Definition

One must make a distinction however: when dragged into prominence by half poets, the result is not poetry, nor till the autocrats among us can be “literalists of the imagination”—above insolence and triviality and can present for inspection, imaginary gardens with real toads in them, shall we have it.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kerry Says - Let's Include Pathetic Fallacy

Pathetic Fallacy

n.
The ascribing of human traits or feelings to inanimate nature for eloquent effect, especially feelings in sympathy with those expressed or experienced by the writer, as a "cruel wind," a "pitiless storm," or the lines from Shelley's Adonais: 

Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay, 
And the Wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay...








The phrase Pathetic fallacy is a literary term for the attributing of human emotion and conduct to all aspects within nature. It is a kind of personification that is found in poetic writing when, for example, clouds seem sullen, when leaves dance, when dogs laugh, or when rocks seem indifferent. 

The British cultural critic, John Ruskin, coined the term in his book, Modern Painters (1843–60), to attack the sentimentality that was common to the poetry of the late 18th century, and which use continued among his contemporaries. That fashion was waning just as John Ruskin addressed the matter; nonetheless, as a critic, Ruskin proved influential, and is credited with having helped to refine poetic expression.

The meaning of the term has changed significantly from the idea Ruskin had in mind.  His original definition is “emotional falseness” when influenced by violent or heightened passion. For example, when a person is unhinged by grief, the clouds might seem darker than they are, or perhaps mournful or perhaps even uncaring. 



photo credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

In his essay, Ruskin demonstrates his original meaning by offering lines of a poem:

They rowed her in across the rolling foam— 
The cruel, crawling foam… 

Ruskin then points out that "the foam is not cruel, neither does it crawl. The state of mind which attributes to it these characters of a living creature is one in which the reason is unhinged by grief"—yet, Ruskin did not disapprove of this use of the pathetic fallacy: "Now, so long as we see that the feeling is true, we pardon, or are even pleased by, the confessed fallacy of sight, which it induces: we are pleased, for instance, with those lines ... above quoted, not because they fallaciously describe foam, but because they faithfully describe sorrow."


In some classical poetic forms such as the pastoral elegy, the pathetic fallacy is actually a required convention. In Milton’s “On The Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” all aspects of nature react affectively to the event of Christ’s birth.

The Stars with deep amaze 
Stand fixt in steadfast gaze… 

Ruskin considered the excessive use of the fallacy the mark of an inferior poet. Later poets, however—especially the Imagists of the early 20th century, as well as T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound—used the pathetic fallacy freely and effectively.

The Starry Night, Vincent van Gogh


The device has also been employed in the visual arts, by many painters from van Gogh to Munch, and it has an undeniable effect on mood. 


The Scream, Edvard Munch

Our Challenge is to include pathetic fallacy in our poetry today. It is up to the individual as to how prominent a feature of the poem it will be. To avoid the pitfall of straightforward personification, remember to link the natural phenomenon to the feeling, tone or mood of the character, speaker or setting of your poem.

Sources: Britannica.com
               Wikipedia



24 comments:

Jinksy said...

Hmmm...it so happens, I wrote something intending to post it on Monday,but due to dramas with my gas cooker(!) it never happened. Now by some quirk of fate, I realise I had included a Pathetic Fallacy of sorts in the middle of it...at least, I think I have...

Kerry O'Connor said...

Hi friends, I've jumped in here to say that my week has been crazy and I have not had much time to read or respond to poems. