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Other critics, like Samuel Johnson, were less charitable. Gregory London, , i. Jahrhunderts und der deutschen Romantik Copenhagen: Munksgaard, , ch. Bond Oxford: Clarendon Press, , iii. Roger Lonsdale Oxford: Clarendon Press, , i. In England, probably influenced by a passing reference in A. Jahrhundert Frankfurt a. Defining the Romantic Symbol 11 writers to follow. I want to emphasize this point by juxtaposing the following two passages, chosen to illustrate the prevailing attitude rather than the personal influence of one writer upon another.


Paris, , i. London, , i. Important as the concept of the symbol itself was in Romantic thought, its opposition to allegory was in fact, contrary to the impression fostered by the preoccupation of twentieth-century critics with the subject, neither widely nor consistently maintained. His brother Friedrich, whose patriotic inclinations found a less benign outlet, often used the terms symbol and allegory synonymously, as did Ludwig Tieck.

Others distinguished them along the vertical rather than the horizontal axis of taxonomical classification, Arthur Schopenhauer treating the symbol as a species of allegory, Solger according to the posthumously published transcript of his lectures on aesthetics treating allegory as a species of symbol. In his dialogue Erwin, published in his lifetime, Solger followed Schelling, to the detriment of his conceptual clarity, in distinguishing symbol and allegory both generically and historically. Carl Justi, Winckel- mann und seine Zeitgenossen, 3rd edn.

Leipzig: Vogel, , iii. A genuine theory of allegory did not emerge at that time, nor had one existed previously. It is nonetheless legitimate to describe the new concept of allegory as speculative, for it was in fact chosen [abgestimmt] to be the dark background against which the world of the symbol would stand out brightly.

Romantic lies: New Orleans’s architecture and its African counterpart – Via Nola Vie

Since my purpose here is to demonstrate that the formation of the Romantic concept of the symbol was not crucially dependent on a corresponding denigration of allegory, I shall not prolong this survey but proceed to state the conclusions that may be drawn from it. Second, to the extent that they defined the symbol in opposition to allegory, they did so because allegory—in its restrictive Enlightenment conception—epitomized to them all that passed under the name of artificial signs: arbitrary, motivated, discursive, and contextually dependent representation.

If the Middle Ages had possessed a culture of the sign, meaning a network of iconographic conventions and interpretive contexts whose ideo- logical coherence was guaranteed by their reference to and assumed derivation from the divine Logos, then the Enlightenment possessed a philosophy of the sign, meaning the reductive analysis of culture in semiotic terms—and precisely in the absence of the ideological coherence that had characterized medieval culture.

When we consider more closely what the Romantics designated as symbols, we can hardly avoid the conclusion that they were seeking not to continue a philosophical aesthetics or semiotics by other means, but to transcend it altogether. According to Schelling, the category of the symbolic, as opposed to that of the schematic or the allegorical, embraces myth, organic nature, art, philosophy, sculpture, and drama. While sculpture and drama are included in the same class as their genus, other species of art are excluded from it: painting and epic poetry are classified as schematic, music and lyric poetry as allegorical see Figure 1.

In assuming the repeatability of a set of terms throughout his scheme, Schelling conflates two incommensurable relations, one quantitative and one qualitative: the species is conceived not only as part of its genus, but as identical to or different from it. In other words, the same relation that governs the horizontal development of the classificatory tree is now made to govern its vertical development as well.

But normally this limitation becomes evident only from a comparison of differing classifications of the same object, a fact that enables us to accept the validity of any given classificatory scheme considered in isolation. In the first, representation is grounded in participation; in the second, participation is equated with identity. Freiburg i. White Princeton: Princeton University, , Defining the Romantic Symbol 17 emanation aporroia , according to which the divine essence is present but quantitatively diminished in whatever emanates from it.

Jackson and J. Jackson Princeton: Princeton University Press, , ii. Schubarth, 27 Apr. Mays Princeton: Princeton University Press, , i. Defining the Romantic Symbol 19 interpreting, actual symbols, but instead in establishing an ideal of meaningfulness itself.

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Theory is a reaction against self-evidence. If the world had been self-evidently meaningful to the Romantics, in the sense of being interpretively assimilable into a comprehensive and coherent struc- ture of meaning whose relevance to humanity was beyond question, they would not have needed to claim that, on account of the identity of being and meaning, it cannot be anything but meaningful.

