Creativity: a Dead Metaphor? (Part II)

In Part I, I suggested that words like ‘create,’ ‘creation’ and ‘creativity’ are dead metaphors because a robust theology of creation is no longer ‘mapped onto’ the human activities commonly referred to as ‘creative’. Then, I asked whether it might be possible to resurrect this dead metaphor.

In one sense, bringing a dead metaphor back to life is impossible. Language is not something that you or I can control and manipulate on a whim. It is, rather, a complex social phenomenon shaped by countless human interactions that actively shapes our experience of the world. As theologian Colin Gunton points out, revitalizing old metaphors can only be accomplished through ‘the Spirit’s blowing upon dead bones and clothing them with new flesh.’[1] But this ‘appeal to the Spirit is also an invitation to hopeful thought and activity.’[2] In this case, it is the task of the theologian to show how worn out metaphors ‘may return to life in a concrete community of language and life.’[3]

By developing comparisons between divine and human creativity, one can show how the dead metaphor ‘creativity’ might be resurrected. Metaphors, as the imaginative holding of two different contexts in tension, are reliant upon comparisons. For a metaphor to work, there must be some resemblance between these two contexts.
In what follows, I will briefly present three types of comparisons between divine and human creativity. These three types are attempts to show how the language of creativity might be re-invested with theological content. I will not offer any critique of these types. Instead, I present them for the reader’s consideration, and I would appreciate your thoughts about the merits and drawbacks of each type.
  1. Creatio Ex Nihilo. Some compare human creativity to the traditional Christian concept of a Creator who brings all things into existence out of nothing. This type strongly emphasizes the potential for originality in human achievement and the constructive nature of human imagination and perception. A softer variant of this approach views human creativity as bringing order to chaos. A notable historical example of this type can be found in eighteenth-century debates over the concept of ‘creative genius.’
  2. Revelation. Some compare human creativity to the Creator’s self-revelation in creation, generally, and to the Creator’s self-revelation in Christ, specifically.  In light of this comparison, human creativity is seen as an act that is fundamentally communicative. In the act of creation, the human agent takes an inward idea or feeling and gives it outward form. Examples of this approach can be found in Dorothy Sayer’s The Mind of the Maker and Aidan Nichols’ The Art of God Incarnate.
  3. Redemption. Some compare human creativity to the Creator’s transformation of all things, through the mediating role of Christ, to their proper end. In light of this comparison, human creativity is seen as an act that respectfully transforms the cosmos. In the act of creation, the human agent engages in a kind of dialogue with material reality, human society and, ultimately, God.  Examples of this approach can be found in Jeremy Begbie’s Voicing Creation’s Praise and W. H. Vanstone’s Love’s Endeavour, Love’s Expense.

Have you come across these three types in other places?  Would you add other types to this list?  Do you find thinking about human creativity in light of any of these three theological categories to be helpful?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

[1] The Actuality of Atonement: a Study of Metaphor, Rationality and the Christian Tradition (T&T Clark, 1988), 177.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.

28 Comments

  • Tom Sturch says:

    The primary distinction I hold to is that God’s words and acts are one and perfect; ours are many and imperfect. We enjoy a process that includes inspiration, thought, verbalization, a plan, a material execution and a review. The essential notion about this, however, has to do with the spaces in between the processional events and not the events themselves. Proverbs 20:5 says, “A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water, But a man of understanding draws it out.” By articulating the process with spaces God allows us to be subject to all kinds of influences. “A man of understanding” will seek God in these spaces. It is one more way in which God draws us to himself.

    • Jim Watkins says:

      Tom, thanks for this. Would you mind saying a little more about how your comment relates to the post?

  • Cole Matson says:

    Where would you put Tolkien’s subcreation?

    • Jim Watkins says:

      Cole, thanks for bringing up Tolkien. I think that Tolkien’s use of the term ‘subcreation’ in ‘On Fairy Stories’ is a very thin comparison, and so it is hard to put it in any category. He primarily uses the term to point out that humans engage in a form of creativity that is subordinate to God’s creativity. Trevor Hart’s development of the term ‘subcreation’ in light of Tolkien’s Silmarillion, however, seems to fit best with the third category, and perhaps with a little of the first mixed in. I should have pointed out in the post that it is possible, to some extant, to combine these categories and so we should not think of them as being mutually exclusive.

