‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Cleanness 1

Thinking some more about cleanness.

'"Organisation is everything," says Thomas Mann; "without it there can be no art." We might add: there can be no life, either.' [Idris Parry, Speak Silence (Carcanet 1988), 193]

Kristeva, of course: 'It is thus not lack of cleanliness or health that causes abjection but what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, positions, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite. The traitor, the liar, the criminal with a good conscience, the shameless rapist, the killer who claims he is a savior. . . . Any crime, because it draws attention to the fragility of the law, is abject, but premeditated crime, cunning murder, hypocritical revenge are even more so because they heighten the display of such fragility. He who denies morality is not abject; there can be grandeur in amorality and even in crime that flaunts its disrespect for the law—rebellious, liberating, and suicidal crime. Abjection, on the other hand, is immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady: a terror that dissembles, a hatred that smiles, a passion that uses the body for barter instead of inflaming it, a debtor who sells you up, a friend who stabs you.. . .' [Powers of Horror (transl. Louis Roudiez, Columbia University Press, 1982), 4]

And from Roudiez's introduction to the same volume: 'Kristeva is not averse to using polysemy to her advantage, as other French theorists like Derrida and Lacan have also done. The French word propre, for instance, has kept the meaning of the Latin proprius (one's own, characteristic, proper) and also acquired a new one: clean. At first, in Powers of Horror, the criteria of expository prose seemed to apply, but in several instances I began to have my doubts about this. When I asked Kristeva which meaning she intended the answer was, both. As a result I decided to use the rather cumbersome "one's own clean and proper body" to render the French corps propre, sacrificing elegance for the sake of clarity and fullness of meaning. [viii]

And this: one of the two Oxyrhnchus Gospels (this is papyrus 840, reconstructed and translated by Henry Sweet Barclay), also cited in Powers of Horror:
(01) "[. . .] earlier, before doing wrong, he slyly reasons everything out,
(02) but be careful that you do not also somehow
(03) suffer the same things as them. For not
(04) only among the living do
(05) the evil-doers of humanity receive retribution, but [a]lso
(06) they will undergo punishment and mu[c]h
(07) torture." And taking them along,
(08) he went into the place of purification itself and
(09) wandered about in the temple. And c[o]ming toward them,
(10) a certain high priest of the Pharisees - Le[vi]
(11) was his name - joined them and s[aid]
(12) to the savior, "Who permitted you to tram[ple]
(13) this place of purification and to see [the]se
(14) holy vessels, although you have not ba[th]e[d] n[o]r
(15) have the f[eet] of your disciples
(16) been [wa]shed? But after having def[iled] it,
(17) you trample this a[rea] of the temple which
(18) [i]s clean, which nobody e[lse except for]
(19) a person who has bathed and chan[ged his]
(20) [clot]hes tramples on. Nor does he dare to lo[ok upon these]
(21) holy vessels." And s[tanding nearby, the savior]
(22) wit[h his] disciple[s replied],

(23) "Then, being here in the temple, are you
(24) clean?" He said to him, "I am clean.
(25) For I bathed in the pool of David and
(26) after going down by one set of stairs, by another
(27) I came back [u]p. And I put on white clothes
(28) and they were clean and then I came
(29) and looked upon these holy
(30) vessels." Re[ply]ing to him, the savior
(31) said, "Woe to blind people who do not
(32) s[e]e! You bathed in those gushing
(33) w[a]ter[s] in which dogs and pigs have been
(34) ca[st] night and day. And wash[i]ng yourselves,
(35) you scrubbed the outer layer of skin which
(36) also prostitutes and th[e] flute-girls
(37) ano[int a]nd bathe and scrub
(38) [and p]ut make up on to become the desi[re]
(39) of [t]he men. But from within th[ey]
(40) [are fill]ed with scorpions and
(41) [all unr]ighteousness. But I and
(42) [my disciples], whom you say have not
(43) wa[shed], we [have wa]shed in waters of li[fe]
(44) [eternal co]ming from [the]
(45) [God of heaven. B]ut woe to [th]ose [. . .]

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