direction first suggested by Aristotle and later Kant.2 Like Kant they have challenged the supremacy of scientific knowledge as the sole representative of man's knowledge and have returned to the basic stuff of human experience to examine the ways in which it may be more fully represented by symbolic formulations. Their judgments are convincing and concern man's basic values. No doctrine is more central to the critical theory of Ransom, Tate, and Brooks than their belief in literature as an essential form of knowledge.3 Following the reasoning emphasized by 1

Aristotle, "Metaphysics," The Basic Works of Aristotle, p. 689. The relationship between Aristotle's views and those of Kant in matters of aesthetic theory has been suggested by John Crowe Ransom in his essay "The Literaiy Criticism of Aristotle," Kenyon Review, X (Summer, 1948), 382-402. 3 Cf. Chapter 1, n. 17. Also cf. Brooks, The Well-Wrought Urn, p. 36: "Urban not only sees poetry as constandy 'employing the dramatic way of rendering life.' He says that 'indirectly all art is revelatory of man . . . no adequate account of what happens in human life, the central home of action and drama, is possible if "relations of the 2



Bergson and Hulme, these critics hold that knowledge of the actual world of man's everyday experience is necessarily distorted when it is translated into the abstract notations of any scientific account.4 They believe such abstractions to be an inherent limitation to the formulations of science. They regard science as representing, at best, only one highly specialized kind of knowledge. On the other hand, they believe that the artist "knows" the actual world in a much more natural state. Ransom has stated the theme in many ways on nearly every occasion in his critical writings. One of the best statements occurs in the preface of The New Criticism: "The sciences deal almost entirely with structures, which are scientific structures; but poetic structures differ radically from these, and it mental type" as opposed to the operational types of science—and the dramatic way of rendering them—are left out.' "This, I believe, is the essential point in Allen Tate's assertion that poetry gives 'complete knowledge'—an assertion that has vexed critics of positivist persuasion. But how poetry is complete is specified: it does not leave out what science must leave out: 'Literature is complete knowledge of man's experience. By knowledge I mean that unique and formed intelligence of the world, of which man alone is capable'." Also cf. Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 8: "The function of criticism should have been, in our times, to maintain and to demonstrate the specificai, unique, and complete knowledge which the great forms of literature afford us. And I mean quite simply knowledge, not historical documentation and information." 4 Bergson, Introduction to Metaphysics, pp. 18-19: "For on the one hand these concepts, laid side by side, never actually give us more than an artificial reconstruction of the object, of which they can only symbolize certain general, and, in a way, impersonal aspects; it is therefore useless to believe that with them we can seize a reality of which they present to us the shadow alone. And, on the other hand, besides the illusion there is also a very serious danger. For the concept generalizes at the same time as it abstracts. The concept can only symbolize a particular property by making it common to an infinity



is this difference which defines them. The ontological materials are different, and are such as to fall outside the possible range of science." 5 When he emphasizes that the ontology of the "materials" of poetry is different from that of science, Ransom means that the kind of reality represented by poetry's special employment of language is different from that represented by the formulations of science. But it is not enough to differentiate poetic meanings from logical ones or to show that the intended communication is generally different. How particular meanings get into a literary discourse, which must necessarily employ words whose meanings are not particulars, is the specific problem for poetic theory. To investigate it is to investigate precisely what is meant when poetry is judged to be a distinct form of knowledge. One of the arguments used by Wellek and Warren against the particularity of literary meanings is based on the universal character of words: To stress the "individuality" and even "uniqueness" of every work of art—though wholesome against facile generalizations—is to forget that no work of art can be wholly "unique" since then it would be completely incomprehensible. . . . Moreover all words in every literary work of art are, by their very nature, "generals" and not particulars.6 And a little later they add: "The Romantics and most modern critics never tire of stressing the particularity of poetry, its 'texture' its concreteness." The argument that "all words in every literary work of art of things. It therefore always more or less deforms the property by the extension it gives to it." 5 Ransom, The New Criticism, p. xi. 6 René Wellek and Austin Warren, Theory of Literature, p. 7.



are, by their very nature, 'generals' and not particulars" does little or nothing to support Wellek and Warren's case against particularity in the poem. The "generals" do not remain general when they are combined by the poet. In scientific predication their meanings may be modified, but the goal there is always a larger generalization. Poetic modification aims at something quite different; it wishes to present its meaning. The complete difference between these two uses of language is apparent when we place the logical generalization and the poetic presentation next to each other. Let us look at the third stanza of Blake's "London": And the hapless soldier's sigh Runs in blood down palace walls. It would be impossible to formulate a generalization which would account for the full meaning of these lines, for, even if every possible meaning were accounted for, the essential meaning that the image embodies would be still lacking—its presentational immediacy. Since generalizations are reductions of particular experience, we can only hope for a logical approximation of what the poetic counterpart is able to render so richly: The soldier's expression of lament is an indictment of the governing authorities who are responsible for his misery. Hapless is a general word which is defined as "unlucky." Soldier is a general term which denotes "a man enlisted in military service." Sigh is a general term meaning "audible expression of grief or fatigue or lamentation." But the meaning which results when these generals are combined is not "general"; it is qualitative and intends to offer more than mere information about its subject, which from a strictly logical



viewpoint is somewhat ridiculous—the sigh of a soldier. Actually the subject is not this at all but something much more significant; the passage refers to the unhappy resignation of men whose individuality is sacrificed for the state's cause. Strictly speaking, this will not do for the subject, to which hapless is to be someway attached, for in poetic assertions the subject and predication about it are not in this way differentiated. More accurately, we have an immediate presentation which is rich in implied meaning. One important device for achieving poetic meaning is the abrupt presentation of the unexpected. In Blake's lines there is a mild shock in merely asserting, as if it were a commonplace, the paradoxical possibility that the symbol of masculine strength, who prepares himself for courageous action and even brutality, should be engaging in so subtle an act as a sigh. The picture gives a mild wrench to our sensibilities. We expect the mother and the lover to sigh, or possibly the poet, but we scarcely expect it of a soldier. The general term hapless and the general term soldier also produce, when combined, qualities which sound logical discourse would avoid. In the countless millions of word formulations of modern military publications which have made predications about the soldier, it is safe to suppose that not one of them combined hapless with soldier. There is a wistfulness about "hapless soldier" which good military communication could not countenance. It might mention the "unlucky soldier," or the "unfortunate soldier," and suit its ends much more satisfactorily and without the degree of distraction from the denotative meaning that "hapless soldier" would bring about. The distraction would come from the suggestions of the soldier's unexpected bad fortune, or his being the sudden victim of some impersonal event, as in Milton's :



And, O ye dolphins, waft the hapless youth. The full image, "the hapless soldier's sigh," is much too full of qualitative meanings to function as good "general" terms should, if the intention is to combine them in a sound, logical generalization. We perceive the pathetic incongruity suggested by the elements of the full image as the particular meanings support one another. The mistreatment at the hands of fate, or the enemy, or his military superiors, or the state has caused the soldier to lose what he prizes most—that strength of courage which we acknowledge in our admonition, "Be a soldier," to one whose courage we wish to re-enforce. The "hapless soldier's sigh" is thus justified, and understandable, and human. The completion of the image in the following line involves the obviously nonlogical device of metaphor. Here the real economy of language formulation as it occurs in the poem is evident. A dozen generalizations would be necessary to give merely the logical counterpart of its particular qualitative meanings, and none of the generalizations or their total list could convey the presentational immediacy of meaning that is communicated in the poetic particularization of the "generals" employed: Runs in blood down palace walls. The critic's generalizations function here in providing pointers calculated to assist in a fuller realization of the image's "particulars." As stated by the critic, they are, of course, not particular, but when put back into the image, their qualitative particularity is readily apprehended. For example, the sigh "runs . . . down," and in this it is like a tear. But the soldier's tearlike sigh "runs in blood." Both the shedding of his blood and the shedding of his tears are suggested. The "pal-



ace walls" down which the blood runs suggests the useless wanton slaughter accompanying the storming of palace fortifications. The pathetic note is introduced with the "hapless" predicament of the soldier and his reduction from the status of warrior to suffering human whose response is a tearful sigh —the letting of his spiritual blood, which, with his life blood, runs down the palace walls. Other meanings are simultaneously present; the soldier is an unwilling sacrifice to the interests of the state. The bloodguilt of those who are responsible for the soldier's suffering is fixed upon the state. The blood becomes a brand, an ironic decoration which mars the palace walls. Ransom insists that the poetic image imitates the bodiness of experience because it displays the fullness of particularity, the many meanings which sense objects possess in their unabstracted state. He says of this character of the image: "The image which is not remarkable in any particular property is marvellous in its assemblage of many properties, like a mine or a field, something to be exploited for the properties; yet science can manage the image, which is infinite in properties, only by equating it to the one property with which the science is concerned." 7 To believe that knowledge provided by the abstracted notations of science is the only knowledge is to deny meaning to literature, or at best to relegate it to a form of ornamental, logical statement. To define the special kind of knowledge which literature represents is the chief task of modern Kantian critics. What is said through the embodied meanings of the poetic line is clearly not the same thing that we mean by knowledge in the usual logical sense. But the sense in which poetry offers 7