The very ingeniousness of the demonstration, which as we shall see in Chapter 3 relied for its philosophical underpinning on Enlightenment organi- cism and Spinozan monism, betrays its function as a theoretical wish- fulfilment. Because any symbol must be recognized as one before it can be interpreted, Romantic symbolist theory had to be institutive rather than interpretive: it was itself the act of institution, or what Eco would call the act of textual production, that it denied its object.

One way in which this peculiarity mani- fested itself was the emphasis on the mysteriousness of the language in which the book of nature was written.


Der Sinn der Welt ist verlohren gegangen. Wir sind beym Buchstaben stehn geblieben. Even eighteenth-century thinkers like Vico and William Warburton, who ascribed no arcane significance to hieroglyphs, assumed their primitiveness on the grounds that pictures must have preceded alphabetic characters in the development of language. The meaning of the hieroglyphics is missing. That Galileo and the Romantics used the same metaphor to express their respective conceptions of nature attests to the continuity of its use, but not to that of its content: the two books were written in different languages.

The obstacle to doing so was the belief, which Galileo detected in his opponents, that philosophical truth is founded on tradition rather than reason. That the cosmos had long withheld some of its objects from our unaided view, and doubtless continued to withhold others, would become a matter of indifference when its fundamental principles were comprehended in their necessity and immutability. Franz Brunetti, 3rd edn. I use the term significance in a specific sense derived from Wilhelm Dilthey, in whose universalization of hermeneutics it pertained to the categories through which life is comprehended in its coherence.

The categories of Naturerkennen are the twelve that Kant, in the transcendental analytic of the Critique of Pure Reason B , organized under the classes of quantity, quality, relation, and modality. The force of its apparent objectivity is what renders significance impervious to the aspersions that rationality may cast upon it: knowing perfectly well, for instance, that the mass-produced and randomly distributed messages in fortune cookies can have no inherent relevance to my life has never prevented me from reading those messages as if they had exactly such relevance.

Romantic lies: New Orleans’s architecture and its African counterpart

Whatever its content, the message is always imprinted with significance. Perhaps I can strengthen this important point about the nature of significance by referring to a Romantic poet who, like Wordsworth, did not address the concept of the symbol as such in his critical writings. In a remarkable reversal of the position of the modern mechanical philosophy, Percy Bysshe Shelley accused the world of theoreti- cal objects of having exactly the kind of deceptiveness that theory accuses the world of sensory experience of having: the deceptiveness of self-evidence.

Donald Reiman and Neil Fraistat, 2nd edn. New York: Norton, , —9, at If the concept of a significant, as opposed to an indifferent, world had to await the development of an historicist philosophy of life for its theoretical elaboration, it had already found inchoate expression in Romanticism. But that role was more easily defined than performed. To the extent that it sought to effect a re-enchantment of the world by reforming perception, the symbolist theory of the philosophically minded Romantics, for the most part Germans, was closely related to the poetic project of English poets like Wordsworth and Shelley, who sought to reveal the extraordinary in the ordinary and thereby transform human understanding of the external world.

That is, the symbol was supposed to be identical to, by virtue of being part of, its referent, and vice versa. The corollary of this line of argument was that anything whatever was inherently capable of bearing meaning, and that any seemingly atomized individual was in fact an integral part of an har- moniously structured whole. Owen and J. Smyser Oxford: Clarendon Press, , ii. Kathleen Coburn London: Routledge, — , ii. The pointed brackets indicate a later insertion by Coleridge. This is the subject of the last chapter. But at that point the unanimity of purpose that had characterized early Romantic theorizing about the symbol ceased.

Attar is one of the few scholars in the field today who can claim such credentials. Borrowed Imagination should become essential reading for anyone studying or writing about the Romantic poets.

It not only widens our understanding of the Romantic poets and their work but also draws attention to the centuries old interaction of West and East. By tracing specific references to these sources, tropes associated with orientalism, and narrative patterns that may indicate the possibility of direct or indirect influence, Attar generates a wealth of possible leads for further scholarly study and offers a comparative analysis of major works in British Romantic literature.

With the publication of Samar Attar's Borrowed Imagination , such speculations can now move into the realm of certitude. Attar makes a cogent and compelling case for taking the Arabic genealogy of many of the romantic poets' literary sources of inspiration seriously. This is a major contribution to the study of the interconnectedness of humanistic enterprises and the politics of engaging it.

The British Romantic Poets and Their Arabic-Islamic Sources

Exhaustively researched, detailed accounts of influences on the poets Coleridge, Wordsworth, Blake, Keats, Shelley, and Byron fill an important gap in our understanding of the Romantics. Scholars will also find the central role of the One Thousand and One Nights in the themes and imagery of Romantic poetry provocative.

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