Possessed Child Narratives in Literature and Film: Contrary States (Crime Files S.)

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The many poems, stories and plays about "mother," "baby," "the flag," "home," "our country," etc. Ecstasy was the keynote of Oriental poetry. Macdonald, of a book on the laws of music and singing of ecstasy from Al Ghazzali's work on the Re-vivifying of the Sciences of the Faith. Ghazzali was the greatest apologist for Islam and is known as "The Proof of Islam. He unfortunately dealt the death blow to Mohammedan philosophy and Averroes wrote against him.

But no one among Arabs had as grand a conception of ecstasy in connection with poetry as he did. He was influenced by the Persian Sufis and defined ecstasy in a very modern manner. We may dispense with his mystic conception of it and pay attention only to his definition of it in its relation to poetry. Great admirer as he was of the Koran he recognized that poetry is more in accord with human nature than that work, and he quotes an authority to the effect that our being constituted of fanciful desires makes us more moved by poets than by the word of God.

He finds various reasons for the power of poetry over us, the principal one being its quality of ecstasy. He sees that poetry has a mission in conveying ecstasy; that one of its uses is to arouse us to lamentation, to joy, to love, to courage and to religion. He analyzes the tender longing caused by love poetry, though, good Moslem that he was, he is always discriminating between poetry that arouses a lawful love, and that which has mere lust as its object.

His main contribution, however, to the philosophy of [Pg 35] ecstasy is his recognition of its identity with the unconscious. He quotes some one to the effect that music and singing do not produce in the heart what is not in it but stir up what exists there. Ecstasy to him is the result of hearing and of understanding what is heard and applying it to an idea which occurs to the hearer.

It is a condition produced in the hearer's soul due to knowledge or emotion, and the condition is varied. The following passage is especially worthy of quotation: "As for the states, how many a man gets so far as to perceive in his heart, on some occasion which may appear in it, a contraction or an expansion, yet he does not know its cause!

And a man sometimes thinks about a thing, and it makes an impression on his soul. Then he forgets the cause, but the impression remains upon his soul, and he feels it. And, sometimes, the condition which he feels is a joy which arose in his soul on his thinking about a cause which produces joy; or it may have been a sorrow; then he who was thinking about it forgets it, but feels in the impression its consequence. And sometimes that condition is a strong condition which a word expressing joy or sorrow does not indicate clearly and for which he cannot come upon a suitable expression for what was intended.

Al Ghazzali gives then, as the essence of ecstasy, its unconscious nature. Ecstasy is related to longing for something unknown. All people experience in their hearts states demanding things unknown to them. He compares the situation to that of the innocent and ignorant youth in puberty who is in a state unexplained to him. Al Ghazzali is one of the first of modern critics to formulate the theory of ecstasy as the end of poetry, and his argument explains the vogue of love and mystic poetry.

He recurs, it is true, to the influence of metre in poetry in inducing ecstasy, but he is always thinking of the ecstasy of love [Pg 36] of man and God as the element of poetry, and in this he is a predecessor of Tolstoy. He also gives rules as to one's behavior in the ecstatic state and does not sanction undue madness. A much higher form of the literature of ecstasy than the product of the immoral rites of Dionysus or the mystic poetry of Persia is the prophecy as it was known and delivered among the ancient Hebrews. Indeed, prophecy is the ideal form of the literature of ecstasy and represents the zenith of its achievement.

It is the emotional verbal utterance of the unconscious of the poet, who is usually in a state of ecstasy, and who, as passages in the Bible testify, receives his message in a vision or dream. The act of prophesying was even contagious. The early prophets were like dancing dervishes in their prophesying and influenced others to do as they did. We recall how Saul stripped himself naked. The Hebrew word prophecy means utterance and the idea of foretelling the future was incidental to it.

If the idea of futurity emanated from prophets, it was such insight as any gifted person may experience when he notes certain facts from which he can predict inevitable results. But the ecstatic state was always associated with the idea of prophecy, the only person, according to the account of the Bible, exempt from this state being Moses. The prophetic state was not allied to divination but resulted from moral and aesthetic inspiration such as we find in modern poets.

When the Bible says, God spoke to the prophet, or the hand of God touched him, it means that the prophet was in a state of ecstasy due to a highly developed moral and social viewpoint. The true prophet's ecstasy was not accompanied by immorality or superduced by drugs or physical abuse. Music, however, was at one time used to produce the prophetic state. The aesthetic mechanism of the ancient [Pg 37] prophets was no different from that of any great poet with a message of modern times.

Moses Maimonides in his Guide to the Perplexed analyzes the ecstatic state of prophecy and his analysis may be applied to any high form of poetic inspiration. Prophecy was, according to Maimonides, an emanation sent forth to man's rational faculty and then to his imaginative faculty; it consisted in the most perfect development of the imaginative faculty; the logical and imaginative faculties had to be balanced in the prophet; he overflowed with the frenzy of ecstasy to help his fellow-men and could not rest even at risk of personal suffering; he had courage and intuition; he reserved his message in a dream or a vision.

The psychology of the prophetic inspiration has been studied by many of the higher critics of the Bible. One of the best books on the subject is The Psychology of Prophecy by Dr. Jacob H. Kaplan, Philadelphia , Julius H. Greenstone who says:. The ecstasy of the wild and mad kind was seen only in the early days of Hebrew prophecy, when wine and dance and music and other external means were used for bringing about this state, but the subdued elevated ecstasy due to religious temperament and patriotic fervor, due to constant and profound contemplation, was certainly the characteristic of the later prophets.

Ecstasy is usually the spring whence all the other prophetic streams flow. While the Greeks mingled reason with inspiration to produce poetry, the prophets went further, and interpenetrated their ecstasy with a high sense of social justice. An ecstatic state, with a keen intellect, a high moral outlook, and a noble social ideal characterized the prophet. His state of ecstasy was due to this highly developed [Pg 38] social conscience.