Ransom, The World's Body, pp. 115-116.



knowledge is difficult to formulate. Ransom notes the difficulty of the problem for criticism: Poets make plenty of assertions; if the predication is not overt, so that grammar can recognize it, it is implicit. ("The oak, ancient, moaning its splendors gone," commits the poet as much as if he had said, "The oak moans in pain.") But these assertions (the one just cited, for example) may be "mythical" ones, and what will be their status as cognition? They are supposed to appear in science. Are we to believe them, and in what sense? It is one of the hardest problems in the theory of poetry.8 To "know" scientifically is to possess information about an object. Here the important term is about. No matter what subject we may wish to understand, that subject can be communicated to us only in more or less piecemeal fashion through various predicates about it. Allen Tate has said: "It seems to me that my verse or anybody else's is merely a way of knowing something: if the poem is a real creation, it is a kind of knowledge that we did not possess before. It is not knowledge "about" something else; the poem is the fullness of that knowledge. We know the particular poem, not what it says that we can restate." 9 In logical language each predicate may attempt to contribute some new concept of the subject, but never in this way can the subject itself be entirely known. For example, if the subject I wish to know about is President Lincoln, I may learn that he was born in a log cabin in Kentucky, that he acquitted himself with popular success in public debates, that he became President of the United States, that he was fond of black string ties, and, theoretically at least, I can conceive of an 8 9

Ibid., p. 157. Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 250.



almost infinite number of possible predicates from which a thorough account of my subject could be so formulated. The question is: Even with an infinite number of possible predicates, in what sense would I know the subject? The answer, I think, reveals the principal limitation of scientific knowledge for the purposes of this inquiry: the predicates would always present knowledge "about" the subject, but never present the subject itself. But it is precisely the subject itself, in all its particularity, that is the chief concern of poetic formulations. Science, in its predicates, must seek what is universal, what is predicable of any number of individuals in the same sense. Its fundamental symbol is the concept through which what is common to many individuals is displayed. But to stress the individuality of the poetic presentation is not to rule out the possibility of its being universally communicated. Modern theorists, especially Ransom and Tate, recognize the necessity of the logical or cognitive element in the poem which, following Kant, makes possible the universal communication of the poetic experience.10 What is important at this point is the realization that poetry intends to represent its subject in such a way that the full experience of its particular nature may be communicated. Its basic symbol is not the concept; rather it is the poetic phrase which, while composed of concepts, in some way contradicts the semantic and/or syntactical arrangements which science must necessarily employ. In being restricted to the employment of concepts com10 Cf. Kant, The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, p. 63: "But nothing can be universally communicated except cognition [logical] and representation so far as it belongs to cognition. For it is only thus that this latter can be objective; and only through this has it a universal point of reference, with which the representative power of everyone is compelled to harmonize."



bined in a rational, syntactical pattern, scientific language is limited to the characteristics which its subject and predicates have in common. The process, then, is one of abstraction in which the "stuff" of the subject to be known is lost. It is this stuff which is the main concern of the poetic symbol, in comparison with which the scientific concept is but a shell. In straightforward, logical prose the writer may be interested in communicating about Mr. Prufrock that he has wasted his life dealing with trivia. The reader can readily grasp this information about Mr. Prufrock or any other subject. The poet has done something different when in his poetic phrase he has presented the reader with something of the actual quality of the judgment: "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." In any scientific investigation, reduction of the subject to universal abstractions is necessary. But to believe that such a reduction is ultimate, to the extent that other modes of symbolic representation are excluded, is to be intellectually limited and philosophically naive. Ransom cautions the critics, to whom a scientific one-sidedness would be most disastrous, on the necessity of realizing the limitations of scientific formulation: "The responsible critics would be the thinkers who should consider that the most blinding of all illusions is the habit of regarding scientific discourse as comprehensive of the whole range of cognition."11 Here again the question is not necessarily one of philosophical belief. Rather, as Ransom indicates, it would be a question of philosophical blindness. For, as has been indicated, the inability of science to give a full and comprehensive account of all aspects of man's experience, provides at once literature's "reason for being." Ransom, The New Criticism, p. 44.



Cleanth Brooks, in commenting on the poetry of Yeats, indicates that he also supports the tradition which finds the necessity of poetic language precisely in the limitations of scientific language: "He [Yeats] also refused to play the game with the counters of science. For the abstract, meaningless, valueless system of science, he proposed to substitute a concrete, meaningful system, substituting symbol for concept/' 12 And later in the same essay he says: "The account given by science is still abstract, unconcerned with values and affording no interpretations."13 Brooks believes that through the special use of language employed by the artist these limitations are overcome: "It is through the production of energetic metaphor, of live 'myths,' that the poet attempts to break through the pattern of 'abstract experience' and give man a picture of himself as man."14 We have already seen that, for Brooks, the paradoxical nature of human experience defies adequate representation in a medium whose formulations reduce the experience to its common abstractions. When he states that the poetic intention is directed toward giving "man a picture of himself as man," Brooks has this paradoxical quality of man's experience in mind. But perhaps it would be profitable to develop Brooks' figure in the opposite direction in order to see more fully that a picture of man "as man" is not the purpose of science, the practice of science, or even the possibility for science. To give man a picture of himself as consisting of a given number of chemical elements, or as a composite of skeletal, 12 13 14

Cleanth Brooks, Modern Poetry and the Tradition, p. 175. Ibid. Ibid., p. 101.


75 muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems, or as a creature determined by desires and adjustment problems, is to give man many pictures of himself as he has been reduced through the various lenses of the specialized sciences. If to the collection we add pictures which the anthropologist, the historian, the sociologist, and even the philosopher furnish, in what sense would we have pictured man in Brooks' intention, which is also the poetic intention? Each of the pictures would have sought to shut out every aspect of the subject which was irrelevant to its own special interest. (A view of the skeletal system, for example, focuses only on morphological subject matter.) Each would be the product of its own special lens— designed to record only that which can penetrate its particular filter. The total result would be a mosaic of abstracted aspects, not one picture but many, each claiming validity for its own purified account. Man, as he knows himself in experience, could recognize himself only by an act of will among the abstracted representations offered by science. Like Brooks, Tate emphasizes the paradoxical character of human experience. He notes that logical categories cannot adequately represent this contradictory character: . . . in poetry all things are possible . . . They are possible because in poetry the disparate elements are not combined in logic, which can join things only under certain categories and under the laws of contradiction; they are combined in poetry rather as experience, and experience has decided to ignore logic, except perhaps as another field of experience.15 By the nonlogical character of experience, Tate means the conflicts of human experience as they exist prior to being 15

Tate, On the Limits of Poetry, p. 251



reduced to abstract logical statement. He notes that the real, unabstracted material of experience is characteristically contradictory, filled with opposing tensions: Experience means conflict, our natures being what they are, and conflict means drama. Dramatic experience is not logical. Serious poetry deals with the fundamental conflicts which cannot be logically resolved: we can state the conflicts rationally, but reason does not relieve us of them. Their only final coherence is in the formal re-creation of art, which "freezes" the experience as permanently as a logical formula, but without, like the formula, leaving all but the logic out.16 The "logical formula" which leaves "all but the logic out" points to the limitations of scientific language. The important themes here are Tate's distinction between logical and poetic discourse and his place in a tradition which sees poetry as functioning to present the fullness of its objects. Thus we give meaning to the world of our experience in two distinct ways. Either we formulate experience through a process of reduction in an attempt to understand its determining principles, or we formulate it through a process of concretion in an attempt to comprehend its unabstracted particularity. Both kinds of meaning are essential if we are to have a knowledge that is representative of the full employment of our cognitive faculties. 16



From Poetry to Fiction: Criticism through Structure

That is the terrifying challenge of poetry. Can I think out the logic of images? How easy it is to explain here the poem that I would have liked to write! How difficult it would be to write it. For writing would imply living my way through the imaged experience of all these ideas, which here are mere abstractions . . . STEPHEN SPENDER,

"The Making of a Poem"




of the New Critics lies not so much in their providing a method for examining a poem as it does in their providing an account of the essential structure possessed by all lyric poems. Once a sense THE




of the basic stuff of the poem is grasped, the method to be followed in analyzing it presents itself quite naturally and unmistakably. "A poem," Mr. Ransom tells us, "is a logical structure having a local texture."1 He then proceeds to distinguish these two basic elements. He determines the "logical structure" of the poem by formulating a statement of its argument, and he isolates the "local texture" by focusing on "the devices which are, precisely, its [poetry's] means of escaping from prose." Ransom is not fashioning some sort of arbitrary structure for the poem when he makes his distinction between its logical and nonlogical elements. What he has discerned is basic to the poem as a symbolic formulation. For verification he turned first to Hegel, later to Kant. In one of his more famous essays, "Criticism as Pure Speculation," he declares: He [Hegel] seems to make the handsomest concessions to realism by offering to knowledge a kind of universal which was not restricted to the usual abstracted aspects of the material, but included all aspects, and was a concrete universal. The concreteness in Hegel's handling was not honestly, or at any rate not fairly, defined. It was always represented as being in process of pointing up and helping out the universality. He could look at a work of art and report all its substance as almost assimilated to a ruling "idea." But at least Hegel seemed to distinguish what looked like two ultimate sorts of substance there, and stated the central esthetic problem as the problem of relating them.2 Ransom means by ontological criticism the recognition that in the symbols of art there are "two ultimate sorts of substance" and that "the concrete esthetic problem is the prob1 2

