Personality and Poetry
Nuttall (Anthony)
Source: Peacocke & Gillett - Persons and Personality: A Contemporary Inquiry, 1987, Chapter 10
Paper - Abstract

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Editors’ Abstract1

  1. Mr Anthony Nuttall is concerned with the human psyche, preferring the Platonic term psuche, which includes mind, intelligence, and character, to the term 'soul', with its religious overtones. Like Plato, he believes that there are many real and important things in the world, such as justice and other abstract universals, which are not simply physical facts, and that the psyche is one such fact, albeit with the difference that it may not be timeless, or immortal. None the less, to be human is to participate in the non-material as well as the material, which is why attempts to give an account of the world solely in physical terms - such as those of the behaviourists - are unconvincing, and why Plato's argument regarding the psyche 'continues to nag, to pluck at the sleeve of the mind', as Nuttall puts it.
  2. A similarly unsatisfactory situation has arisen in recent years in the field of literary criticism. First, there was the New Critic, elevating the poem as the sole determinant of meaning, regardless of the intention of the author. Then came the structuralist, claiming that the meaning of a poem resided in the wider literary context; and, following that, the deconstructionist, questioning the very possibility of meaning. Nuttall says; 'It is as if the analytic intelligence, for considerable stretches of human history, operates as a sort of death-ray, withering all that lies in its path.'
  3. In both pursuits - that of the psyche and that of the meaning of a poem - the object of inquiry has seemed to recede - indeed, to be dissolved. What seems to have gone wrong in both cases is that there has been an artificial separation of different orders of being and discourse, with a 'subsequent wanton privileging of one order over all the rest', and a concomitant loss of the sense of the whole, whether person or poem.



In-Page Footnotes

Footnote 1: Taken from "Peacocke (Arthur) & Gillett (Grant) - Persons and Personality: Introduction".


Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)

  1. Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2018
  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)



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