He was not so much concerned with religious rites as with the decline of the nation's ideals of justice. The prophet of that day fulminated against the economic evils of society. He was possessed of an exalted type of aesthetic soul, the ecstasy to social justice. No literature gives us such types of men who rebuke unjust kings as we find in the stories of Nathan and David, Elijah and Ahab, Jeremiah and Hezekiah.

No literature shows us such courageous types as Amos and Isaiah. They were not flatterers, these men who risked their lives in shouting back to eastern autocratic monarchs their iniquities. They did not say what society or public opinion wanted them to say but what they felt was their duty. They overflowed not with the immoral and insane ecstasy of the rites of Dionysius, but the ecstasy of the man who loves his neighbor as himself, of the man who would not have the rich crush the poor, of the man who sought kindness for the stranger, the oppressed, the widow, the fatherless.

And the prophets, in spite of their virulency, produced the highest forms of artistic beauty. Not all the revolutions of opinions and changes in religious beliefs have made them obsolete. Shaw once said, substitute the word ideals for the word idols, in the Bible, and you have messages that are still true. So the prophets instead of being miracle performers, foretellers of the future, preachers of theology, are really poets of ecstasy, with a social message revealed in a dream.

The old word of God, in the form of a high social ideal, to-day is still making prophets. Shelley, Ibsen and Ruskin have done work that is akin to the prophets of old; they have given us works of art inspired by a state of ecstasy springing from the possession of social ideals. Santayana rightly regards the prophet, one who portrays the ideals [Pg 39] of experience and destiny, as the greatest poet.

See Poetry and Religion. Nor did the prophets of old sing their messages in artificial form. They did not count their syllables and give us metre, though they indulged in parallelisms. They wrote in rhythmical prose. The prophets had a true conception of what constituted a high form of poetry, an ecstatic production in prose with a social ideal behind it.

Ecstasy was the first condition of their poetry but it was not pathological as with monks who tortured their bodies, or decadent poets who resorted to drugs. If there is a high form of the literature of ecstasy it surely is that in which the ecstasy of humanitarianism is described.

It is that which shows a man with a highly developed sense of social justice, who is making sacrifices because he observes the misery of many due to the privileged few. Don Quixote is one of the greatest poems because the knight wants to help mankind, even though he is insane and never recks his own bruises, but persists and is laughed at by all. In speaking of the literature of ecstasy, something should be said about De Quincey's famous distinction of the literature of knowledge and the literature of power. He defined the former as that which teaches and the latter as that which moves.

In the literature of power he included also that which taught by means of passions, desires and emotions and that which had its field of action in relation to the great moral capacities of man. The literature of power, according to De Quincey, includes that [Pg 40] which appeals to the reason and understanding through the affections. It restores "to man's mind the ideals of justice, of hope, of truth, of mercy, of retribution.

The question is, what relation is there between De Quincey's idea of the literature of power and that of the literature of ecstasy.


Of course he included under the literature of power his masterly prose poems; also all his imaginative writings. Now, the Confessions of an Opium Eater , for instance, belongs only in parts to the literature of ecstasy, noticeably in the dream phantasies. By the literature of power De Quincey meant all literature except science. The only illustration of the literature of knowledge he gives is Newton's Principia , and the marked characteristics he finds in this as in all literature of knowledge is that it may be and usually is superseded by later discoveries.

The literature of power in his opinion is permanent; this statement is not true when we think of the many imaginative works of the past that have no longer any message or appeal to us. The point is that De Quincey's literature of power includes not only poetry in verse and prose, but the entire field of general literature which hovers on poetry, or in which the poetry is diffused so that we call it prose literature.

The literature of ecstasy then is the more emotional literature of power, that section of it where the ecstasy is concentrated. It would include chiefly the impassioned prose and prose phantasies of De Quincey's own work. De Quincey was no art-for-art's-sake man, and he recognized the importance of the rational and the moral element in the sphere of the literature of power. There remains a distinction between power and ecstasy. He does not contend that the emotion should be concentrated and hold complete sway over the author.

His literature of power would include, for example, all good novels or histories in their entirety. To us only those portions of such novels and histories where the passion is concentrated belong to the literature of ecstasy or poetry.

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Literature of ecstasy is always poetry, literature of power is not, being rather the equivalent of belles lettres , reaching the heights of poetry only at times. The literature of ecstasy is all writing, in verse or prose, wherever an emotional atmosphere hovers, where a feeling is concentrated, and hence it is really poetry. Poetry is the language of ecstasy and ecstasy is that possessive faculty of the imagination capable "of projecting itself into the very consciousness of its object, and again of being so wholly possessed by the emotion of its object that in expression it takes unconsciously the tone, the color and the temperature thereof.

Aristotle was the first critic who placed little stress on the importance of metre in poetry. If the critics had followed him, instead of merely referring to his Poetics and trying to discover the "borderland between prose and poetry," there probably would have been little confusion as to what is poetry.

He saw there was poetry in the prose mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and in the dialogues of Socrates, though these were not classified as poetry. Incidentally he found little poetry in Empedocles, who in spite of his metre was primarily a physicist. The passage from the Poetics is worth quoting entire for it contains the nucleus of all arguments for prose poetry. I quote from S. Butcher's translation:. For there is no common term we could apply to the mimes of Sophron and Xenarchus and the Socratic dialogues on the one hand; and, on the other, to poetic imitations in iambic, elegaic, or any similar metre.

People, do, indeed, add the word "make" or "poet" to the name of the metre, and speak of elegaic poets, or epic that is, hexameter poets, as if it were not the imitation that makes the poet, but the verse that entitles them all indiscriminately to the name. On the same principle, even if a writer in his poetic imitation were to combine all metres, as [Pg 43] Chaeremon did in his Centaur , which is a medley composed of metres of all kinds, we should bring him too under the general term poet.