  • Ric says:

    I see the process of creation as a sacramental act – an outward, physical sign of an inward experience. When I paint or sculpt I am embodying an aspect of my experience of the world in the paint or clay. so that others can see it, touch it and experience it themselves.

    Ric

    • Tom Sturch says:

      Like this very much, Ric

    • Jim Watkins says:

      Ric, thanks for bringing up the concept of sacrament. Sacrament has been a powerful lens through which many Christians have interpreted the arts. Your sacramental view of creativity fits well with the ‘revelation’ type. I think that one of the main differences between the ‘revelation’ type and the ‘redemption’ type is that the former primarily models artistic creativity as a form of self-discovery while the latter emphasizes that artistic creativity is a form of discovery that reaches beyond the self.

  • Ric says:

    Thanks Jim,

    I’m an art therapist as well as a Methodist Minister and I work in Sheffield UK exploring new ways of being church ficussed on creative arts.

    It struck me during my art therapy training the deep resonance between sacraments and art making. I remember leading a retreat day/workshop where I asked the group to make clay models, I hadn’t portioned out the clay beforehand so after giving instructions stood at the front with a huge lump of clay and tore of pieces to give to the group as they came to get the materials they needed. As I took something of the earth, divided it and shared it with others for them to make of it what they wanted to I felt like I was presiding at the Eucharist – it was a really powerful moment for me.

    I’m trying to explore this in my ministry now as an artist and contemplative – how can art be sacrament in our world – as well as the prophetic (in the widest sense of that word) nature of art and art making.

    Every blessing,

    Ric

  • jfutral says:

    Part of the issue for me is a couple of things. First, I still don’t agree entirely with the premise. I think talk of the metaphor’s death have been highly exaggerated. I do think the words’ potential for impact in clarity when discussing human creativity have been diluted, but I can’t see this as a long term effect. Primarily because of the power of the act itself. As use of the word becomes more abstract in rhetoric (such as aforementioned “Creative Economy”, etc.) when it comes to practical application its intent becomes clearer, even as some artist insist on creating as an act of rebellion to the idea of a divine/Divine, much less a Creator. As I think of it, I can’t for the life of me figure out what an agnostic artist could even create. I am sure they exist, and probably quite famous ones, but the notion strikes me as incompatible, almost mutually exclusive.

    Secondly, while this kind of discussion might have theological significance, I am having trouble with this analysis in light of being an artist. Part of the problem to me seems the potential (and I do mean potential, since I don’t think you are suggesting this at all) for this kind of analysis to create an even higher barrier between God and man. To suggest “metaphor” raises the idea that the two forms of creativity (human and Divine), while similarities exist, are not integral, particularly in inspiration.

    Maybe you can shape the discussion a bit more and address how this line of thinking should/could strengthen human creativity (in any capacity) or how God participates in human creativity or humans participate in Divine creativity, which ever order makes the most sense to you?

    Joe

  • jfutral says:

    A long time ago, my wife related to me about one of her professors talking about three kinds of creativity. One was the artist who creates from nothing (such as your ex nihilo). Examples would be the writer faced with a blank page, the artist faced with a blank canvas, the choreographer faced with, well, nothing, I guess.

    Then there was the creativity that essentially takes something that already exists and modifies or rearranges. I always imagine this as more the interpretive artist—the dancer dancing someone’s choreography, the musician playing someone else’s work, or the lighting designer adding their concepts to the work of the director’s and other collaborators’.

    She never could remember the third, or maybe the second was further delineated between re-arranger (taking something that wasn’t art and making it art, Duchamp or maybe even Rauschenberg for instance) and additive (taking someone else’s work and adding to it to make it a new work, which seems to be its own art form these days, particularly in music and visual art).

    Just some more thoughts,
    Joe

    • Tom Sturch says:

      Mr. Futral: You’re on target. I’m not connecting with the Ex Nihilo/Revelation/Redemption. This is a modern (static) approach to describing a dynamic relationship, which is part of the reason one might suspect the metaphors to be dead. Creativity is a communicable attribute of God and figures huge in the cultural mandate – to multiply. I like Nancy Pearcey’s work at this point.

      Ultimately, the creative process is part of the epistemological dynamic – how being and doing effect knowing. Start with the philosophical trivium: metaphysics/epistemology/ethics and I think you can translate that to muse/artisanship/material technique (rendered in christian-ese: God/Man/Creation). We find ourselves in the middle of it, listening for inspiration and then “speaking” our creation to the world.

