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Second verse, not quite the same as the first

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 19 years ago, in 2005, on the World Wide Web.

I already did something like this a while back, but the instructions for this one are a little different, and I’m trying to force myself to stay in the habit of posting things. This time it comes from Philobiblon:

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open the book to page 123.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
  5. Don’t search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.

I don’t actually know whether the book in front of me on the table or the books piled behind me on the windowsill are closer, but I don’t want to do the trigonometric calculations, so I’ve arbitrarily decided that “in front of” is closer than “behind.” Thus, we have The Philosophy of Art: Readings Ancient and Modern, page 123, sentence 5 (in the midst of selections from The Principles of Art by R.G. Collingwood). Actually, the fifth sentence makes no sense on its own, so here’s the surrounding context, with emphasis on the fifth sentence:

Conversely, is a poem means to the production of a certain state of mind in an audience? Suppose a poet had read his verses to an audience, hoping that they would produce a certain result; and suppose the result were different; would that in itself prove the poem a bad one? It is a difficult question; some would say yes, others no. But if poetry were obviously a craft, the answer would be a prompt and unhesitating yes. The advocate of the technical theory must do a good deal of toe-chopping before he can get his facts to fit his theory at this point.

So far, the prospects of the technical theory are not too bright. Let us proceed.

Collingwood, here as elsewhere, is mostly on the side of the angels; this is part of a longer exposition of the theory of poetry-as-craft (that is, as the means to some end–here, the end of producing some state of mind in the audience), and directing some ire in particular against economistic and psychologistic reductions of art as the technique of fulfilling certain kinds of wants that consumers have, or offering stimuli that elicit desired or desirable reactions from the subjects (that is, you and me). (Of course, this is not to say that art operates outside the laws of economics or of human psychology; it is just to say that to understand the sort of value and the sort of behaviors that are associated with artworks–that is, to apply those laws in the case of paintings, poetry, music, and the rest–you have to understand how art works for us on its own. And understanding that, Collingwood argues, is not a matter of understanding any craft.)

Anyway, that’s my passage. Do it for yourself, and be merry!

P.S.: This is still not a meme. Because there aren’t any.

1 reply to Second verse, not quite the same as the first Use a feed to Follow replies to this article

  1. Roderick T. Long

    I tried it, but the book nearest me turned out to have no actual sentences on p. 123 — just reference-type material, i.e., a bunch of sentence fragments. This meme* has failed me!

    * I use the term “meme” here to mean “non-meme.”

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