Ransom, The World's Body, p. 347. Ransom, "Criticism as Pure Speculation," The Intent of the Critic,

p. 113.



lem of relating them." That is, every work of art in whatever medium, characteristically possesses a universal aspect which makes possible a concept of the work, and a particular aspect which ofiFers a presentation of meaning far in excess of what its concept renders. In another of his key essays, "Poetry: A Note in Ontology," Ransom makes a distinction similar to the one of the Hegel passage, this time relating his theory to Kant's aesthetics. His immediate concern is for the fundamental kinds of subject matter a poem may emphasize: "things" and "ideas." His point is the basic difference in the being of the symbols representing things and the being of the symbols representing ideas. His opening paragraph states: A poetry may be distinguished from a poetry by virtue of subjectmatter (i.e., things and ideas) and subject-matter may be differentiated with respect to its ontology, or the reality of its being. An excellent variety arises recently out of this differentiation, and thus perhaps criticism leans upon ontological analysis as it was meant to do by Kant.8 Kant called for a distinction to be made between the understanding, the faculty which reduces its object to a concept in order to classify it, and the imagination, the faculty which maintains its object in a presentation in order to know it as it is, undistorted by logical reduction. Kant insisted that the kinds of being represented by the two forms of the judgment were ontologically distinct. His insistence has its echo in modern criticism in Ransom's final chapter of The World's Body, "Wanted: An Ontological Critic." Ransom's meaning is clear: He wants a critic who approaches the literary work with an awareness of its funda3

Ransom, The World's Body, p. 111.



mental structure as a distinctly aesthetic judgment, one which exceeds the capacity of a logical judgment by offering a concrete presentation of the texture of experience. Ransom's critical practice is based upon his theory of the ontological structure of the poem. The steps in the process of relating his theory to his practice may be summarized as follows: 1. Every poem has a paraphrasable content—the argument or plot of the poem. 2. The important considerations for criticism are located not in the paraphrase but in the "texture" of the poem. 3. The texture is composed of devices or forms through which a concrete presentation of meaning is achieved. Some of the more common devices of concretion which have received special emphasis by various schools of modern criticism include: the symbol, the image, paradox, irony, ambiguity, myth, tone, and the like. 4. Critical procedure means the close analysis of these formal devices, because it is in the special use of language, in the "form" it receives, that literary art becomes a unique kind of knowledge. 5. Close analysis presupposes these requisites: first, the sensibility to "re-create" (Theodore M. Greene's term for the initial critical act) the work, i.e., to experience it as a presentation; second, the humility to allow the work to speak its own meanings through its own form without imposing critical preconceptions upon it; and third, the full realization that the critical task is forever one of discovery.




The movement from the poem to the story is not different in kind. The lyric poem, like the painting, testifies to man's capacity to formulate his world in concrete presentations which render the full unabstracted bodiness or texture of the experience. The work of fiction accomplishes all this but adds a new dimension: it testifies to man's capacity to experience his experience in time. On the surface, the work of fiction appears quite different from the lyric poem. Fiction is concerned with a particular world and particular characters, presented through a succession of scenes which are constructed to develop a central action. Yet the essential structure of fiction—what Ransom would call its "ontological" structure—is basically the same as that of poetry. When we consider the ontological structure of fiction, it is immediately apparent that the most basic unit of presentation is the scene. Other presentational elements abound in a work of fiction, of course, the concrete portrayal of character, the concrete description of the world of the action; but the presentational unit, which more than any other characteristic distinguishes fiction as a unique literary form, is its formulation of experience as a succession of scenes. The scene in fiction may be viewed as being analogous to the image in poetry. From an ontological point of view both the scene and the image possess the same fundamental characteristics: 1. Both present rather than predicate about. 2. Both comprise a single configuration of multiple meaning. 3. Both intend to formulate the particularity, the texture of experience.



4. Both are directed primarily to sense, not to abstract intellection. 5. Both exceed the concept in containing more meaning than a concept can, by its inherent nature, formulate. The fictional scene, no less than the poetic image, represents the literary artist's attempt at, in Eliot's words, "transmuting ideas into sensations." When Stephen Spender wrote the following passage in his fine essay on poetic creation, "The Making of a Poem," he had, primarily, ontological considerations in mind. If we substitute "fiction" for "poetry" in the first line and "scenes" for "images" in the second, the truth of the passage is as evident as in its original sense. My point is the analogous, even homologous, role played by "images" in the poem and "scenes" in the novel. Mr. Spender writes: "That is the terrifying challenge of poetry. Can I think out the logic of images? How easy it is to explain here the poem that I would have liked to write! How difficult it would be to write it. For writing it would imply living my way through the imaged experience of all these ideas, which here are merely abstractions . . ."4 Spender's observations recall T. S. Eliot's simple statement of the same Coleridgian insight: "There is a logic of the imagination as well as a logic of concepts." The suggestion I make is that both from a creative and recreative (critical) standpoint, fiction possesses the same ontological structure as poetry. The writer must "think out the logic" of his scenes with a logic which springs from his imagemaking faculty. The reader, confronted with a symbolic pattern similar to his daily experience—a progression of individ4

Stephen Spender, "The Making of a Poem," Partisan Review, XIII (Summer, 1946), 301.



ual scenes—responds to the pattern with the expectancy that it will be fully as comprehensible as his daily experience. Actually he anticipates more. The succession of scenes which are given form in a fictional work constitute a more meaningful pattern than one's experience, because they constitute not merely a representation of experience but a judgment about experience. T. S. Eliot's famous concept of the "objective correlative," although most often applied to the understanding of poetry, is equally applicable to the understanding of fiction. Indeed, Eliot conceived the idea while examining a work of drama, which would suggest that its original use was closer to fiction than poetry. The fact is, Eliot's "objective correlative" is an ontological distinction in Ransom's fullest sense and applies with equal validity to all forms of literary art. Eliot wrote: "The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an 'objective correlative,' in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience are given, the emotion is immediately evoked."5 Ransom would have preferred Eliot to have written something like "artistic meaning" for "emotion" in his opening sentence, but the ontological intention of the passage is the same in either case. The form that the selected or discovered "set of objects," "situation," "chain of events" must be presented in is the scene. The lyric poem imposes no such demand, but it is not, as is fiction, concerned with life in action; the poem is a still life; the work of fiction is life in motion, life experienced not merely in space, but in time. 5

Eliot, Selected Essays, 1917-1932,

p. 145.



Pound was closer to a structural definition of the basic literary unit when he defined the image as "that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time."6 Here the term "presents" differentiates the artistic unit from the conceptual unit of expository prose—again a distinction which is ontological in nature. When we recall that Pound was not defining merely a single image, one of the many which constitute a poem, but was also considering the entire poem as a single image, we may draw the analogy with the scene of fiction. At once Pound's definition may be seen to encompass a broader scope and perform a more fundamental service than in its restricted application to the poem. The scene in Pound's ontological sense is also an image and performs the same service for fiction that the image performs for the poem. Consider the treatment of scene in any of Hemingways' novels or short stories. I choose Hemingway because Pound's teachings had a great influence on the young Hemingway in Paris to become a writer. His associates and teachers included Sherwood Anderson and Gertrude Stein. Concerning the relationship with Pound, Malcolm Cowley quotes Hemingway as commenting, "Ezra was right half the time, and when he was wrong, he was so wrong you were never in any doubt about it." In his sharply delineated scenes, in his careful fashioning of every line to get the most out of every presentational unit, in his insistence that writing is a process of "getting it right," Hemingway constructs prose poems. His concern is always with expressionistic qualities which are generated in literary art. One is immediately reminded of the same concern for 6

Ezra Pound, "A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste," Poetry, I (March,

1912), 200.



expressionism in literature that characterizes the writing of another of Pound's pupils, T. S. Eliot. For both, the presentational unit itself must do the work, with that immediacy of meaning that Pound continually insisted upon. In "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" the opening scene is characteristic of Hemingway's technique, in which, following Pound's teachings, meaning is presentational and immediate: It was now lunch time and they were all sitting under the double green fly of the dining tent pretending that nothing had happened. "Will you have lime juice or lemon squash?" Macomber asked. 'TU have a gimlet," Robert Wilson told him. "I'll have a gimlet, too. I need something," Macomber's wife said. "I suppose it's the thing to do," Macomber agreed. "Tell him to make three gimlets." The mess boy had started them already, lifting the bottles out of the canvas cooling bags that sweated wet in the wind that blew through the trees that shaded the tents. "What had I ought to give them?" Macomber asked. "A quid would be plenty," Wilson told him. "You don't want to spoil them." "Will the headsman distribute it?" "Absolutely." If we were to mark off the scenes in the story by drawing a line between them, the line would be drawn here. Much of the impact of Hemingway's writing depends on the sharp demarcation between scenes. For example, the tone shift which accompanies the next scene captures the full sense of the contrast one experiences when the immediacy of a present experience is broken by a sudden shift to a past experience presented in reflection. Hemingway's second scene begins:



