Imitation & Design and Other Essays
Published: December 1953© 1953
228 Pages, 6.14 x 9.21 in
Imitation approaches identity with the thing imitated; design attenuates to a void. The visual arts must be practised somewhere between these two poles. The rival claims of the two for primary and the decision in favour of design occupy the first essay, which gives its name to Reid MacCallum's projected book on the theory of art.
Concurrently Professor MacCallum was asking related questions in the field of literature: what differentiates prose or scientific statement from poetic, and how may the latter be said to convey truth? Again the extremes of a polarity must be rejected -- the "dry light" of logic and laboratory experiment and the "moist darkness" of irrationalism. In the essay on "Poetry and Truth" and in a third called "Myth and Intelligence" it is argued that the perception and imposition of pattern on experience, the lifting of meaningless commotion to ordered emotion, is an exercise of intelligence as rigorous and valid as the work of the physicist or logician.
These three chapters -- on Painting, Poetry, and Myth -- were all of his book that Professor MacCallum lived to write. The study of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, being a commentary on a poet's myth-making, clearly belongs with them. Together they form an extensive body of material not previously printed, which displays a unity not only of point of view but of argument hardly to be hoped for in a posthumous book.
Included also are four articles illustrative of the range of the author's interests and the quality of his mind. One on the "Group of Seven" shows his continuing interest in the practice of painting by his compatriots; "Contemporary Aesthetic Theory" balances it with an appraisal of current theories of art. "The Idea of Man" and "First and Second Self" round out the book by making explicit the religious conception of man and mind on which the entire work has been based.
IMITATION AND DESIGN has been edited with an introduction by William Blissett, Associate Professor of English in the University of Saskatchewan.