Transcendentalism and Poetry

Essay by sanjcUniversity, Bachelor's March 2004

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Question 1.

M.H Abrams argues in The Mirror and the lamp that one important branch of the mimetic approach to literary criticism might be described as a "transcendental theory deriving from Plato" (36). This theory specifies the proper objects of art to be Ideas or Forms which are perhaps approachable by the way of the world of sense, but are ultimately trans-empirical... and available only to the mind of the eye. (36)

It is these forms or ideas which are the ultimate realities behind the concrete objects of the temporal world. Grounding your argument in a discussion of a literary work of your choice, outline some of the most important elements which a neo-Platonic critic would look for in a literary work as well as the characteristic strategies which s/he would deploy to these ends.

The neo-Platonist is one who believes that this world and everything in it is a reflection of an ideal world in which one can find the ideal forms or essences of all physical objects.

Poetry in itself, is not an accurate imitation of the truth and it misleads the reader or listener, because it is an imitation of an imitation of human actions and it appeals to a part of the soul which should be subordinate to reason, since reason is the height of human identity. Thus a neo-Platonist critic would look for elements of exaggeration, misrepresentation in the contents of the poem. And, they would strategically show how the diction, form, allegory, persona, symbolism and other literary techniques were used to achieve this misrepresentation. We should also take into consideration the thoughts of those who did not necessarily conform to that school of thought.

With a reference to the poem "The Eolian Harp" by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, one can detect the superfluous language...