Biographia Literaria (and what makes genius)

The Essence of Genius in Writing

It was the union of deep feeling with profound thought; the fine balance of truth in observing, with the imaginative faculty in modifying, the objects observed; and above all the original gift of spreading the tone, the atmosphere, and with it the depth and height of the ideal world around forms, incidents, and situations, of which, for the common view, custom had bedimmed all the lustre, had dried up the sparkle and the dew drops.

“TO carry on the feelings of childhood into the powers of manhood; to combine the child’s sense of wonder and novelty with the appearances…it is the merit of genius to ‘represent familiar objects as to awaken in the minds of others a kindred feeling concerning them and freshness of sensation” (202).

Translation: to make our experience of a universal be fresh and new.

I think this is why Lewis’s fiction and Tolkien’s have such a profound impact. Neither one of them said anything new. In fact, they would be offended if you suggested that. But they made you feel as if it were fresh.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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