As a student of the novel, especially the Catholic novel in English, I use this blog to discuss and review fiction, with occasional ventures beyond my discipline into aesthetics and philosophy (especially Jacques Maritain) and Christian theology (especially St Augustine).

The title of the blog comes from a paragraph in one of the more recondite essays of Walker Percy:

A sign-using organism can be said to take account of those segments of its environment toward which, through the rewards and punishments of the learning process, it has acquired the appropriate responses. It cannot be meaningfully described as 'knowing' anything else. But a symbol-using organism has a world. Once it knows the name of trees -- what trees 'are' -- it must know the names of houses. The world is simply the totality of that which is formulated through symbols. It is both spatial and temporal. Once a native knows there is an earth, he must know what is under the earth. Once he knows what happened yesterday, he must know what happened in the beginning. Hence his cosmological and etiological myths. Chickens have no myths. ("The Symbolic Structure of Interpersonal Process")

Here's a thrillingly strange (and it seems, old) idea on art, from Maritain:

The work of art has been thought before being made, it has been kneaded and prepared, formed, brooded over, ripened in a mind before passing into matter. And in matter it will always retain the color and savor of the spirit. Its formal element, what constitutes it in its species and makes it what it is, is its being ruled by the intellect. If this formal element diminishes ever so little, to the same extent the reality of art vanishes. The work to be made is only the matter of art, its form is undeviating reasonRecta ratio factibilium: let us say, in order to try to translate this Aristotelian and Scholastic definition, that art is the undeviating determination of works to be made. (Art and Scholasticism, trans. Evans)


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