Latest reading : Words and The Word : language, poetics, and biblical interpretation, by Stephen Prickett (English prof. at Australian National University). Cambridge UP, 1986.
This is a really brilliant analysis of the shifting inquiries and debates around the nexus defining poetry, historical philology, biblical translation & interpretation. Starting with Longinus' distinction between sublime & beautiful. Through the poets, philologists, theologians, philosophers of the 18th-20th cent. The book is not an historical survey, but a critical interpretation in its own right. I'm only on the 2nd chapter, but finding it very helpful. Full of good quotes, too.
Touchstone : ...I would the gods had made thee poetical.
Audrey: I do not know what 'poetical' is : is it honest in deed and word? is it a true thing? (As You Like It)
Also an interesting etymological fact : our word "soothing" is a kind of lightweight tangent from its prior meaning : "to soothe" meant to verify or confirm as true. "Sooth" meant true or truth. ie. "forsooth". So "to confirm something as true" gradually blended with "to comfort or soothe".
I could identify with this passage (p. 45) on many levels:
"Coleridge's theory of the imagination stressed that all knowledge was acquired by an active integrating mental process; the passive receptivity assumed by the Lockeian and empiricist notion of the 'tabula rasa' model of the mind was an impossibility. Thus in reading poetry we are not receivers of the word, we are, by definition, participators in it. When Coleridge wrote of the Bible that in it 'there is more that finds me than in all other books put together', he is deliberately using the biblical image of dialogue, the process of call and response that is the hallmark of God's dealings with man from Genesis to Acts, as a metaphor of the process of reading itself."
(But, just to be clear, Prickett is not offering his own argument here : I haven't gotten to that myself yet. He goes on to discuss the influence of Vico, who had a very different estimate of poetry & the poetic. While prudently leaving aside the whole issue of biblical scripture and divine revelation, Vico argued that poetry is an expression of the primitive mind, which projects its own fears & desires into highly-colored imaginative symbols - and then falls down to worship its own creations.)