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May 02, 1948 - Image 3

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The Michigan Daily, 1948-05-02
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THE MICHIGAN DAILY LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

SUNDAY, MAY 2, 1948

VACUUM-PACKED: THE CRITICS

:CorK~v 1 from Page 2)
does Aristotle's comparatively sta-
ble world of distinct objects and
fixed forms. The traditional con-
cept of poetic metaphor or symbol
!s illuminating a similarity be-
twxer. two dissimilar objects must
give way to the new philosophy
tnat things are never dissimilar of
even distinct, that everything is
interrelated with everything else
in a rhythmic space-time con-
tinuum.
A poem in this Whiteheadian
sense is a real creation of a unique
order expressing by symbols and
rhythms the mutual relationship
between the poet and everything
else in the universe for the time
being. This is obviously head
stuff and accounts for the ecstasy
one feels when one reads the Em-
peror of Ice Cream. This ecstasy,~
volupte, rapture, is the end of
poetry and the true test of its
value. Consequently these critics
are, like the early romantic crit-
ics, scornful of morality or didac-
tician in poetry, yet equating ecs-
tasy not with a high level of pleas-
ure, but with illumination, insight,
inexpressible vision. They are,
therefore, far from being the
formalists they are vulgarly called.
If they disclaim moral values in
poetry it is because the usable
morality of this world is beneath
the anagogical elevation, the aes-
thetic (hora Christi of the poem.
They have found their religion in
aestheticism.
Critical judgments on this level
are hardly communicable. Al-
though these men have in their
elucidation of difficult work per-
formed one of the finest achieve-
ments in modern criticism, they
are not firm and clear about the
criteria by which they evaluate
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poetry. This was almost comically
shown in the proceedings. Hunt-
ington Cairns, a superb modera-
tor, opened the conference by de-
scribing the subjectivism into
which criticism had fallen during
the last two centuries and arous-
ing our expectations that the emi-
nent critics would address them-
selves to this problem. In their
prepared speeches the critics did,
in a measure, face this challenge,
but in the end, subjectivity re-
mained.
Mr. Ransom orfered Aristotle's
imitation, the festal representa-
tion of nature, and catharsis, the
reconciliation of inen to their fate,
as the accomplishments by which
literary merit is recognized. But
since Ransom reduced man's rea-
son to a mere instrument of his
appetites and attributed his higher
delights and aspirations to 'sen-
sibility' (that ghost of modern
criticism), and since the univer-
sals employed in ordinarydis-
course are products of the reason,
he made it difficult. to discuss
standards or communicate values
in the symposium which followed.
No one asked for an account of
sensibility, what it is, how it dis-
coversparticulars,truths, or how
they can be expressed apart from
the particularity of the poem. It
was apparent that Cairns' ex-
pectatidn of commercials and dis-
cussable standards had not been
met.
As the conference progressed
from speech to symposium on
three mornings and afternoons
the moderators request for stand-
ards became more plaintive. Mr.
Tate's paper offered Longinus's
treatise on elevation of style as a
step toward an objective judg-
ment of style. Tate's interpreta-
tion though far more intelligent

than the customary one of lawless
emotionalism, nevertheless con-
fused Longinus's essay on one out
of many qualities of style with a
complete theory of poetry. This
left him finally with no criticism
for poetic excellence but the trans-
port induced in the reader.
It was after Tate's adress that
the bomb was thrown, not by
Read the professed anarchist, but
by the distinguished president of
the American Aesthetics Society,
Professor Boas. He arose to reject
any universal concept of art,
of discourse used in criticism, any
poetry, or tragedy, any category
standard of comparison or of
judgment outside one's own ex-
perience of the work of art before
one. "Gone with the Wind" and
"War and Peace" are two differ-
ent works of art; there can be no
valid judgment covering both or
comparing them. The discussion
of this nihilist point of view was
impeded by the fact that no one
present had read "Gone with the
Wind." This was not surprising,
but I was surprised to see the
standard bearers of the conference
in such complete unreadiness for
the shock. They furled their flags
and fled-semasiologically speak-
ing; all principles and values be-
came provisional, tentative, heur-
istic. One wished for a Babbitt to
join the fray, or even Mortimer
Adler to meet scorn with scorn.
ProfessorHenri Peyre,staking
Andre Gide's place on the pro-
gram repudiated all objective
standards and systematic theory.