He also says: "The Poet or maker should be the maker of plots rather than of verse; since he is a poet because he imitates, and what he imitates is actions. Aristotle's idea that metre is an unessential element in determining poetry has never really taken root in literary criticism. It was voiced by men like Erasmus and Savonarola, and was again restated by the Italian critic Castelvetro, who in his commentary on Aristotle's Poetics said that verse is not the essence of poetry, that it does not distinguish it but clothes it, and that therefore matter and not metre is the test of poetry.

He believes like Aristotle, that metre aids poetry, but that the imitation or creation itself determines it. George Saintsbury in his scholarly and fascinating History of Criticism in Europe cannot forgive Aristotle for this "pestilent heresy," as he calls it. He severely berates Wordsworth and Coleridge for having supported it. He attacks all the critics who countenance it. He adulates Dante's treatise De Vulgari Eloquentia as an antidote to the heresy, because Dante wants the rhythm as well as the diction of poetry to be different from that of prose.

But we are learning to-day that metre is not only an unnecessary element in poetry, but often an artificial, hampering encumbrance, frequently vitiating the poetical quality of a poem. Yet Professor Saintsbury has given us in his History of English Prose Rhythm some of the finest emotional and rhythmical passages from English prose writers.

He chose the selections primarily for their rhythm and not for their emotional qualities, yet most of the passages are [Pg 44] poems. His book practically convinces one that nearly all the great English writers of prose wrote not only rhythmical prose, but emotional or ecstatic prose, or poetry. Professor Saintsbury finds the essence of prose rhythm, in variety and divergence, and he divides prose into three kinds, according to the rhythm. These are hybrid verse-prose, pure highly rhythmed prose, and prose in general. He no doubt would include free verse here. But this so-called "hybrid verse prose" is really highly rhythmed prose generally arranged in verse form.

There is no real distinction between the two forms. Poetry in prose, however, does not depend on the rhythm. The only effect on the reader of reading the chapter on "Rhythm as the Essential Fact of Poetry" in Professor Gummere's book The Beginnings of Poetry is to convince him that the learning amassed there does not prove the professor's thesis. For example Gummere cites Bagehot's statement, "the exact line which separates grave novels in verse like Aylmer's Field or Enoch Arden from grave novels not in verse like Silas Marner and Adam Bede , we own we cannot draw with any confidence," and thus comments: "Adam Bede remains prose, and Enoch Arden is commonly set down as poetry and there an end.

Some of the free verse poets have given us compositions made up of the outbursts of people in distress, with their story in simple language like Hetty Sorrel's tale. The academic critics have found an argument for rhythm in the fact that when a man is moved, the expression of his emotions tends towards rhythmical language.

This is certainly very often true, but the rhythmical character of language in these cases is entirely different from that in verse, for in verse you have a patterned regular rhythm obeying an artificial law of accents, a continued series of rise and ebb of the voice that must not break down for hundreds and even thousands of monotonous lines. In the rhythm of the natural language of emotion you have no rules or fetters on how the accents should be distributed.

You have rhythmical and unrhythmical lines, regular and irregular arrangements of accents, all thrown together. No pattern is present, and no uniformity or similarity of any kind is kept up. This is the language of poetic prose.

If I say that rhythm is not necessary in poetry, I merely mean that no patterned or strong rhythm is necessary, for all prose is more or less irregularly rhythmical. Often the prose rhythm is more marked than the rhythm of metre, as you may find out by comparing passages from Whitman or Pater with let us say some of the blank verse of Wordsworth. Professor Patterson claimed that all prose has rhythm, and he called prose "syncopated rhythm. He refuses to regard free verse, as some seek to do, as a third medium for poetic expression. He shows that the arrangement of free verse into irregular lines merely calls attention to the rhythms.

All prose may be arranged as free verse and all free verse as prose. Since such is the case, all literature of [Pg 46] ecstasy in prose has rhythm besides ecstasy and should certainly be called poetry. Patterson made one error, however, to which Dr. Cary F. Jacob calls attention in her Foundations and Nature of Verse. Prose may have rhythm but it has no continuity of progress in the rhythms, which must eventually break down; it has no intention of continuous rhythmic flow.

But poetry, I urge, may exist in prose without a continuity of progress of rhythms or even without rhythm at all— after all, in spite of Dr. Patterson, there is unrhythmical prose. The view that rhythm is vital to poetry is fallacious. Accentuation at unequal intervals of time no more creates or heightens poetic fervor than, as was formerly supposed, measured stress on syllables did so.

If the prime motive of an unrhythmical prose work, in whole or part, is the communication of an emotion or the ecstatic treatment of an idea, that production is emphatically a poem; or at least some portions of it are separately entitled to that name. If you deny it you will be compelled to maintain that the able unrhythmical prose translations we have of the Greek and Latin poets contain no poetry.

In fact the best way to judge if a composition in verse is poetry is, as Goethe and Hearn said, to translate it into the prose of another language; if poetic emotions are not then revealed, rest assured that they were never present in the original work. When the rhyme, metre and rhythm have been abstracted and the poetic fire still glows almost undiminished, we have the best proof, first that its existence did not depend upon the use of verbal measures and sounds, and secondly, that the poetry is not lost even when transferred into the prose of another tongue.

The first question the reader will now ask is: "Well, what then constitutes the difference between prose and [Pg 47] poetry if you take away the distinguishing feature of rhythm? The embarrassment of the former and the misconception of the latter will disappear if they remember that the opposite of prose is not poetry, but verse or metre. As Coleridge said, science is the proper antithesis of poetry. An unemotional presentation of dull facts is, however, the real antithesis.

Poetry is absolutely independent of any adornment it may be given, such as rhyme, metre, or, as I am especially trying to show, rhythm; even though it is true that emotional language may tend to become rhythmical. Verse is simply an ordering of words so that the modulation by the voice especially attracts the ear by the regularity of stress. We have stories, dramas and essays in different measures of verse just as we have them in prose.

Description, narration, exposition, even argument and exclamation, appear in verse as well as in prose. There are, as it has always been recognized, innumerable products in verse that from the nature of their contents are destitute of the attributes of poetry.

Humorous and didactic efforts, mere jokes or commonplace sermons, do not become poetical because they are put in metre or rhythm. Abstract philosophy, concrete science and barren theology remain arid and unemotional discourses even in the epics of Dante and Milton. A bare and not particularly interesting statement of facts or a procession of dull and platitudinous ideas is, even in verse, anything but poetry.

In the range of the world's metrical writings the poems are few and far between. On the other hand, it has always been recognized that there were prose compositions that partook of the nature of poetry or were replete with poetical parts. It was difficult [Pg 48] to classify this literature, for the extreme beauty and emotion which pervaded it lifted it above ordinary prose and yet because of the absence of measure it was not classified as poetry.

The first English critic who perceived that the authors of such work were really poets and should be designated by their appropriate name was Sir Philip Sidney. He showed that verse was but an ornament and did not make poetry, and that there were many poets, among whom he named Xenophon, who never versified. Shelley, however, has given the widest vogue to the feeling that the distinction between poets and prose writers was a vulgar error. He maintained that philosophers like Bacon and Plato, historians like Herodotus, Plutarch and Livy, authors of revolutions in opinion such as Jesus and Rousseau, were poets.

Coleridge held that the object of poetry was to communicate pleasure, and remarked: "But the communication of pleasure may be the immediate object of a work not metrically composed; and that object may have been in a high degree attained, as in novels and romance. Would then the mere superaddition of metre, with or without rhyme, entitle these to the name of poems? The answer is, that nothing can permanently please, which does not contain in itself the reason why it is so, and not otherwise. The writings of Plato, and Bishop Taylor, and the Theoria Sacra of Burnet, furnish undeniable proof that poetry of the highest kind may last without metre, and even without the contradistinguishing objects of a poem.

Thomas Moore had [Pg 49] the magnanimity to say, 'If Burke and Bacon were not poets measured lines not being necessary to constitute one , he did not know what poetry meant. Emerson also said he heard the Germans considered the author of Tristram Shandy a greater poet than Cowper, and that Goldsmith was a poet more because of the Vicar of Wakefield than the Deserted Village.

Hazlitt stated that there were some prose works that approached poetry without absolutely being poetry, instancing Robinson Crusoe , Pilgrim's Progress , and the Decameron. Heine spoke of Don Quixote as a poem. Fredrick Schlegel called Wilhelm Meister poetry. Brandes regards Lord Beaconsfield a poet. Balzac considered himself a poet and Ibsen in mentioning his prose dramas often used the word "poems. The habit of calling productions in metre or rhythm poetry has been so strongly ingrained in us that we denominate every lengthy performance in verse a poem in toto.

Before Poe, Coleridge said that "a poem of any length neither can be nor ought to be all poetry. The same thing may be said of literary verse performances of moderate length. To those who object to using the word "poem" in connection with any prose composition one may reply that these, like verse productions, are also often made up of poetical parts here and there; they simply lack regular [Pg 50] rhythm and this is not a sufficient line of demarcation as to what constitutes poetry and what does not.

There are many short stories in verse which are known as poems while there are many poetical tales and sketches in prose which no one finds to be poetry, although they often contain more of it than many specimens in measure. I see no reason why we should not designate as poetry, prose tales where ecstasy and emotion predominate. The same laws of emotional appeal are working in the one as in the other; a similar artistic stamp is printed on all these stories. In fact, Longfellow's tales are inferior in the quality and quantity of poetry to the stories specified.

His compositions could easily be arranged in prose and the stories of Kipling or Harte could be transposed into metrical verse. The transfer would not affect the poetry in either of them. It is a confused system of literary classification which does not permit calling these tales of Harte and Kipling poetry, but crowns the same writers' doggerel verses like The Heathen Chinee and Fuzzy Wuzzy with the title "poems.

To bring sharply before the reader's mind the idea that a piece in verse is often not poetry and that a prose passage frequently is a poem, I will quote at random two passages. One is from a work that is rich with poetry and written by one of England's greatest poets and yet the particular section, though in metre, is but a dry statement of facts.

Here are unpoetical lines which might have been written in prose, but Wordsworth had to give us some preliminary information so that we could follow his story. Incidentally, he has the reputation for having much prosy material in the body of his work. The other passage I quote is purposely a translation from a foreign novel and yet it has not lost any of its poetry. The paragraph, of which I give part, is a poem and part of a larger one in prose.

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And in the orchestra, spoke every eloquence, sang every joy, wept every misery, that the human voice had ever expressed. The melodies emerged from the symphonic depths, developing, interrupting, superposing, mingling, melting into one another, dissolving, disappearing to again appear. A more and more restless poignant anxiety passed over all the instruments and expressed a continual and ever vain effort to attain the inaccessible. In the impetuosity of the chromatic progressions there was the mad pursuit of a happiness that eluded every grasp, although it shone ever so near, etc.

I shall show more fully that our definitions of what is poetry and what is a poem have been faulty. The error [Pg 52] is so perceptible that it is surprising that so few critics have detected it. Meanwhile I will give my definitions:. Poetry is not a department of literature in the sense that the novel or the essay or the drama is, but is an atmosphere which bathes literature whenever ecstasy and emotion are present.

It is not a distinct division of art as literature, music or painting is, for poetry is the very essence of all these arts whether it is transmitted by words, sounds or colors. It is the ecstatic emotional spirit which pervades all good literature or any of the arts whether in verse or prose, in their finest parts. It is an aesthetic quality which gives tone to a literary work or any portion or portions of it. It may exist without figures of speech, rhyme, metre or rhythm.

Let us have no more such classification of literature as fiction, drama, essay, criticism, poetry , etc. There is fiction in verse and there is prose fiction; there are verse dramas and prose plays, etc. However, the customary lyric verse may be comprised under the heading of poetry not because of the measure, but on account of the poetic emotion that usually characterizes it.

Let us also not speak of the arts like music, painting, sculpture and poetry when instead of the last we mean literature, for poetry is a quality of all the arts including literature. Poetry is the spirit of ecstasy and emotion which pervades the arts like music, painting, sculpture and literature, and hence it may be found in every branch of literature whether in verse or prose, like the drama, fiction and the essay. We are now in a position to define what a poem is. I think if the latter limitation is withdrawn, all our confusion as to what is a poem will disappear.

A poem is any literary composition, whether in verse or prose, which as a whole is an imaginative creation, a vehicle of emotion, an expression of ecstasy; or that portion or every portion of such a composition where the emotion or ecstasy has been concentrated. It does not follow that the work as a whole is necessarily poetry. Its most natural language is prose or free verse. Some of the best poetry is found in the world's prose fiction. For example, The Scarlet Letter has as good poetry in it as the Aeneid. Like the old epic, it is made up of great poems connected by extended portions that belongs to general literature, sections that have not enough emotion to be regarded as poetry nor are yet arid or passionless enough to be termed science.

But the story of Hester Prynne is poetry as truly as the tale of Dido, and undoubtedly you cannot refuse the appellation poetry to the chapter in Hawthorne's novel which [Pg 54] describes how Arthur Dimmesdale gets up in the pulpit and confesses to the congregation his part in Hester Prynne's guilt.

The Aeneid is really a novel in verse. We are not often moved by metrical writing as we are by the last part of the chapter in David Copperfield entitled, "A Greater Loss," where we see the agonizing grief of the elder Pegotty and of Ham over the elopement of Emily, Ham's betrothed. You recall the love scene telling of the meeting of Richard and Lucy in Meredith's novel The Ordeal of Richard Feverel , only as poetry. This is how the passage, which being rhythmical besides, begins:. Golden lie the meadows; golden run the streams; red gold is on the pine-stems.

The sun is coming down to earth, and walks the fields and the waters.

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The sun is coming down to earth, and the fields and the waters shout to him golden shouts. He comes and his heralds run before him, and touch the leaves of oaks and the planes and the beeches lucid green, and the pine stems redder gold; leaving the brightest footprints upon thickly-weeded barks, where the foxglove's last upper-bells incline, and the bramble shoots wander amid moist rich herbage, etc. If the sphere of poetry has thus been widened to include many compositions in prose formerly excluded, it has, on the other hand, been narrowed by omitting much in verse that was formerly admitted into the domain of the Muses.

I refer especially to the whole body of unecstatic philosophical, scientific and theological discourses in verse which usurp a name not belonging to them; I refer to much descriptive and narrative verse that lacks the poetic glow; I would exclude nearly all of the so-called "light," "occasional" and "humorous" verse. Winnow the voluminous verse writers and but a modicum of poetry remains. It is an easy matter to arrange any fine poetical prose in blank verse or irregular rhythmical lines.

Just a few slight verbal changes are necessary. The new product then fulfills the conditions of the old theory which demands metre or rhythm. Does it become poetry because of these unimportant changes? No, these do not work so miraculous an effect upon the writing.

It acquires no higher qualities than it had before in prose. I hence fail to see why the Idylls of the King should be alone called poems and not also parts of Malory's Morte d'Arthur , which Tennyson paraphrased in blank verse. Malory has, however, been deemed a poet by some critics and any one who will read the lament over the death of Sir Lancelot will not begrudge the author that title.

One admits that the Tales of La Fontaine and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales are very rich in poetry, but why say that the original prose stories which these poets often re-tell in verse undoubtedly improving them by their own genius are not? And who will deny the statement that the best of Scott's novels, say The Heart of Midlothian , contains as much, if not more, poetry than some of his novels in verse like the Lady of the Lake?

Even in his day the reviewers saw that there was no difference between Scott's verse and prose stories as far as the quality of the poetry was concerned; indeed they saw that there was more of the divine afflatus in the latter than there was in the former. In fact the Quarterly Review referred to Scott's novels as poems. Especially is this true in regard to his use of Plutarch.

The dramatist followed the biographer point for point, repeating word for word passages of North's translation, accepting the characters as they stood there and repeating all the leading incidents. Nor can I understand why the parts of Shakespeare's plays which are in prose and are often superior to many portions in blank verse should also not be called poetry.

Take the first scene of the fifth act of Macbeth , where Lady Macbeth is walking in her sleep. The entire section, though prose, is one of the most poetic pieces in the entire drama. If the passage had been written in blank verse it could not have been improved. The poetry is there in the scene itself and not in any possible metre. Other lines might be cited, like Hamlet's remarks to Guildenstern, who tried to pry out his secret and play upon him as upon a pipe; or his reflections on what a wonderful piece of work was man; or his comments over Yorick's skull.

All these selections are in impassioned prose and are as much entitled to the rank of poetry as are most of the blank verse of the drama. Hamlet's advice to the players though art criticism, and prose, is so lit up with poetic glamor that it deserves the name poetry more than the metrical version of some of the moral commonplaces in the play. One may ask various questions of the critic who clings [Pg 57] to the old definition that metre or rhythm must accompany poetry. Why should Conrad's supreme poetic description of a storm at sea in his Nigger of the Narcissus not be called a poem, when you designate by this word Virgil's famous description in dactylic hexameters in the first book of the Aeneid?

Powerful and deservedly renowned as the Virgil passage is, I venture to say that it does not as a poem rank higher than some of Conrad's descriptions. Since the critics would not admit that any unrhythmical prose is poetry, it is little wonder that Baudelaire founded as a distinct and conscious form the composition he called "poem in prose. Sturm, that he had dreamed in his days of ambition "of a miracle of poetical prose, musical without rhythm and without rhyme.

He derived the idea of this separate form from Poe and Bertrand. He has been followed by Turgenev, who left us some prose poems which he called Senilia. The reader may recall the love scene in The House of Gentlefolk and the concluding chapters of Rudin and Fathers and Sons , which are all prose poems. Gorki has written some exquisite prose poems. One of [Pg 58] them, The March of Man , is one of the most beautiful poems ever written. Translated in The Cosmopolitan for July, Really, every great literary man is a poet, for he is constantly occupied with ecstasy and human emotions.

It is not necessary to use the old poetical machinery of rhythm, or metaphors or similes, or apostrophe or personification or any other figure of speech; one may dispense with allusions to mythology or the use of any but current expressions and idioms; one may write almost as one talks; and poetry may nevertheless be produced. When Macpherson in the eighteenth century and Chateaubriand in the early part of the nineteenth century gave us in imitation of the old epics the long prose poems Fingal and Les Martyrs , respectively, they sinned artistically only because they were imitators and were stilted and rhetorical.

These books contain excellent poetry in prose; we to-day can scarcely imagine the vogue they had. Had they been more natural they would still be read. I believe the application of the theory of poetry I advocate would work many changes in literary values. Who can doubt that Ibsen and Balzac are greater poets than John Hay or Edmund Clarence Stedman, both of whom have respectable rank elsewhere, the former as a statesman and the latter as a critic?


Possessed Child Narratives in Literature and Film by Adrian Schober

Yet our system of literary classification stamps these two as poets because of a few popular and able lyrics in verse, while Ibsen and Balzac, who wrote in prose, are not even considered poets, according to academic standards. The scenes of Oswald losing his mind at the end of Ghosts or of Ella Rentheim rebuking John Gabriel Borkman for his desertion of her are magnificent poems. As for the poems of Balzac they are too numerous to mention. Inflated as they occasionally are, they are suffused with poetical qualities.

Balzac and Ibsen are poets and any definition of poetry that would exclude them as such is faulty. Under the new method of distinguishing poets that I seek to promulgate, many writers will be admitted as such whom the world never dreamt of as seers. It might astonish some people if I make a claim for Mark Twain as a poet. But who that has read Huckleberry Finn and recalls the description of the sunrise on the Mississippi, given in the nineteenth chapter, will be prone to exclude our greatest imaginative and philosophical humorist from the ranks of Apollo's servants? To convince the skeptical, I quote from the famous passage where Huck fearing he would go to hell if he freed a "nigger" slave, determines to disclose Jim's whereabouts and writes a note to that effect.

We all recall his mental struggles, how he finally tore the letter, with the words "All right, I'll go to hell. I got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. Our definition allows us to include the author of the few lines beginning "With malice towards none, with charity towards all" as a poet. Indeed, I have been anticipated in the claim that Lincoln was a poet, as the Gettysburg speech has been on several occasions called a poem.

It may be asserted that it is rather difficult to differentiate the poetical portions of a prose work from the rest. This same problem confronts us in verse. Who can point out exactly which lines in the Iliad are poetry? The fact is that there are passages in both prose and metrical literature that we unhesitatingly call poems because they instantly transform us.

Just as you never doubted that the speeches of Andromache are poetical and that the catalogue of the ships is not, so you will find it no problem to discard the tedious descriptions in Balzac as unpoetical while you accept the emotional sections as poems. Just as critics have selected the poems from lengthy metrical works, choosing the story of Margaret from Wordsworth's Excursion , for example, so they could glean the poems of prose literature. One objection raised to the use of prose as a poetical vehicle is its tendency to diffusiveness.

It is claimed that here there are always temptations to digress and become trivial; hence we get the interminable novels and stupendous treatises which as a rule we do not have in verse. But one may grow verbose and expatiate too much in metre as well: the matter rests entirely with the author. Browning's Aurora Leigh are examples of lengthy stories in verse. All of these books are more voluminous than the prose plays, essays, short stories, and novelettes to which we are accustomed.

The prose poet may weed out the trifling incidents and expunge the redundant from his composition as easily as the verse writer. Wordy insignificant passages in a literary product are the outcome, not of a particular rhythmical arrangement, such as prose or verse, but of a want of artistic feeling, to which even great geniuses are at times subject.

It does not follow that a powerful description or an emotional idea or an impassioned state of mind need tend to diffusiveness if written in prose. The poet who has learned self-restraint in composing does not lose his sense of proportion even when writing in prose. Nor need we prefer the verse form to prose, because, as it is alleged, a metrical poem gives us the maximum poetry in the fewest words. It is true we get an immediate thrill out of a rhymed lyric or sonnet, while we often have to read a few chapters in a novel to get a similar sensation.

Nevertheless this is not because the lyric or sonnet is in verse and the novel in prose. It was the intention of the verse poet to captivate us instantly in these forms. Translate the sonnet or lyric into the prose of another language and the excitement seizes us just as quickly. Poe's Raven is known to French readers chiefly in a literal prose translation.

They respond to it as quickly as we do, though they have to forego the rhyme and the metre. The writer of unrhythmical prose may concentrate any emotions in a short space if he wishes to do so. Many brief prose poems in literature are dynamos of emotion. Ecstasy can be concentrated in a short prose poem as readily as in a verse, [Pg 62] lyric or sonnet. The important thing is that the poet record the sentiments instantly, avoiding preliminaries. Yet the bulk of the prose we have will not become poetry because of the new outlook I suggest. It is after all only at times that we can single out poems in them.

