Mimesis and Its Romantic Reflections

Mimesis and Its Romantic Reflections

Frederick Burwick
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 216
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    Mimesis and Its Romantic Reflections
    Book Description:

    In Romantic theories of art and literature, the notion of mimesis—defined as art’s reflection of the external world—became introspective and self-reflexive as poets and artists sought to represent the act of creativity itself. Frederick Burwick seeks to elucidate this Romantic aesthetic, first by offering an understanding of key Romantic mimetic concepts and then by analyzing manifestations of the mimetic process in literary works of the period. Burwick explores the mimetic concepts of "art for art's sake," "Idem et Alter," and "palingenesis of mind as art" by drawing on the theories of Philo of Alexandria, Aristotle, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, Friederich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling, Thomas De Quincey, and Germaine de Staël. Having established the philosophical bases of these key mimetic concepts, Burwick analyzes manifestations of mimesis in the literature of the period, including ekphrasis in the work of Thomas De Quincey, mirrored images in the poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth, and the twice-told tale in the novels of Charles Brockden Brown, E. T. A. Hoffmann, and James Hogg. Although artists of this period have traditionally been dismissed in discussions of mimesis, Burwick demonstrates that mimetic concepts comprised a major component of the Romantic aesthetic.

    eISBN: 978-0-271-05435-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-16)

    InMimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature(1946), Erich Auerbach moves from Schiller and Goethe to Stendhal and Balzac, passing over those writers whom he labels romantic. They were no longer concerned, he says, with the representation of reality. Instead, they had become preoccupied with the “fragmentation and limitation of the realistic.” To the extent that they made any attempt at all “seriously to represent objects of contemporary society,” their effort was half veiled in the “fantastic or idyllic.” Never comfortable with society, Rousseau found its institutions unethical and sought retreat in nature. The generation that followed him,...

    (pp. 17-44)

    In spite of its prominence in the Aestheticism of France and England, the concept ofl’art pour l’art, with its presumed freedom from moral purpose, actually had its origin in Germany. It is perceived as being a term that came into usage with Gautier and Baudelaire, was imported into England by Pater, and reached its culmination in the Decadence of thefin de siècle. Crucial to the concept is its resistance to, or defiance of, social values. In the 1890s, “art for art’s sake” offended Victorian morality. A century earlier, amidst the repressive censorship throughout Europe during the 1790s, the...

    (pp. 45-76)

    M. H. Abrams begins his explanation of the shift from art as imitation to art as expression in “Romantic Analogues of Art and Mind” by citing Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings.” Abrams was certainly right in arguing that Wordsworth’s metaphor revealed the new emphasis on creativity as the expressive “overflow” of the mind. Unfortunately, one of the consequences of Abrams’s profound and influentialThe Mirror and the Lamp(1953) has been the tendency to presume that once the lamp began to glow the mirror was shattered. Although it was not his intent to ignore...

    (pp. 77-106)

    Along with fancy and imagination, the distinction between copy and imitation is essential to Coleridge’s critical theory. Thus he repeats it, again and again, whenever he explains the creative process. The earliest formulation occurs in the Notebook entries of October–December 1804.¹ In subsequent reformulations, he began to elaborate the distinction in terms of similarity and difference. The fullest exposition, and the most extensively indebted to Schelling, is “On Poesy and Art” from his 1818 lecture series.² In this chapter, I shall endeavor to show why he found Schelling’s philosophy particularly relevant to his argument of identity and difference. Previous...

    (pp. 107-134)

    The verbal description of a visual work of art bears the name given it in Greek antiquity:ekphrasis. The poet, by representing the work of the painter or sculptor, is offering us a mimesis of a mimesis which pretends to be externally directed, even when it is not: Homer never saw the shield of Achilles; Keats’s Grecian Urn existed only in his own imagination. But even when the poet looks upon an actual artifact, the verbal translation forces a self-reflexive scrutiny. Ekphrasis requires attention to the presumptions and pitfalls of the artistic endeavor. In looking into another work of art,...

    (pp. 135-160)

    One reason that critics have dated the decline or even the demise of mimesis from the end of the eighteenth century is that the poets of the romantic period displayed little confidence in the rationalist strategies of representation.¹ Indeed, their poetry is often about the instability of representation. Even if it explores subjectivity, an arena of experience for which most languages offer only a meager vocabulary, poetry requires objective referentiality. That the subject matter might be as limited as the vocabulary prompted Goethe’s observation that “a subjective nature has soon talked out his little internal material.”²

    InBiographia Literariaand...

    (pp. 161-184)

    “All the world’s a stage” (As You Like It, Act 2, scene 7, line 47), declares the melancholy Jacques, whose lines are often cited as testimony to that reverse mimesis whereby life is said to imitate art. Another such pronouncement on life as redundant imitation is spoken by Lewis (“a beardless boy, a cocker’d silken wanton”): “Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale / Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man” (King John, Act 3, scene 4, lines 108–9).¹ In his 1851 preface toTwice-Told Tales(1837), Nathaniel Hawthorne endorses rather than dispels the notion of tedium:...

    (pp. 185-196)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 197-203)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 204-204)