He found that most critics failed
to estimate properly the writers
of their own time. In particular
he impeached Arnold as one who
was always wrong. Nine of the
critics on the panel defended Arn-
old, but I was surprised and grati-
fied that Arnold was defended
passionately from the floor by
three young writers, Robert Fitz-
gerald, Robert Lowell, and a young
woman who reduced the gallant
Frenchman to conceding that his
estimate of Arnold was just a per-
sonal opinion.
Herbert Read's paper on Coler-
idge opened with the observation
that we are returning to idealism.
He acclaimed Coleridge as the
originator of expressionism and
the forerunner of surrealism and
existentialism. Coleridge's theory
of the esemblastic imagination as
the power to create a new unity in
the universe expressing the vision
in the poet's mind makes art the
only adequate revelation of a cre-
ative rather than a static world.
It was at the conclusion of this
paper that Tate and Blackmur
accepted this central doctrine of
romanticism amid gasps from the
audience. Even Ransom, with
some boggling over the dangers of
Coleridge's vague explanation of
his doctrine, accepted the esem-
plastic power of the imagination
as the core of poetic creativity.
The ease with which these Shel-
ley-baiters subscribed to roman-
tic doctrine should not have sur-
prised us, for they are of roman-
(Continued on Page 8)

Inheritance ...
(Continued from Page 2)
mal actions, and morbid or un-
natural actions. A slight twist, a
vexing turn, given to what is con-
sidered a normal move, sometimes
makes that action unnatural. Mr.
Seager never once makes the fatal
error of having a character act in
such a manner that his action can
be considered absurd, although
without the author's clever hand-
ling, Walter does some things
which would certainly seem fan-
tastic:
It is this careful handling of
mentally sick people, who are
really not much different from
you or me, that lifts this book out
of the ordinary. The reader can
always see some of himself, pos-
sibly too much, in Walter Phelps.
We could remember, if we had
observed closely enough, seeing
peoplelike Mr. Seager's charact-
ers, slowly destroy themselves,
knowing it, yet unable to do any-
thing about it, caught in the web
of their unfathomable existence.
But the author makes Walter
Phelps do something about his de-
terioration. And, in disagreement
with the New York Times critic,
the re-birth of Walter Phelps
seems real. Walter has seen not
only the cruelty and destroying
effects of his past actions, but also
sees the reason for them . .. and
destroys that reason. There is no-
thing abnormal in the statement
Walter Phelps makes to his friend,
Eddie Burcham: "I guess I had
always figured on doing just what
Father had done but I always
thought, too, that somehow I
(Continued on Page 8)

I I,

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ANOTHER

BEST-SELLING

NOVEL

SUNDAY, MAY 2, 1948 THE M
THREE STUDIES FOR A
PRIMER OF ESTHETICS
I
THE METAPHYSICAL APPROACH
The things we think get into ink;
But we don't think things, and things aren't ink.
If we no longer think what we get in ink,
What kind of a thing, do we think, is ink?
II
LANGUAGE AND REALITY
Fingers form a figure for a shadow on the wall;
The child cries "Fox!" But is it shadow,
Is it fingers, or image, or all,
That he sees blocking the light on the wall?
Child plays too, makes a rabbit in meadow.
So art is born, with mud-pies of shadow;
But the hare and the fox are still in the cold,
And the cry of response is the game set bold.
For sound is shadow, and thought is hand;
But puzzling is the power that illusion may
command.
III
IMAGINATION, OR, ARS OF THE DEEP,
DEEP WELL
"Throw me things, my little sprite,
Toss them up, that I may write.
Raffish genius of my well,
Yield me sparks to strike my spell;
Give me words and images,
Cymbals, birds and cabbages.
I am ready, in repose;
Pellet me, I would compose!"
Grabbed few stones; more drubbed me fragile.
All hail upshot, and I now agile
Millions focussed where I stood;
Two hands caught what two hands could,
Dumped and heaped in disarray
Only those my hands could stay.
"Enough, my genius, halt your storm!
Give me leave to glimpse my form."
Fractional harvest, once arranged,-
Pitiful it seemed, and strange:
Out of fifty just a few
Worth the frenzy I'd been through.
Melted tropes I threw away;-
Well-down genius, imped to play,
Lobbed at me now a dozen more,
Things he should have heaved before.
David M. Stocking
ALL THE BRIGHT WORDS
The bright words have flamed and vanished,
Between a day and a day
The.strong inherited faith is gone
Vanished-between a day and a day.
Intervening night
Destroyed the bright words, inherited faith.
In the clear dawn
Was a vision of life
As a trembling chord, ever resolving,
Many overtones of colour,
(Cream stone and brilliant dying ivy,
Jungle-like trees in the ice,)
Awareness knife-edged,
To cut a cleaner world
Devoid of bright words and inherited faiths.

