Sunday, July 12, 2009

Thing Said and Thing Made

When we take literature in the narrower sense the question is more complicated. A work of literary art can be considered in two lights. It both means and is. It is both Logos (something said) and Poiema (something made). As Logos it tells a story, or expresses an emotion, or exhorts or pleads or describes or rebukes or excites laughter. As Poiema, by its aural beauties and also by the balance and contrast and the unified multiplicity of its successive parts, it is an objet d'art, a thing shaped so as to give great satisfaction. From this point of view, and perhaps from this only, the old parallel between painting and poetry is helpful.

These two characters in the work of literary art are separated by an abstraction, and the better the work is the more violent the abstraction is felt to be.

C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism, Cambridge UP (Cambridge: 1961) p. 132. The "parallel between painting and poetry" is an allusion to a very influential passage by Horace.

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