Francis Macomber had, half an hour before, been carried on the arms and shoulders of the cook, the personal boys, the skinner and the porters. The gun-bearers had taken no part in the demonstration . . . Within the frame of the individual scene each language unit functions expressively, or in Susanne Langer's term "nondiscursively," to present an aspect of the total work—a thematic meaning, an attitude, a relationship—that is essential to the total meaning of the work. For example, in the opening scene Hemingway presents not only the world of the action and the characters involved but he also suggests the tension of the situation, the relationship between the characters, and the all-important fact that the subject matter is to concern not so much action and event as individual human values. While it is unquestionably true that fiction does not offer its succession of scenes with the same degree of objective presentation that occurs in the drama, yet the apparently discursive passages, such as description, narrative summary, arid even author commentary, take on a presentational character when they are woven into the context of a scene. 3 From an ontological point of view a scene is a way of giving form to the way we actually encounter experience in the process of daily living. In some way each successive experience, however inconsequential, is an encounter, a confrontation, with an expressive presentation. In his latest work, Adonis and the Alphabet, Aldous Huxley writes: Whether we like it or not, we are amphibians, living simultaneously in the world of experience and the world of notions, in the world of direct apprehension of Nature, God and ourselves, and

89 the world of abstract, verbalized knowledge about these primary facts. Our business as human beings is to make the best of both these worlds.7


It is the sciences which not only provide us with the "notions" and the "knowledge" but at the same time testify, as one kind of symbolic form, to man's impulse toward abstraction. It is the arts which remind us that one portion of our living experience is "the world of direct apprehension of Nature," but they also testify to a knowledge impulse—the desire to give symbolic form to concrete, individual experience. Perhaps in the bombardment of our sensibilities by the shapes and colors and sounds of ever-changing experience, we attend but little to individual presentations, that is, we make little effort to understand them. Perhaps we unconsciously perform a cognition sufficient to classify them so that we maintain some sort of order and orientation even as we experience the myriad varieties of presentational experience. Something like this must occur when we read fiction. The appeal the novel has must come in part from knowing that fiction is a symbolic formulation designed to give a more adequate account of the way human experience actually unfolds, not when it is merely known about or "understood," but when it is experienced in the course of human living. In the novel, as in life, presented scene follows presented scene. In the novel the scenes are ordered, of course, not haphazard, because they are informed with human purpose. Even Joyce's Ulysses possesses an integrating principle which must be recognized if the work is to make meaningful reading. Consider the presentational scenes which make up the daily 7

Aldous Huxley, "The Education of an Amphibian," Adonis and the Alphabet, pp. 14-15.



round of experience for Faulkner's Benjy in The Sound and the Fury. The thirty-three-year-old idiot experiences the conglomeration of disparate experience which comprises his restricted world, without sufficient cognitive power to classify and relate the ever-changing shapes and events that continue to register upon his consciousness. But even Benjy has some powers of abstraction. In some vague way those experiences which remind him of his sister, whom he loves with a deep, childlike devotion, are integrated in his mind. The integration is initiated by a cognition, which itself springs from Benjy's values. The reader, once aware of Benjy's pathetic situation as an adult idiot who possesses a touching, however limited, sensibility, follows the main line of the action—seeing the world as Benjy sees it, a confused welter of kaleidoscopic experiences—having meaning only as they are related to his vague memory and longing for his sister, the only one, it is gradually realized, who responded to Benjy as an individual human being. For social, external purposes, Caddie is a fallen woman driven by misshapen values toward a life of prostitution. For existential or inner purposes, Caddie is recognized as one so capable of love that she alone grants Benjy his individual being. For her only he is not a concept. Thus when the informed reader is confronted with Benjy's experience, the scenes of life as Benjy experiences them, the formulation is fiction of great significance. The integrating principle is love, Benjy's for Caddie, and the ironic justification of Benjy's value judgment concerning his sister gives a new dimension to experience, a new knowledge in a new form. Through Faulkner's fictional form we are made aware of the validity of Benjy's judgment concerning his sister. Were it not for



seeing her through Benjy's values, we could not know that she was also a saint. Form in fiction is an embodiment of meaning, just as it is in poetry, not merely a framework for content. In Ransom's ontological sense, a work is made up of many forms, large and small, some structural, some imagistic, some ethical, all testifying to the truth so essential to the theory of Kant and Coleridge that man experiences his life concretely through his imagining faculty, as well as abstractly through his conceptualizing one. In fiction as well as poetry, the ontology or reality of its being as a symbolic form suggests the approach criticism must take. Since the essential power of the fictional work resides in its texture, in the forms through which the artist constructs and relates his scenes, criticism becomes a matter of consciousness, of bringing to awareness the nondiscursive meaning embodied in the scenes. Character, action, world must, as in poetry, be concretely presented. What makes the fictional form unique is its imitation of the way we encounter life's experience, as a succession of presentations to which we provide some integration, sometimes only to maintain orientation, sometimes to give meaning and even value to the events that pass over consciousness. Just as knowledge of life's "presentations" is a process of becoming aware, of providing a meaningful abstraction in a concept of our experience, so knowledge of literature's presentations is a repetition of the same process. Criticism of art as well as of life is consciousness after experience; it is the discovery of meaning in a presentation.





Adams, Hazard. Blake and Yeats. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1955. Aristotle. "Metaphysics," The Basic Works of Aristotle. Ed. Richard McKeon. New York: Random House, Inc., 1941. Ayer, Alfred. Language, Truth, and Logic. New York: Dover Publications, 1952. Bergson, Henri. Introduction to Metaphysics. London: Putnam & Co., 1912.

Blackmur, R. P. Language as Gesture. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952. . The Double Agent. New York: Arrow, 1935. . The Expense of Greatness. New York: Arrow, 1940. . The Lion and the Honeycomb. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1955. Bowden, Edwin T. The Themes of Henry James. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1956. Brooks, Cleanth. Modern Poetry and the Tradition. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1939. . "The Poet's Fancy," New Republic, LXXXV (November 13, 1935), 26-27. . The Well-Wrought Urn. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1947· Brooks, Cleanth, and Robert Penn Warren. Understanding Poetry. New York: Henry Holt & Company, Inc., 1938. Burke, Kenneth. The Philosophy of Literary Form. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1941. Bush, Douglas. "The New Criticism: Some Old-Fashioned Queries," PMLA, LXIV (March, 1949), 13-21. Carnap, Rudolf. The Logical Syntax of Language. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1937. 95



Cassirer, Ernst. Philosophie der symbolischen Formen. Berlin: Bruno Cassirer Verlag, 1929. Coffman, Stanley K. Imagism. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951·

Cowley, Malcolm. The Literary Situation. New York: The Viking Press, 1954· Daiches, David. The Place of Meaning in Poetry. Edinburgh, Scotland: Oliver and Boyd, 1935. Eaton, Ralph. Symbolism and Truth. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1925. Eliot, T. S. Selected Essays: 1917-1932. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1932. . The Sacred Wood. London: Methuen & Company, Ltd., 1920.

Greene, Theodore Meyer, ed. Kant Selections. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1929. . The Arts and the Art of Criticism. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1940. Guerard, A. J. Conrad the Novelist. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1958. Hospers, John. Meaning and Truth in the Arts. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1946. Hulme, T. E. Speculations. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1936· Huxley, Aldous. "The Education of an Amphibian,,, Adonis and the Alphabet. London: Chatto and Windus, 1956. I'll Take My Stand. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1930. Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. Trans. J. H. Bernard. London: Macmillan & Company, Ltd., 1931. Kazin, Alfred. On Native Grounds. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1942.

Langer, Susanne K. Philosophy in a New Key. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1942. Muller, H. J. "The New Criticism in Poetry," Southern Review, VI (Spring, 1941), 811-839. Ogden, C. K., and I. A. Richards. The Meaning of Meaning. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1923. Pound, Ezra. "A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste," Poetry, I (March, 1912), 200-206.



. Polite Essays. London: Faber and Faber, Ltd., 1937. . The ABC of Reading. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1934. Rahv, Philip. Image and Idea. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1957· Ransom, John Crowe. "Criticism as Pure Speculation," The Intent of the Critic. Ed. D. A. Stauffer. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1941. . God Without Thunder. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1930. . "Mr. Empson's Muddles," Southern Review,

IV (1938-39),

323· . "The Literary Criticism of Aristotle," Kenyon Review, X (Summer, 1948), 382-402. . The New Criticism. New York: New Directions, 1941. . The World's Body. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1938. Read, Herbert. Icon and Idea. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1956. Richards, I. A. Practical Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1929. . Principles of Literary Criticism. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1925. . Science and Poetry. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1926. Schorer, Mark. Criticism: The Foundations of Modern Literary Judgment. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1948. . "Technique as Discovery," Hudson Review, I (Spring, 1948), 67-68. Spender, Stephen. "The Making of a Poem," Partisan Review, (Summer, 1946), 294-308.


Stern, Gustai. Meaning and Change of Meaning. Goteborg, Sweden: Elanders Boktryckeri Aktiebolag Verlag, 1931. Svendsen, Kester. Milton and Science. Harvard University Press, 1956.