--Carol Vander Klool
DEAR HISTORIAN
Write, it w~,as cold,
When they ask.
And say, colder for many
Than for us, who sometimes were warm.
And write, the world fell into pieces
Of blowing lives, like leaves.
And write, all of us knew of it.
All of us, feeling the bitter blowing wind.
Write that heartbreak of a world
Is not a thing to be told-
Letting them guess.
--Carol Vander Kloot

A YEAR AGO

A year ago I walked where gardens bloomed,
The English countryside about me then,
And down the shattered roads where war had loomed
I stopped to talk of Spring with quiet men.
Then was my heart at peace-the spirit fed,
Kindred to the torment of the land.
And soul confronting soul knew each had bled
Only as soul can know, or understand.
Another Spring-a road unshattered now:
The pleasant lanes of my own peaceful town,
And yet the heart at peace in war somehow
Is restless watching men go up and down,
Forgetful as they blindly take and bring,
The world was ever anything but Spring.
-Dan Waldron
SEATED IN A THIRD FLOOR
APARTMENT IN LATE AFTERNOON
Stillness is tense.
One clock ticks terribly.
The sun has withdrawn its omnipotence
Leaving the day in its own sombre light.
I, sitting in my room estate,
Concentrate preponderously on a particle of dust
Trying not to notice my kingdom crumbling into
darkness.
By my side, two gladiolus blossoms
Strove bravely to be beautiful,
Expired in their own effort,
And interred themselves in the thick water.
- We wait. All seems about to take a final breath.
Oh clock of the mighty tick,
Are we no better than a gladiolus blossom?
Look! Even now, a particle of dust finds peace in a
table top.
-Dian Reynolds
DIN
Those noisy ones who shrugged
And turried away to blow tin whistles,
Rivets on rivets,
Shout "Gloria in Excelsis,"
Grew tired one day
Of whistles and rivets and "Gloria in Excelsis,"
Leaned back and closed their eyes,
Wanting quiet. Then
In the silence, articulate and mighty,
Gentle sounds broke through-
Baby humming, cricket singing,
Grasses stirring softly in the field.
-Edith B. Livermore.
SONG
Slim, vibrant way
Of the hummingbird
Hurtling to joy
As a lover would
Splinter of brilliance
Seeking the flame
And gold ways of the petals;
Straight as a stone
Searching its plunder
In utmost heart
Will pierce with its hunger
The sunlit throat
Like a spark from the line-
age
Of fire-driven dawn
Will be suddenly savage
And suddenly flown.
-Constance Rinehart

UNREQUITED
Purity of church spires Sunday-clean against blue sky,
Solemn joy of dove cry,
Enchantment of children's let's-pretends,
Gentleness of street lamps glowing at day's end,
These all are of my love. Yet he
Knows it not-nor any love for me.

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ItNHER-1IANCE
a powerful and brilliantly readable book by Allan Seager,
author of The Equinox.
According to Nash K. Burger in The New York Times,
April 15, 1948, "The Inheritance' is an unusually well
written, entertaining, and stimulating novel."
For readers who remember Kings Row see the sequel
PARIS MITCHELL
of KINGS ROW
Written by Katherine Bellamann from the notes left by
her husband.
Parris Mitchell is a literary event!
Wahr's University Bookstore
316 SOUTH STATE STREET

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