Most prose works of merit fall short of being poetry as a whole or in parts. The ecstasy or emotion is often not concentrated in any particular part of the work. The facts, notions or ideas are not emotionally presented. Yet the volume is literature, and is more akin to poetry than to science. But it is no discredit to a book because it is just literature and not poetry.

Gurney in his The Power of Sound calls attention to the fact that when Lessing defined the limits between the plastic arts and poetry, he made no distinction between verse and prose in his conception of poetry. Whatever Lessing says about poetry in the Laocoon applies equally well to prose.

True, he uses Homer as an illustration, but he could just as well have used a modern novel, for the question of metre is never raised in determining the province of poetry, which he differentiates from that of painting. The only place he mentions the prose writer is in the seventeenth section, where he says that the prose writer usually aims only after intelligibility and clarity, while the poet seeks also to be vivid. He does not say that the prose writer may not also be a poet if he is vivid.

In fact this is the very inference. He states also that the verse writer who aims at producing no illusion but addresses the understanding is not a poet, instancing Virgil when in the Georgics he describes a cow fit for breeding. This is then the singular and most remarkable fact about the Laocoon that the author includes all vivid emotional narrative prose under the term poetry, which he [Pg 63] distinguishes from painting. It is easy to see that his famous distinction, that objects side by side in space or bodies with their visible properties are the fit subjects for painting, while actions or objects which succeed each other in time are the peculiar subjects of poetry, is really also a distinction between the plastic arts and the prose novel or short story.

Painting, according to Lessing, was descriptive, poetry was narrative. Now narrative properly is the object of the novel. It is true Lessing defined poetry in a limited manner, as if it were only narrative literature; but we are grateful to him for implying that vivid prose narrative is poetry, and that poetry extends beyond metrical compositions. It is commonly said that an emotional piece of prose writing is not poetry, but the raw material for poetry.

Even Arthur Symons calls such warning only poetical substance. One critic has even designated it as a sort of bastard writing that is neither prose nor poetry. In fact rhythmical emotional prose has been a thorn in the academic critic's side. He has become more confused than ever since the vogue of free verse, some of which though really prose is beyond question poetry.

He no longer refuses the title of poet to Whitman and he shrinks from denying that the best free verse is poetry. He feels vaguely that since prose is also often rhythmical, the old definition of poetry as an emotional piece of rhythmical writing is faulty, for it must include also emotional rhythmical prose, and he objects to this inclusion. Professor Lowes, who, in his Convention and Revolt in Poetry , recognizes the similarity between the rhythm of free verse and that of prose, unsuccessfully solves the problem by saying that poetry is used in a loose as well as in a more rigid sense and that free verse is an artistic medium of not fully developed possibilities.

He, [Pg 64] like most critics, falls into the error of saying that we cannot include prose whenever we speak of poetry. Still we must be grateful to Lowes for his liberal attitude towards new verse forms. Critics who say that emotional prose should be metrical to be called poetry remind us of the paraphrasers of a few centuries ago who put the Psalms into rhyme.

They did not make them poetry, they usually robbed them of it, and spoiled their effect. Even Milton succumbed to the vice. And Gosse, in his article on "Lyrical Poetry" in the Encyclopedia Britannica , tells us of one Azzi who in put the book of Genesis into sonnets. Emotional prose, rhythmical or not, is poetry. No one to-day thinks of employing Matthew Arnold's touchstone theory of poetry whereby we are to have a few metrical lines of some great poets to apply as a test as to what is poetry. It is really strange that with the English prose Bible before them, critics should have insisted on the metrical element in poetry.

And one must add that parallelisms are not the fundamental features of poetry. The poetry of Isaiah and David would have been poetry without a single parallelism. But we need not go to the prophets or the Psalms, where we have parallelism, for poetry in the Bible: we have it in the narrative portions, in the stories of Ruth and Joseph. Who does not feel the poetical emotions surge through him as he comes to the forty-fifth chapter of Genesis , where Joseph reveals himself to his brothers? Fearing they will be dismayed because they sold him, he assures them that their criminal deed was just what has enabled him to become a ruler and save them from starvation.

A poet was he who wrote this chapter beginning with the lines:. Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all that stood by him; and he cried, "Cause every man to go out from me. We must always remember that the emotional appeal whether in prose or verse is the same to us.

We do not get one kind of ecstasy by reading poetical prose and another kind by reading verse. Our inner soul is stirred, our aesthetic faculties are touched in the same way if we read a beautiful love letter like one in prose of Eloise's, or a love poem in verse. And it may be said here that no poet has improved upon those prose epistles by changing them into metrical form. An idea colored with emotion and a beautiful description give us the same effects in prose as they do in verse.

The test of poetry is in our own souls. We can find poetry in the most unexpected places, and the reader who wants to look for it will be able to see that poets like Wordsworth and Whitman were poets in their prose critical prefaces as well as in the Lyrical Ballads and Leaves of Grass. As a matter of fact, Whitman used paragraphs from his critical essays, word for word, in Leaves of Grass , but arranged in free verse form. It is true that at times the poetry cannot be distilled, as it were, from the body of a prose work; a particular passage cannot be lifted up and called poetry, though it be such dependent, however, on what goes before and after.

For example, every reader is thrilled with emotion when he comes to the conclusion of the chapter in Vanity Fair , where Amelia Sedley is praying for George Osborne, who was lying dead on his face with a bullet through his heart. This line is poetry, but only by reason of our taking it into consideration with earlier parts of the novel. It could not be published alone, for it would be meaningless. Perhaps more so than before, the representation of childhood seen here is a category that is created by everyone except the subject itself — something, as the gothic tradition shows, that is itself a marker of monstrosity; an object whose otherness can only be described by others than itself.