Cambridge, Massachusetts:



Tate, Allen. On the Limits of Poetry. Denver: Swallow Press, 1948. . Reactionary Essays on Poetry and Ideas. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. . Reason in Madness: Critical Essays. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1941. Tate, Allen, ed. The Language of Poetry. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1942. Urban, W. M. Language and Reality: The Philosophy of Language. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939. Vivas, Eliseo. "A Natural History of the Aesthetic Transaction," Naturalism and the Human Spirit. Edited by Yervant H. Krikorian. New York: Columbia University Press, 1944. . Creation and Discovery: Essays in Criticism and Aesthetics. New York: The Noonday Press, Inc., 1955. . "Literature and Knowledge," Sewanee Review, LX (1952), p. 588. Warren, Robert Penn. The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: An Essay. New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1946. Wellek, René. A History of Modern Criticism. 2 vols. (I). New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 1955. Wellek, René and Austin Warren. Theory of Literature. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949. West, Ray B. "Introduction: Modern Critical Theory," Essays in Modern Critical Theory, New York: Rinehart & Company, Inc., 1952. Whitehead, Alfred N. Symbolism: Its Meaning and Effect. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1927. Wimsatt, W. K. The Verbal Icon. Lexington: The University of Kentucky Press, 1954. Winters, Yvor. In Defense of Reason. Denver: Swallow Press & W. Morrow and Company, 1947. . The Anatomy of Nonsense. New York: New Directions, 1943.

INDEX abstraction: limitations of, ix, 18, 72; and experience, 8, 49; and judgment, 10; image destroyed by, 18; and scientific language, 34; as method of scientist, 35; and whole of life, 50; and symbolic formulation, 57; and scientific formulations, 65; and literature, 70; process of, 73; as reduction to universal concept, 73; man's impulse toward, 89 Adams, Hazard: mentioned, 42 Addison, Joseph: mentioned, 10 aesthetics: diction of, ix; and aestheticians, 10; experience of, 11; Baumgarten as student of, 13; and scientific knowledge, 17; and theory, 29 n, 51; neglected capacities for, 37; formalists' emphasis on meaning of, 42; Kant on, 51; and logical perception, 54; Vivas on, 58; Hegel on, 80 —and aestheticism: and art-for-art's sake, viii; critics' concern for, 22 —and thought; as described by analogy, 11; and mode of mental activity, 53 —and apprehension: characterized by symbolization, 53; and recognition, 53 n; and aesthetic response, 53 n; and understanding, 54; and logical cognition, 55; modern critics on, 56; and qualitative particularity, 58; and symbolic form, 58 —and abstract idea: and rational idea, 13, 28; and imagination, 27; and logical idea, 27

—and abstract judgment: proclaimed by Kant, 10; and logical judgment, 11, 27, 29, 82; and symbolic formulation, 11; and universal communication, 11; and work of art, 27 —and abstract question: and ontological critics, 28; and semantic transformation, 29; and achieved content, 29 ambiguity: as device of concretion, 82 analogy: Kant's method of, 11; and presentation of world's shell, 26 analysis, textual: significance of, viii; of form and technique, by Southern New Critics, 8; in modern criticism, 29.


tology analytical method: in criticism of fiction, χ Anderson, Sherwood: and Hemingway, 86 anthropologist: picture furnished by, 75 anti-intellectualism: particular form of, 13 Aristotle: on delight in senses, 64; on "desire to know," 64; and relation to Kant, 64 n; mentioned 63 art: and art-for-art's-sake, viii, 23, 43; and qualitative experience, ix; as nondiscursive symbol, 6; autonomy of, and Kant, 10; as form of judgment, 12; symbolic representation in, 12; essential purpose of, 16; as aesthetic judgment, 27; and logical judgment, 27; crea-

100 tion of, 49; essential characteristic of, 51; Greene on, 61; and ontological distinction, 86; and apprehension of nature, 89; and knowledge impulse, 89 —and artistic consciousness: and rational consciousness, 12; and artistic intention, 58 —, formulations of: and scientific formulations, 10; and particular in experience, 12 —in literature: as special employment of language and idea, x, 33; and fullness of meaning, 35; as qualitative experience, 51; general concept or, 66; as unique kind of knowledge, 82; and expressionistic qualities, 86 —, intention of: core of, 34; and artistic consciousness, 58 —, symbol of: as representation, 12; and modern literary theory, 14; and rational pointer, 59 —, work of: and qualitative experience, ix; as symbolic representation, 12; and laws of being, 30; as separate entity, 30; and achieved content, 31; Greene on, 59 n, 60 n; not wholly unique, 66; central aesthetic problem of, 80; universal aspect in, 81; particular aspect in, 81 artists: symbolic medium of, 58; and knowledge of actual world, 65 Baumgarten, Alexander: as student of aesthetics, 13 Bergson, Henri: attacks science, 13; and Kantian tradition, 13; and symbols of art, 14; Ransom on, 14; and scientific formulations, 14; writings of, 16; on intuition, 48; on distortion of knowledge, 65 biologism: reduced to emotion, 15

INDEX Blackmur, Richard: reproved by Ransom, 26 Blake, William: mentioned, 42; quoted, 67 bodiness: in poetic symbol, 26; and body, 43; of experience, 43, 70; of object, 28, 52; unabstracted, 83 Bodkin, Maud: as "new" critic, 24 Bowden, Edwin: mentioned, 42 Brooks, Cleanth: as formalist, vii; influence of Kant on, ix, 12, 48; as "new" critic, x, 8, 15, 23, 24; on myths, 3; as Southern New Critic, 8; on terms of science, 16; pattern of criticism of, 16; on language of literature, 27; theory of» 33, 54; on particularity of meaning, 37; on irony, 38; on paradox, 39; and historical critics, 42; on creative imagination, 51; and Ransom, 54; Urban quoted by, 58; scientific knowledge challenged by, 64; on special use of language, 74; on poetry of Yeats, 74; on poetic intention, 74-75 Browning, Robert: mentioned, 53 Burke, Edmund: as student of aesthetics, 13 Burke, Kenneth: as "new" critic, 24 Bush, Douglas: writings of, 22 Cartesian premises: 6 Cassirer, Ernst: as theorist, 6 character: portrayal in fiction, 83 child: as best philosopher, 38 cognition: and qualitative experience, ix; as aesthetic judgment, 11; "in general," 12; Kant on, 72 η —, logical: and understanding, 54; and reduction, 55; and aesthetic apprehension, 55 —and cognitive element: and universal communication, 72; and modern theorists, 72; necessity of, 72

INDEX —and cognitive faculties: activities of, 48; and particularity, 50; full employment of, 76 Coleridge, Samuel: poetic theory of, 13, 91; as follower of Kant, 48; mentioned, 51, 84 communication: artistic, and logical, 11; of personal attitudes, 35; of imagistic associations, 35 —, universal: as aesthetic judgment, 11; Tate on, 72; Ransom on, 72; of poetic experience, 72; of cognitive element, 72; Kant on, 72 η concept: source of, 10; as term of logic, 11; reduction to general, 35; in literary art, 66; and symbols, 74; universal aspect of, 81; and understanding, 81 —, logical: and human experience, ix; Kant's adoption of, 11; and reality, 13; inadequacy of, 13 conceptualizing faculty: and abstract experience, 91 concretion: as core of artistic intention, 34; as "growing together," 34; and poetic theory, 34; as writer's method, 36; techniques of, in fiction, 44; direction of, 44; employment of language in, 44; of form, 54; and Gestalt, 54; and symbolic formulation, 57; and concreteness of world, 57; and concreteness of poetry, 66; and unabstracted particularity, 76; common devices of, 82 —and concrete particularity: science avoids, 52; art retains, 52 —and concrete presentation: development of, 44; and aesthetic judgment, 82; and texture of poem, 82; and texture of experience, 82-83; and unabstracted bodiness, 83 —and concrete universal: and knowledge, 80 content: and form, 59

101 core: of artistic intention, 34 Cowley, Malcolm: on contemporary criticism, 24, 25, 28, 29; and fallacy of judgment, 27; quotes Hemingway on Pound, 86 creative process: limited knowledge of, 58 criticism, new: and influence of formalists, vii, viii; concerned with literary devices, viii, 23, 43, 82; principles of, ix; and qualitative experience, ix; extension to fiction, x, 42; and new convictions, x; analytic method of, x; school of, 8; concern of, 9; repudiation of science by, 13; and "new" critics, 15; and Brooks' poetic theory, 16; underlying bases of, 19, 23, 29; of literature, 22; confusion in study of, 23, 30; Ray B. West on, 24; unity in, 24; description of, 24; and ontology, 25, 29, 30, 81, 82; and aesthetic position, 25; and examination of language unit, 25; and Ransom, 2 5 26, 80, 82; and texture, 26, 82; charge against school of, 27; and Kant, 29; major trend in, 29; and aesthetic theory, 29, 29 η; and themes of neoclassical criticism, 29 n; Cowley on, 30; and concretion, 34; critical evolution in, 42; task of, 82; and critical preconceptions, 82; as consciousness after experience, 91; as discovery of meaning, 91 critics, new: and study of literature, vii, viii; influence of Kant on, ix, 1, 6, 12, 14, 18, 29, 48, 64 n, 91; influence of Hegel on, 1; and interest in structure, 9, 27; as formalists, 9, 22, 23; and scientism, 64; pattern of criticism by, 15; and attitude toward science, 15; critical tradition of, 17, 37; neoKantian position of, 18; home