      • Jim Watkins says:

        Hi Tom, I am curious about what you mean by my approach being modern (static) as opposed to dynamic. Could you flesh this out for me? If anything, I would have thought that one would describe my approach as dynamic because everything I have said about the language of creativity depends upon the meaning of words being changeable over time.

        Furthermore, it would seem that we agree that creativity is a communicable attribute of God if by that you mean that both humans and God are creative. What this post proposes is three different ways of thinking about how God and humanity are similarly creative

        You claim to not connect with the “Ex Nihilo/Revelation/Redemption,” but your description of the creative process as an epistemological dynamic sounds a lot like those who think of human creativity in terms of revelation. Is there much difference, for example, between your view and those who see artist as a kind of prophet?

    • Jim Watkins says:

      Hi Joe. Thanks for your comments.

      In response to your first point about creativity as a dead metaphor, my point there was simply to observe that, for the vast majority of people today, the word creativity does not immediately bring to mind both divine and human activities. That is, as I have defined it, what metaphors do. When they are used, metaphors bring to mind two things at once, and what is interesting about metaphors is trying to figure out how those two things relate. If I were to say, for example, “I have done some research on Picasso’s creative process in the making of Guernica,” my use of the word ‘creative’ in that sentence does not conjure up, for most people, thoughts about a divine creator. The observation that creativity is a dead metaphor is merely an observation about what I take to be the current way that most people use the language of creativity. I even think that most Christians use it this way. I obviously can’t prove this to you, but I have spoken to other people who agree with this observation.

      In response to your second point, although comparing divine and human creativity has the potential to “create an even higher barrier between God and man,” it does not necessarily do so. Your worry reminds me of those such as Calivin Seerveld, Nicholas Wolterstorff and Hans Rookmaaker, who strongly reacted against the Romantic view of the ‘Creator Artist’ by emphasizing the ordinariness of artistic creativity. To this end, Seerveld even suggests that we should stop using the word ‘creativity’ because it smacks too much of the divine. I think they have thrown the baby out with the bathwater by assuming that all comparisons between divine and human creativity will lead to an antagonistic relationship between humanity and God. One of the reasons that I wrote this post was to encourage more careful thought regarding how these comparisons are constructed. While the Creatio Ex Nihilo comparison seems problematic to me, I think there is potential for both the Revelation and Redemption comparions to encourage healthy and better ways of thinking about and engaging in human creativity.

      In these two posts, I am presenting the idea that comparisons between divine and human creativity can be paradigms for human creativity. That is, these comparisons (Creatio Ex Nihilo, Revelation and Redemption) can shape and structure the way that we think about human creativity. More than this, if one were to see one’s creative practice in light of one of these theological categories, it might also come to shape the way that one experiences human creativity.

      • jfutral says:

        I suppose in the discussion about Picasso, there might not be an immediate conjuring of a divine creator, well simply because of the parameters starting point of the discussion—Picasso’s creative process. Why would it do otherwise? But I have yet to have a discussion with an artist or read essays and even ramblings of thoughts from artists that did not touch on at the very least the spiritual, if not the divine. (Kandinsky comes to mind right off the bat) I have no reason to think my experience to be in any way exhaustive. But that is why I think the act of creating itself is so powerful that I cannot imagine the metaphor ever dying, except as much as people find art unimportant and superfluous, and unworthy of human attention beyond decorating a fireplace mantel. That does more damage, I think, to your premise of the metaphor than anything.

        My barrier issue I suppose might be more shared with Rookmaaker than the other cited. I was thinking more along the lines of how Christians have this tendency to express a Divine that is beyond our reach, Holy and unapproachable. This message, I think, works against god who seems to have done everything possible to (in more traditional Christian metaphor) create a bridge between man and God (which still kind of strikes me strange, as if there is someplace that God is not that we need a bridge to get to him).

        I guess in Francis Schaeffer language, the notion of the metaphor puts human creativity in the lower level and Divine creation in the upper level creating a need to make a leap to bridge human creativity and divine creativity. This is the separation I think is implied with the “metaphor” language.

        I’m not proposing making creativity ordinary, but suggesting more that all creativity is extraordinary primarily because it is not just a gift from God, but it is part of our spiritual DNA, part of how we are related to God being made in His image. That, to me, is why the creative act and process has such power and life. It is not just comparable. More like “my hair is black because my mother’s hair is black”. Less like “my hair is a darker colour like coal”.

        Sometimes I feel our discussions about art a bit more like an ornithologist discussing birds and less like birds talking to birds about being a bird. There is validity in both, however

        Don’t know if that clarified anything or confused matters.

        Joe

        • Jim Watkins says:

          Hi Joe, you write, “I suppose in the discussion about Picasso, there might not be an immediate conjuring of a divine creator, well simply because of the parameters starting point of the discussion—Picasso’s creative process.” This is precisely my point. If the word ‘creative’ were still a live metaphor it would bring to mind ideas about divine creation even in the context of a sentence referring to a human process.

          Here’s an example of a live metaphor:

          All the world’s a stage,
          And all the men and women merely players
          They have their exits and their entrances;

          In this example, various theatrical words are functioning metaphorically in order to talk about human life in general. Even though the words clearly refer to human life, the writer is asking us to consider human life in terms of theater. Thus, we have to think about both human life and theater at the same time.

          I take it that your point is that the experience of creativity often leads to questions and discussions about a Creator. On this point, we can certainly agree and my posts would have been better if I had pointed this out. Many people like to reflect theologically upon their experience of creativity (see Ric’s comments above). My point about the language of creativity being a dead metaphor is simply to suggest that the language itself no longer (though perhaps once did) encourages us to do this sort of theological reflection. Unlike the theater example above, the word creativity is not normally functioning metaphorically.

          In part II, my suggestion was that comparisons between divine and human creativity can, to some extent, can (like a metaphor) help us to think carefully about how these two different things (divine and human creativity) are related.

          I hope that this clarifies things. By saying that creativity is a dead metaphor, I am simply referring to how the word typically functions. This is why the fact that some people reflect theologically on their creative process is not damaging to the premise of my posts.

          As for metaphor separating the human speaker and the God to whom that speaker refers… well, this is a longer, and somewhat different, conversation. I can only answer now that I do not think this is necessarily the case, but that it is probably true in some instances.

        • jfutral says:

          I guess we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this. The theatrical words in the example don’t immediately conjure human life until placed into the context of the metaphor. This _becomes_ a live metaphor by construct and intent, not any intrinsic property of the words used.

          If you start a discussion about theatre, you may steer into a metaphor about life in general, but you could have no expectation that it would be a metaphor naturally.

          If you start a discussion specifically about _Picasso’s_ creative process, you may steer into a metaphor about Divine creation. Probably more likely so than theatre steering into life except for Shakespeare.

          This may be a discussion more from scholasticism than I can understand. I can’t think of when “create” carried such connotations by default except where discussions about Divine are always the context. But I’m no linguist or etymologist.

          I contend if create, creative, or creativity didn’t still wield such life it wouldn’t have become the over-used word of the day. I still contend if creativity _has_ lost its effectiveness as a metaphor then it is more likely due to the lack of significance afforded human creativity, particularly in the context of art, both in the Church and in Western (U.S.?) society overall.

          That said, your topic and posts are still invigorating. Obviously they are causing me to think. Good stuff.

          Joe

      • jfutral says:

        “While the Creatio Ex Nihilo comparison seems problematic to me, I think there is potential for both the Revelation and Redemption comparions to encourage healthy and better ways of thinking about and engaging in human creativity.”

        Maybe (particularly with ex nihilo) if we extend this thought to include inspiration and not just the creative act (process and material result) itself that can help. From a holistic perspective, no one, including God, actually creates _from_ ex nihilo. Creation starts from motivation—the desire to create. From there one seeks inspiration.

        What we assume about God in essence is that he is relational, existing in eternal relationship as the Trinity. If he has always had a desire to create, as in it is just part of him, this alone has some interesting implications of a relationship between creating and relationship, then _what_ he creates is inspired from who he is.

        And this is precisely what we find in my examples of human creation with regard to the writer, the composer, the choreographer, etc. they don’t actually create from nothing. They create from what is within themselves, through nature and nurture, experience and capacity. Then transform this into words, music, or movement.

        Joe

  • Tom Sturch says:

    Jim: This is a fabulous discussion. It would be amazing to spend a weekend laying the groundwork for better communication and really hashing it out. You’re dealing in elemental stuff. Joe does a good job in saying some of what I’m feeling.

    Part of my concern about the categorization is that creativity is a human thing, part of common grace. I think the terms of creativity should be as generous we can make them. Otherwise I think we run the risk of creating dichotomy in the place of duality – static argument in the place of ongoing conversation. Christian’s can make no claim on creativity in general, but we can and should make distinctions within the world view.

    This may in fact be what you are doing. My “back gets up” a little when I sense Christians trying to redefine the terms of human existence from everyone else. We maintain our depravity in context with God’s image – as with all men (like Flannery O’Connor portrays) – while at the same time making the distinction of the hope made certain in Christ (like say, maybe Makota Fujimura).

    Does this help? I would love to have you and Joe over for coffee. I have a dozen friends who find this stuff edifying and generative.

    • Tom Sturch says:

      ugh… I need an editor. not “within the world view” but “within the larger world view conversation.”

  • Travis Buchanan says:

    Joe and Tom,

    You are still not understanding Jim’s original point about the verb ‘create’ and its cognates initially being reserved solely for (and speaking of) a specific divine action that was unrepeatable by creatures. During an earlier era to speak of human ‘creativity’ was to blaspheme. That ‘creative’ has become a dead metaphor is evidenced by the fact that most people who use this and related words (e.g., ad agencies) usually do so without a thought to its original and sole referent–God. This connection may surface for one with reflection, as Joe tries to point out in some of his comments, but Jim’s point is that what was once universally the case with the word now is only realized through some prior understanding or special reflection or disposition.

    So, when Tom writes, ‘creativity is a human thing, part of common grace’, he is betraying his ignorance of the very fact Jim was assuming in his posts–namely, that such an understanding of creativity as Tom asserts could only be thought or expressed without provoking horror and outrage from the pious during an age where the original meaning of ‘creativity’ (which Jim calls metaphorical)–the very opposite of ‘a human thing’–had died.

    Trevor Hart, in the beginning of a lecture entitled ‘The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet’: Divine Copyright and the Dangers of ‘Strong Imagination’, gives an historical summary of this issue which hopefully will go a long way to clear up some of the misunderstanding Jim’s posts have caused (at least among those who posted comments). If I may be forgiven for quoting him at length, Hart spoke thus:

    ‘In the beginning, God created . . .’ Jürgen Moltmann reminds us that the Hebrew poet is scrupulous in his choice of words here in what, carelessly perhaps, we tend to refer to as the ‘creation narrative’ of Genesis. Here and elsewhere in the Old Testament, the word ‘bara’ used in Genesis 1:1 to refer to God’s ‘creative’ act has an aura of holiness about it, being set aside exclusively for divine use. In the beginning, God ‘bara-ed’ the heavens and the earth and, the accompanying but unspoken thought is, only God can ‘bara’ anything. There is and can be no corresponding human analogy to this divine action, because it has to do with God’s unique relationship to the world as the one who, by virtue of his sovereign Lordship, brings a world forth into existence where previously there was not only nothing but no potential for anything. Other Hebrew verbs (asah, yatsar) are used to refer to the process whereby, having thus called something into being ‘out of nothing’, God subsequently fashions a world, granting it form and direction and meaning, a work which begins in verse two and reaches its completion on the first Sabbath. Consequently, these terms are ones used readily in the Bible to refer to human activities of working and making too. But not ‘bara’. Not the word denoting that first thing which God did ‘in the beginning’, the primordial originary act from which nature and history issue together as contingent and finite realities teeming with possibility and promise. Used sparingly, this word positively smoulders with holiness. (In the Bible only God creates, and only God is properly deserving of worship. These are as it were the hallmark prerogatives of the Holy One of Israel who is also Lord of all.) The territory of ‘bara’ must not be trespassed upon, therefore, but approached with reverence. The word may be uttered in faith (as God’s own proper name may and must be), but never grasped as a convenient linguistic tool to be dragooned into service elsewhere.

    Of course translators of Christian Scripture were quite capable of tracing and preserving this careful distinction by rendering ‘bara’ with the English verb ‘create’, and other relevant terms with ‘make’, ‘produce’ and so on, and for the most part they have done this. (So, for example, in Genesis 1:31 “God saw all that he had made (asah), and it was very good” (NIV).) But even where such verbal discrimination is undertaken, problems persist due to the connotations which the language of creation and creativity now bears in our wider habits of speech. Writing in 1960 the art historian Erwin Panofsky bewailed what he dubbed ‘the heretical application of such words’ as found, for instance, in the then modish talk of ‘creative hairstyles’, ‘creative play’ for five year olds, and university modules teaching students ‘creative writing’. By the first decade of the twenty first century things are, of course, much worse yet, creativity having successfully colonized the worlds of advertising and public relations (‘creating the right image’), business studies (‘creative problem solving’) and manufacture, with one well known producer of horseless carriages proudly proclaiming itself ‘Créateur d’automobiles’! Clearly, we are a very long way here from the book of Genesis and its sublime vision of ultimate origination. Creation and its cognates are, according to some complainants, now hopelessly debased by overuse, forced into service ‘to acknowledge almost any activity possessed of originality and a spirit of individualism’, and meaning more or less nothing.

    What is interesting for our purposes is the fact that such complaints most typically come not from religious and theological quarters, but from the provinces of the arts. For now it is not God whose dignity and prerogatives are held most obviously to be at stake in this devaluing of the currency of ‘creation’, but the artist. The relevant canons of orthodoxy and heterodoxy are no longer theological, but aesthetic ones. This, of course, reflects the fact that the moment in history when talk of creation made the leap from the heavens to the earth and passed into human hands was indeed an art-historical one, somewhere towards the end of the fifteenth century. Prior to this, while the epithet ‘divine’ might occasionally be used rhetorically to extol the skills and the products of a great artist, as Panofsky notes creare, creator, creatio and their vernacular equivalents remained holy ground, as yet unsullied by analogical appropriation and dilution. Albrecht Dürer’s bold allusion to the ‘new creature which the artist creates (schöpft) in his heart’ thus reflects a shift both in rhetoric (the willingness to borrow hitherto sacred and untouchable terms) and in the conception of artistry to which these were applied. Now, in some sense, the artist was to be understood as calling into being or evoking new worlds of meaning to be set alongside the one with which God, in his Creatorly wisdom, has seen fit to furnish us. As we shall see, this claim can be made perfectly good sense of within a Christian theological framework; but it lends itself to other impulses too, and within three centuries the initial linguistic capital would be repaid with significant theological interest added. ‘I am God!’ the Swiss expressionist painter Paul Klee confided to his diary early one morning; and he wasn’t kidding.

    • jfutral says:

      Travis. Which is to say, “create” never existed as a metaphor to become a dead metaphor. In construct and to whatever extent one wants to afford the Church’s authority over its use, it had only Divine use and implications.

      Outside of Church use, I can find not etymology indicating a particular reserved connotation or origin.

      And if it did exist as a metaphor, maybe it is time that it should die. At least the Hebrew’s have a different word for God’s creating.

      Joe

      • Travis Buchanan says:

        Jim and Cole,

        I think Tolkien’s notion of ‘subcreation’ pays deference to the fact that creativity is a divine prerogative that we only share in as a result of being his creatures, made in his image, and so should ‘create’ with an awareness of being under (‘sub’) his rule.

      • Travis Buchanan says:

        Joe,

        The below comment was intended for Jim and Cole, not in direct reply to you (obviously). As for you comment, ‘At least the Hebrew’s have a different word for God’s creating’, the point again is that so did we in English also–create–until its use became gradually widened (denotation became connotation became even more distant connotation) to the point where now it has mainly lost all of its original force.

    • jfutral says:

      After some more research, from what little I can read of The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity, you are talking about a change that occurred at the minimum over two hundred yeas ago and probably started long before that.

      So this really is a very esoteric historic discussion.

      Interesting to quote the Jewish painter, Paul Klee who probably had a better understanding of “bara” than most seem to have with “create”.

      Joe

      • Travis says:

        Joe,

        The point is that Jim was using the disappearance of the connotation of unique divine activity improper to humans from the word ‘creativity’ as a launching pad for his discussion of the relationship between divine and human making and that you and Tom were missing the point about the history of the word’s meaning itself. I wasn’t trying to engage in an esoteric side discussion spanning centuries of word usage; I was simply trying to point out that it didn’t appear you and Tom were getting one of Jim’s main points and the point of departure for the posts themselves. Hopefully if you read Trevor Hart’s words which I quoted this will become clearer.

  • Travis Buchanan says:

    Jim,

    Have you read Owen Barfield’s Poetic Diction (1928)? It’s excellent and its treatment of metaphor (including the concept of ‘dead metaphors’) and language is seminal. I’m sure you would find it stimulating as well. Here’s a quotation to whet your appetite:

    Mythology is the ghost of concrete meaning. Connections between discrete phenomena, connections which are now apprehended as metaphor, were once perceived as immediate realities. As such the poet strives, by his own efforts, to see them, and to make others see them, again.

    Ps
    You will be missed here in St Andrews but a blessing in Switzerland and beyond!

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