Susanne K. Langer – Following in The Tradition of T. S. Eliot

Nobody reads this stuff anymore. Except for Gordon Lish, and UNSAID.

The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him. Consequently, we must believe that “emotion recollected in tranquility” is an inexact formula. For it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquility. It is a concentration, and a new thing resulting from the concentration, of a very great number of experiences which to the practical and active person would not seem to be experiences at all; it is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation. . . .

The experience, you will notice, the elements which enter the presence of the transforming catalyst, are of two kinds: emotions and feelings. The effect of a work of art upon the person who enjoys it is an experience different in kind from any experience not of art.

–T. S. Eliot

Art is the objectification of feeling, and the subjectification of nature.

Susanne K. Langer

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5 Responses to Susanne K. Langer – Following in The Tradition of T. S. Eliot

  1. Jason says:

    I had my students read Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” this semester. My favorite line: “But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

    • We were recalling that very line in class just today. I gotta check into Middlebrow again. Been too long. That term, middlebrow, came up again and again in John Guillory’s discussion of general education at American universities.

      • Jason says:

        I took a break from Middlebrow for awhile, mothballed the whole thing, but now I’m back at it again. I like having a space where I can write informally. The blog post is nice: not quite an essay, but more than the Facebook update. I can express a coherent thought or two, but I don’t have to have an entire argument worked out.

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