102 work of, 19; as political reactionaries, 22; some representatives named, 23; and literary form, 23; and social movements, 28; and aesthetics, 28, 42, 56; and knowledge entities, 30; terms used by, 40; charged by historical critics, 42; and fiction, 44; criteria of, 44; as related to artist, 59; insight acclaimed, 60; on poetry, 66; general task of, 70; cautioned by Ransom, 73; real contribution of, 79 —, and Southern New Critics: and philosophy, ix; and language of science, 34; on real experience, 44; mentioned, viii, ix, 8 Dewey, John: mentioned, 53 η direct methods: viewed as enfeebling, 39 discourse, logical: and poetry, 26; conventional pattern of, 36; habit pattern of, 36; direct meanings of, 37; and poetic, 76 —, literary: function of, 17; meaning represented by, 47 —, poetic: and scientific, ix; and logical, 76 —, scientific: and poetic, ix; and the world, 34; limitation of, 73 discursive forms: how perceived, 56 discursive intelligence: and understanding, 56 discursive symbolism: general nature of, 56 Donne, John: mentioned, 38, 39, 53 Donne's lovers: considered scientifically, 40 dramatic structure: discovered by writer, 58 Dryden, John: mentioned, 10 Eliot, T. S.: effect on criticism of, 14; as "new" critic, 23; on task of poet, 38; and Kantian influence, 52; quoted, 84; on logic of concepts, 84; on logic of imagi-

INDEX nation, 84; Ransom on, 85; on objective correlative, 85; as Pound's pupil, 86 Emerson, Ralph Waldo: as follower of Kant, 48 emotion: and spiritual realm, 15; overtones of, and scientist, 35 emotive function: and poetic function of language, 16 Empson, William: as "new" critic, 23,24 experience: semanticists and formulation of, 6, 35; universal, and logic, 12; in literature, 16; formalist critics on, 44; and elementary abstraction, 49; quality of, 50; reduction of, and understanding, 52; Ransom on, 57; and symbolic formulation, 64, 89; nonlogical character of, 75; and conflict, 76; material of, 76; and meaning, 76; formulation of, 76; and logic, 76; and images, 77; of presentation, 82-83; and representation in fiction, 85; and symbolic form, 89; classification of, 89; and conceptualization, 91 —, human: and abstractions of logic, 8; and literary meanings, 8, 40; and symbolic formulations, 64; in literature, 65 n; paradoxical nature of, 75 —, poetic: and logical statement, 40; universal communication of, 72 —, qualitative: task of distinguishing, ix; and work of art, ix; and criticism, ix; and poetic creation, 50; and imagination, 51; and literary art, 51 expression: inseparable from intuition, 59 expressionism: Eliot's concern for, 86 expressionistic qualities: Hemingway's concern with, 86

INDEX Faulkner, William: and presentational scenes, 90 fiction: pattern for study of, vii; new criticism sought for, x; as experience in time, 83; as life in motion, 85; as symbolic formulation, 89; ontology of, 83, 84, 91 form: meaning sought in, viii; and language symbols, 29; and selfdisclosure, 44; and Gestalten, 49; and Gestalt, 54; presentational and nondiscursive, 56; and content, 59; and embodiment of meaning, 91; and images, 91; and ontological sense, 91. —, symbolic: and aesthetic apprehension, 58; and concrete experience, 89; and science, 89; as ontology of fiction and poetry, 91 formalist criticism. SEE criticism formalist critics. SEE critics formalist devices: ramifications of, 23 formulations: of human experience, 6, 76; in language of art and science, 10; and particular in experience, 12; and Bergson's skepticism, 14; limitations in science, 34, 65, 73; and language, 35; as used by scientist, 35; and poetic quality, 41; and world's body, 43; nature recognized, 48; and insight into thought process, 48; and mental faculty, 48; and qualitative perception, 57; and particularity of subject, 72 —, symbolic: and semanticists, 6; fundamental differences in, 7; of science, 7; of art, 7; of religion, 7; of language, 8; as aesthetic judgment, 11; in qualitative perception, 57; as abstraction, 57; as concretion, 57; and human experience, 64, 89; basic to poem, 80 function. SEE emotive function; referential function; representa-

103 tional function; poetry and poetic function generalizations: and poetic symbol, 26; and poetic presentation, 67; and particulars, 67, 69 generative idea. SEE ideas, generative generative theme: impact on science, 7; impact on art, 7; impact on religion, 7; and Ransom's criticism, 9; origin of, 10

Gestalt: and concrete form, 54 Gestalten: and presentational order, 49; as perceptual form, 49 Greene, Theodore Meyer: as Kantian philosopher, 9; on Kant's aesthetic position, 12; on re-creation of work of art, 59 n, 60 n; on art and science, 61; mentioned, 82 growth: seen as incarceration, 38 Guerard, A. J.: mentioned, 42 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich: as related to Kant, 1; aesthetic problem stated by, 80; mentioned, 80, 81 Hemingway, Ernest: and Sherwood Anderson, 86; and Gertrude Stein, 86; and Malcolm Cowley, 86; Pound's influence on, 86; treatment of scene by, 86; on Pound, 86; construction of prose poems by, 86; and presentational meaning, 87; mentioned, 88 historian: picture furnished by, 75 historicism: in spiritual realm, 15 Hulme, Τ. Ε.: on intellect, 14; and effect of criticism, 14, 16; on intuition, 48; on distortion of knowledge, 65 Humean premises: 6 Hutcheson, Francis: mentioned, 10 Huxley, Aldous: quoted, 40, 88

104 icon: as term used by critics, 41 ideas: Kant on, 13, 27-28, as representations of imagination, 13; and aesthetic perceptions, 60; imaged experience of, 77, emphasized in poem, 81 —, generative: influence of, ix; in epistemology, 7; and impact on study of literature, 8 "ideas into sensations": in fictional scene, 84; in poetic image, 84 ideational pattern: violated in paraI'll dox, 39 I'll Take My Stand: modern industrialism repudiated in, 18 image: destroyed by abstraction, 18; texture of, 40; and imagination, 49; as device of concretion, 40, 82; as term of critics, 40; clearly recognized, 41; and imagination, 49; ideas embodied in, 50; in Kantian view, 57; qualitative particularity of, 69; character of, 70; and scene, 86; defined by Pound, 86 —, poetic: ontology of, 49, 83, 84; and bodiness of experience, 70; Ransom on, 70 imagination: and cognition, 11, 45; representations of, 13, 81; special contribution of, 14; and judgment, 28; and importations, 41; and understanding, 48, 54; and sense image, 49; and texture of poem, 49; Ransom on, 49; and particularity of nature, 49; and poetic creation, 50; Tate on, 50; and experience, 50; and qualitative experience, 51; sets free, 52; as nondiscursive intelligence, 56; and concrete experience, 91 —and imagistic associations: avoided by scientist, 35 —and imagistic form: and ontological sense, 91 importations: and imagination, 41 individual wholes: perception of, 49

INDEX industrialism: repudiation of, 18; agrarian opponents of, 22 intellect: limitations of, 13; characteristics of, 14; and synthesis, 14 intellectual capacities: neglected, 37 intuition: and function as faculty, 48; and expression, 59 irony: importance as device, 37; and particularity, 37, 39; and paradox, 39; and concretion, 82 irrelevance: as variation from norm, 41; as literary distractions, 41; desirable to poet, 41 Joyce, James: mentioned, 89 judgment: as term of logic, 11; and achieved content, 28; of taste, 54; of scene, 85; as experience, 85.




abstract judgment —, logical: and aesthetic judgment, 12, 29, 82 Kant, Immanuel: on analogy, 11; on imagination, 48, 53; on satisfaction, 55 n; on genius, 59 n; on scientific knowledge, 64; mentioned, 80, 81 —and "new"critics: influence of generative idea on, ix; and Ransom, 1, 12; investigation of poetry by, 12; in modern Kantian tradition, 18; and ontology, 29; as theorists, 48 —and poetry: and poetic soul, 1; as spokesman for poetry, 1 —on aesthetics: and aesthetic judgment, 10, 11, 12, 29; and defense of aesthetic realm, 11; and logical judgment, 12, 29; and aesthetic cognition, 54; and logical cognition, 54; and Ransom, 81 —on art: and autonomy of art, 10; and significance of art, 27; and significance of artist's judgment, 28; and role of art, 29