Baker focuses on the ghost child within literature and the ways it has been used to express anxieties over cultural and individual identity. The ghost-child is significant, I would argue, because it builds upon this fear and then fractures it, because its corporeal ambivalence is specifically indicative of the fragmented self, not only doubling, but consistently repeating, the haunting of what cannot be whole. As Adams observes, in relation to some recent texts: Zombie children are depicted as vulnerable, and deserving of protection, not attack.

Indeed, it is both adults, who lack understanding, and bullying children, who might well be in need of sympathy themselves, who fail to see the genuine humanity at the core of these undead. Not old. Not a boy. The next section continues this theme, asking when a child is a child, and when it is not. At the heart of all three studies is the question of when a child is actually a child, or when it not. As the authors point out, the current structure: Seems to be based, in no small part, on the assumption that children are innocent and thus incapable of instrumental or premeditated criminality despite the lack of empirically tested, scientific observation to satiate this assumption.

And yet there are many cases of violence, rape and murder committed by those legally defined as children and who, consequently, cannot be judged as responsible for their actions.

Bibliographic Information

This again keeps the child as a separate entity within society, one that is even tried in a court of law under different rules to everyone else. However, whilst one is more rational than the other, both constitute control and containment, with the medicalisation of the monstrous child providing a more institutionalised system of othering. What this pinpoints though, is not just the ongoing form of the monstrous child, but the means of its production — the maternal imagination.

The children represented here are not freaks to be gazed upon in a circus, but ones to be studied under the microscope of institutionalised categorisation. The result is a tension between visions of the future, which is consumed by the present or in which we are consumed; something, which Kerchy notes, reveals the dark shadow of the death-drive even in acts or regeneration. It represents either a new myth, or the metamorphosis of older ones.

We should not forget however, that even in these frameworks, and indeed the studies that follow, that the child itself is still largely missing, even in those versions that make otherness a positive rather than a negative. Their negative and soulless quality suggests they are something else: the shadow opposite of the Child archetype.

It rather represents the child as death itself, though it might just as easily mean the death of heteronormativity rather than that of the human race. This gothic economy of excess and desire then posits a question: does the queer, or uncategorisable child see also Moore disrupt the rigid structures of the system that tries to contain it? Here then the child or adolescent who is ordinarily diagnosed as having ADD Attention Deficit Disorder or ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder is othered, but in a way that sees it as an evolutionary step forward, super-normal if you will, rather than devolutionary or subnormal.

It does show, however, that entanglements can just as easily flip over so that any given signifier can simultaneously contain its opposite. It also becomes more a question of which aspects of it are closest to the surface, or more easily fit the requirements of a particular time and culture, as to whether we see the child in any given moment as either a monster or a god. The editors and authors hope that this volume has begun to identify the continuing cultural and temporal entanglements that lie behind the construction of the child and childhood, both in previous times and cultures, as well as our own.

Similar authors to follow

This is particularly in relation to the continuation of what Edelman identifies as the dominant ideology of heteronormativity — the child becomes the main focus of all that society fears for the future, as well as the object of all its repressed sexual desires. As Markus P. As intimated throughout this study, the voice of the child itself is continually absent, like the misunderstood gothic villain; its words are conveyed by others rather than itself, which is an area for future study and inclusion. Within this, the notion of entanglement and its inherent embracing of inter-disciplinarity, whilst complicating any sense of easy answers or solutions, can still provide a way of bringing together the many threads involved, allowing the addition of new ones, and teasing out connections and intersections that might bring some light to the ongoing debates around who and what the child is, and what levels of autonomy and protection are desirable.

Entanglement, then, might become the means by which the constitution of the child and childhood are no longer seen as simply problems to be solved but challenges to be debated and embraced. Knopf, , That said, one can equally argue that the term society is equally as indiscriminate and unarticulated, which either can qualify using both terms or totally negate any notions of equivalence.

At present we will concur with the former not least because many studies have used these categories to examine the ways each affects the other. Steven Lukes, trans. Rodney Livingstone London: Merlin Press, Hideo Nakata. Tokyo: Toho, ; Yeogogoedam [Whispering Corridors], dir. Park Ki-hyung. Takashi Shimizu. Santa Monica: Lionsgate Films, , all feature young children that have, in some way, been forsaken or ill-used by adult society. William Friedkin. Burbank: Warner Brothers, ; Poltergeist, dir. Tobe Hooper. Beverly Hills: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, George A.

Alan Sheridan London: Penguin Books, Bibliography Anonymous. Charleston: BiblioBazaar, Aries, Phillipe. Translated by Robert Baldick. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Auerbach, Nina. Our Vampires, Ourselves. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Bacon, Simon and Katarzyna Bronk, eds. Bern: Peter Lang, Bhabha, Homi K. The Location of Culture. London: Routledge, Bohlmann, Marcus P. Buckingham, David. Cambridge: Polity Press, The Rules of Sociological Method.

Translated by W. Hall, edited by Steven Lukes. New York: The Free Press, []. The Exorcist. Directed by William Friedkin. Burbank: Warner Brothers, Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. Translated by Charles Lam Markmann. New York: Grove Press, Foucault, Michel. Translated by Alan Sheridan. London: Penguin Books, Halberstam, Judith.

Victorian Studies Jones, Ernest. On the Nightmare. Ju-on [The Grudge]. Directed by Takashi Shimizu. Santa Monica: Lionsgate Films, Kincaid, James R. London: Routledge: Translated by Rodney Livingstone. London: Merlin Press, Night of the Living Dead. Directed by George A. Nuttall, Sarah. Johannesburg: Wits University Press, New York, Routledge, Pifer, Ellen. Virginia: University of Virginia Press, Directed by Hooper, Tobe. Postman, Neil. The Disappearance of Childhood.

New York: Vintage Books, Directed by Hideo Nakata.