INDEX —on cognition: and "cognition in general," 12; and representation, 72 η; and universal communication, 72 η —, theory of: and generative idea, ix; and influence on Ransom, ix; and influence on Tate, ix; and influence on Brooks, ix; and Kantian premises, 6; and Kantian manifesto of 1790, 12; and ramifications of basic idea, 14; and relation to Aristotle, 64 η; and essential truth, 91 Kazin, Alfred: and criticism of Ransom, Tate, and Brooks, 91; as "new" critic, 24 Keats, John: mentioned, 38 knowledge: as symbolized experience, 6; traditional view of, 6; act of, as poetic act, 7; as collection of sense reports, 7; as term of logic, 11; and poetry, 12, 34, 66; texture of, and ontological criticism, 26; new kind of, 28; literature as unique form of, 29; entities of, and significance, 30; of world and artists, 65; Tate on fullness of, 71; and predicates, 72; and concrete universal, 80; impulse to, 89 —, scientific: and aesthetic knowledge, 17; and hterary knowledge, 29; challenged by modern critics, 64; as information about object, 71 Langer, Susanne: as theorist, 6; on symbol and meaning, 7; on presentational symbols, 18, 49, 56; on perception, 54; mentioned, 88 language: representational function of, 16; of aesthetics, 22; of customs, 22; of ritual, 22; symbols of, 29; and logical formulation, 35; normal pattern of, 36; logical

105 meaning in, 36; dislocated into meaning, 38; rational consideration of ideal, 38; and nondiscursive function, 88; and thematic meaning, 88 —of art: special employment of, 10; significance of, 22; Kant's proclamation concerning, 27 —of literature: and formalist criticism, viii; particularity of meaning in, x; as symbolic formulation, 8, 17; poetic function of, 16; significance of, 22; structure of, 27; and language of science, 27, 34; and language of concretion, 34, 35; and poetic symbol, 40 —of poetry: "emotive" function of, 16; critics' concern with, 34; and use of symbols, 40; necessity of, 74; and science, 74 —of science: limitations of, 10; and spiritual disorder, 15; function as "referential," 16; destructive effect of, 22; and language of literature, 27; meanings peculiar to, 29; and language of abstraction, 34; and language of literary art, 34; and Southern New Critics, 34; restrictions of, 73, 76 light: and darkness, 38 Lincoln, Abraham: mentioned, 71 literature: effect of Ransom, Brooks, Tate on study of, vii; and formalist criticism, viii, 23; and knowledge, x, 17, 64, 65 η; "new key" in study of, 8; and generative idea, 8; structure of, and critics, 10; special employment of language in, 17; symbolization of, 23, 43; significance of, 29; language of, and language of science, 34; distractions of, 41; and reason for being, 73 —, presentation in: contribution of, x; as poetic device, 36; as viola-

106 tion of expected language, 37; as term used by critics, 40 —, theory of: contribution to knowledge by, ix; tradition of, and science, 10; and symbols of art, 14; critics' concern for, 22 —, work of: and symbolic formulations, 8; special contributions of, 9 logic: terms of, as predication, 11; and universal in experience, 12; distrusted by Kant, 12; relevant departures from, 36; Ransom on, 36; and laws of contradiction, 75; categories in, 75; ignored in experience, 75; and dramatic experience, 76 —, account of: and ontological criticism, 26; qualities neutralized in, 41; deviations from, 44 —, elements of: and artistic apprehension, 55; in poem, 72; and nonlogical elements, 80 —, pattern in: principles underlying, 11; departures from, 36, 41 —, structure of: in metaphorical analogy, 37; of poem, and local texture, 80 logos: meaning of, 25 Marvell, Andrew: mentioned, 42 materialistic cravings: crassness of, 37 materialistic urge: destroys faculties of mind, 37 meaning: as symbolic presentation, viii; as starting point of philosophy, 6; of art, 12; Kant on, 12; peculiar to science, 29; ideational patterns of, 36; and correspondence to predicate, 37; in logical discourse, 37, 43, 66, 70; in poetry, 37, 66, 70; from dislocation of language, 38; embodiment of, 40, 43; and critics, 40, 59 η; and tone, 41; in philosophy, 42; and texture, 43; in literature, 43, 66;

INDEX and symbolic form, 43; and intention of novelist, 44; Vivas on, 53 n, 55 n; in the particular, 81; immediacy of, 87; and Pound, 87; and language unit, 88. SEE ALSO aesthetics

—, literary: and human experience, 40; and artistic experimentation, 42; and logic, 42; and presentational meanings, 42; particularity of, 66, 67 —, nondiscursive: concrete presentation of, 91 —, poetic: and logical meaning, 37, 66, 70; device for achieving, 68 —, presentational: and literary meaning, 42; and particularity of experience, 42; as logically irrelevant, 42 —, qualitative: presentations of, 36; of concrete body, 43; as intention of novelist, 44; disclosed by critic, 59 Mendelssohn, Felix: mentioned, 10 metaphor: truth given through, 16; analysis applied to, 40; production of, 74 — and analogy: and representation of variation, 37; as effective structure, 37 metaphysical stature: and art, 12 method. SEE analytical method Milton, John: mentioned, 42; quoted, 69 Muller, H. J.: writings of, 22 myths: employed by poetry and science, 3; as nondiscursive symbols, 6; production of, 74; as device of concretion, 82 naturalism: excoriated by Ransom, 9 "new" criticism. SEE criticism, new "new" critics. SEE critics, new



art, 66; and generalizations, 67, 69 particularity: of qualitative experience, ix; as term of logic, 11; and importations, 41; and presentational meaning, 42; unabstracted, 43, 76; and cognitive faculty, 50; and qualitative perception, 57; and aesthetic apprehension, 58; of poetry, 66; and Romantics, 66; of literary meaning, 66, 67; of qualitative image, 69; and poetic objective correlative: application of, image, 70; and concretion, 76. 85; as ontological distinction, 85; SEE ALSO poetry and poetic and understanding of fiction, 85 particularity objective presentation: and direct apprehension, 60; in fiction and perception: as term of logic, 11; and Gestalten, 49; and aesthetics, drama, 88 52, 54, 60; and logic, 52, 54; onta: meaning of, 25 artistic intention of, 57; and ontological criticism. SEE criticism, special cognitions as qualitative, new 57; and particularity, 57 ontological critics. SEE critics, new personal attitudes: and scientist, 35 ontology: meaning of, 25; meta- philosophy: and tools of philosophysical connotations of, 25; expher, ix; and Southern New panded to local texture, by Critics, ix; significant discovery of, Ransom, 26; expanded to logical 5; and symbols, 6; and epistemocore, by Ransom, 26; and struclogica! theme, 7; and compreture of literature, 27; and struchension of science, 7; association ture of art, 28; Ransom on, 30, 80; of criticism with, 22; as basis of of poetry, 35; and embodiment of ontological criticism, 29; Ransom meaning, 43; and symbolization on blindness of, 73; and picture of experience, 57; in poetry and furnished by philosopher, 75 science, 66; as analysis, 81; in physical reaction: and sense exfiction and poetry, 84; as symbolic perience, 49 form, 91; and imagistic form, 91; Plato: on opinion, 57; on reason, Ransom's sense of, 91 57; on world of appearance, 57 poetry: undergraduate courses in, paradox: as device, 38; concomivii; modern analysis of, x; Kant's tants of, 39; as method of comunderstanding of, 1; as related to munication, 39; as language of science, 3; and poetic act, 7; as religion, 39; as language of lovers, distinct form of knowledge, 12, 39; as poetic particularity, 39; and 34, 66; and Wordsworth's theory wonder, 39; and direct method, of, 13; as cognition, 16; Ransom 39; as device of concretion, 82 on, 18, 26, 34, 35, 41, 71, 80; particulars: as formulated by art, function of, 26, 34; and logical 12; and science, 14; in literary discourse, 26; nature of, 34; and

"new key": and philosophy, 6, 8; in literary criticism, 9; critical methods of, 23 nondiscursive function: of language unit, 88 nondiscursive intelligence: as imagination, 56 nonlogical elements: distinguished from logical, 80 novel, the: reading courses in, vii

108 "reason for being," 34; as formulation of experience, 35; ontology of» 35; ano: supernaturalism, 40; and poetic relevance, 41; and poetic quality, 41; and logical formulation, 41; and poetic body, 43; texture of, 66; particularity of, 66; concreteness of, 66; and Romantics, 66; and poetic presentation, 67; Brooks on poetic intention of, 74, 75; and fundamental conflicts, 76; and fullness of objects, 76; and subject matter, 81; and ontology, 91; and symbolic form, 91 poem: theory of, 34; as objective cognition, 34; content of, 34, 80, 82; structure of, 34; terms of, 38; atmosphere in, 41; attitude in, 41; meaning in, 41-42: texture of, 49, 80, 82; and imagination, 49; structure of, 54, 79; Ransom on cognitive element in, 72; "new" criticism of, 79, 82; defined by Ransom, 80; as symbolic formulation, 80; as concrete presentation, 83; as still life, 85; as constructed in prose by Hemingway, 86 —and poetic device: in literary presentation, 36; and logical statement, 40 —and poetic experience. SEE experience, poetic —and poetic function: as emotive function, 16 —and poetic image. SEE image, poetic —and poetic language. SEE language of poetry —and poetic meaning. SEE meaning, poetic —and poetic particularity: possibility of, 36; principle of, 36; and irony, 37; and paradox, 39

INDEX —and poetic phrase: meaning of, 37; as basic symbol, 72; and syntax of science, 72 —and poetic structures: conventional pattern violated in, 36; and scientific structures, 65 —and poetic symbols. SEE symbols, poetic Pope, Alexander: mentioned, 38 positivism: excoriated by Ransom, 9; account of language given by, 16 positivists: and irrelevant feeling, 15 Pound, Ezra: and Eliot, 86; and Hemingway, 86; and structural definition, 86 preconceived categories: and critic, 44 predication: as term of logic, 11; and correspondence to meaning, 37; and knowledge presented, 72 presentation: symbolic, viii, 18; of values, 8; and neo-Kantian position, 18; of object as communicated by effects, 35; of qualitative meaning, 36; and presentational order, 49; and Gestalten, 49; of nondiscursive form, 56; and presentational immediacy, 67; of meaning in the particular, 81; and presentational unit, 83, 87; of elements in fiction, 83; and character of discursive passages, 88; of experience, 89; of scenes in The Sound and the Fury, 89; of literature as abstraction, 91; of literature in concept of experience, 91; of life as abstraction of experience, 91; and criticism, 91. SEE ALSO concretion and concrete presentation; literature, presentation in; meaning, presentational; objective presentation; symbols and symbolic presentations

INDEX principles: underlying bases sought by scientist, 52; of discovery, Vivas on, 58; of experience, 76; reduction of, 76 Prufrock, Mr.: mentioned, 73 psychologism: in spiritual realm, 15 psychology: and I. A. Richards, 23-24 qualitative neutrality: sought by scientist, 41 qualitative particularity. SEE particularity qualitative perception. SEE perception Ransom, John Crowe: on Bergson, 14; on logic, 36; on imagination, 49; on truth, 50 η; on morality, 55 η; on universal communication, 72; and Eliot, 85 —and critical theory: influenced by Kant, ix; as pioneer of philosophical criticism, x; and central idea of criticism, 9; and intention of critical theory, 25; and call for ontology, 25; and charge against school of criticism, 27; and ontology, 30; and basic principle of theory, 33; and disagreement with Brooks, 54; and ontological criticism, 80; and critical practice, 82 —and critics: as "new' critic, vii, 23; as formalist, vii; as Southern New Critic, 8; on critics' home work, 19; charged by historical critics, 42; on meanings discovered by critics, 59 η; and critics cautioned, 73 —and Kant: as modern Kantian, 12; and Kantian line, 28; as influenced by Kant, 48; on Kant and Hegel, 80; on Kant's aesthetics, 81 —and ontology: on call for ontological criticism, 25; on meaning

109 of ontological, 26; on structure of language of literature, 27; on form of art, 28; on ontological criticism, 30, 80; on embodiment of meaning, 43; on symbolization of experience, 57; on structures, 65; and ontological sense, 91 —and poetry: on poetic act as act of knowledge, 17; and critical pronouncement on poetry, 18; on function of poetry, 26; on poetry's reason for being, 34; on intention of poetry, 35; on literary distractions in poetry, 41; on intention of artistic perception, 57; on poetic image, 70; on theory of poetry, 71; on necessity of cognitive element in poem, 72; on definition of poem, 80; on logical and nonlogical elements of poetry, 80 —and science: on universais of science, 14; on scientific definition, 15; on scientific vision, 50; on challenge to scientific knowledge, 64 rational consciousness: and artistic consciousness, 12 rational pointer: as artistic symbol, 59 Read, Herbert: as "new" critic, 23 reality: and artistic media, 9; and logical concept, 13 reason: natural laws of, 45; and poetry, 34; and literature, 73 recognition: and apprehension, 53n re-creation: Greene on, 59 η; as experience of presentation, 82; as initial critical act, 82 reduction: as practice of science, 34; and general concept, 35; as role of understanding, 54; and scientific investigation, 73; and principles of experience, 76



referent: and relation to symbols, 37 referential function: and scientific function of language, 16 regionalism: critics' concern with, 22

representational function: of language, 16 Richards, Ι. Α.: and psychology, 23-24 ritual: as nondiscursive symbol, 6 Romantics: poetic theory of, 13; on texture of poetry, 66; on particularity of poetry, 66; on concreteness of poetry, 66 Romeo and Juliet: quoted, 40 scenes: as presentational unit, 83; and experience, 85; as image, 86; and ontology, 88 scholarship: and criticism, vii; and important consideration, 7 Schorer, Mark: as "new" critic, 24; on achieved content, 31 Schwartz, Delmore: mentioned, science: and poetry, 3; and Kant, 13, 18; limitations of, 13, 15, 18, 65; and universais, 14, 49; and scientism, 15, 22; attack on, 17; and scientific method, 18; and humanity, 18, 74; and analogy, 26; and reduction, 34; terms of, 38; and symbolism, 38, 72, 89; and pure denotations, 38; and scientist, 41; and qualitative neutrality, 41; and dynamic whole, 50; Greene on, 61; predicates of, 72;

purpose of,



language of science semanticists: and symbolic formulation, 6 semantic transformation: and aesthetic question, 29 sense data: finality of, 7 Shakespeare's lovers: considered scientifically, 40

sociologist: picture furnished by, 75 Southern New Critics. SEE critics and Southern New Critics Spender, Stephen: on ontological considerations, 84 spiritual disorder: and scientific vocabularies, 15 spiritual realm: reduced to emotion, 15 Stein, Gertrude: and Hemingway, 86 stewardship of self: failure in, 37 structural form. SEE form structural properties: and formalist critic, 9 structure. SEE dramatic structure; logic, structure of; poem and poetic structures subject matter: and reality of being, 81 supernaturalism: conferred by poet, 40 Svendsen, Kester: mentioned, 42 symbols: and philosophy, 6; as structure of facts, 7; as term of logic, 11; in syntactical arrangements, 29; and correspondence to referent, 37; pressures exerted by, 38; used perversely, 38; and symbolic medium of artist, 58; substituted for concept, 74; being of, 81; as device of concretion, 82 —, abstract: as pure denotation, 16; defined in advance of use, 16; as terms of science, 16, 38 —, artistic. SEE art, symbol of —and symbolic form. SEE form, symbolic —and symbolic formulations. SEE formulations, symbolic —and symbolic presentations: values and meanings realized as, viii; of values, 18 —, discursive and nondiscursive: and abstract symbolization, ix; literature on, 6; and ritual, 6; and


INDEX epistemological theme, 7; nature of, 56 —, poetic: special nature of, 26; and logical generalization, 26; and differences in meaning, 40; considered literally, 40; and language of literature, 40; main concern of, 73 synthesis: and intellect, 14 Tate, Allen: on purpose of art, 16; on structure of language of literature, 27; theory of, 33; on poetic experience, 40; influence of Kant on, 48; on imagination, 50; scientific knowledge challenged by, 64; on functions of criticism, 65 n; on fullness of knowledge, 71; on necessity of cognitive element, 72; on universal communication, 72; on human experience, 75; on logical discourse, 76; on poetic discourse, 76 —, as critic: as formalist, vii; influenced by Kant, ix; as pioneer of philosophical criticism, x; as Southern New Critic, 8; as modern Kantian, 12; as "new" critic, 15, 23; charged by historical critics, 42 technological scientism: critics' stand against, 22 Tennyson, Alfred Lord: mentioned, 38, 53 texture: as bodiness of experience, 43; as embodiment of meaning, 43; and fictional work, 91 —of poem: SEE poetry; poem theorist: Cassirer as, 6; Langer as, 6; and necessity of cognitive element, 72 theory: and relation to critical practice, 82. SEE ALSO Kant, theory of; literature, theory of; Ransom, and critical theory

"things": as emphasized in poem, 81 thought: and sensibility, 53 thought process: insight into, 48 tone: and meaning in poem, 41; as device of concretion, 82 tradition: of aesthetics, 10; and limitations of science, 10; of literary theory, 10 Trilling, Lionel: as "new" critic, 24 understanding: and empirical nature, 11, 45; and imagination, 48, 54; as reduction of experience, 52; and mechanical interpretation, 52; as logical cognition, 54; and aesthetic apprehension, 54; and reduction, 54; and discursive intelligence, 56; and reduction to concept, 81 universality: as term of logic, 11 universais: and science, 14 Urban, W. M.: on representational function of language, 16; on aesthetic intuition, 58; on dramatic rendering of life, 64 η Vivas, Eliseo: on immanent meaning» 53 n, 55n; on referential meaning, 55 n; on aesthetic perception, 58; on discovery principles, 58 Warren, Robert Penn: as "new" critic, 23; on character of words, 66; on literary meanings, 66, 67 Wellek, René: on Kant, 29; on sources of modern criticism, 29 η; on character of words, 66; on literary meanings, 66, 67 West, Ray B.: on modern criticism, 24 Wilson, Edmund: as "new" critic, 24

112 Winters, Yvor: on language of literature, 27; Ransom on, 55; mentioned, 55 η, 56 n wonder: and paradox, 39 words: as potentials of meaning, 38; as "generals," 66; universal character of, 66 Wordsworth, William: poetic theory of, 13; quoted, 36; mentioned, 38

INDEX world of action: and fiction, 83 world of appearance: Plato on, 57; as world of nature, 57 world's body: how formulated, 43 world's shell: as presentation of analogy, 26 Yeats, William Butler: mentioned, 42, 74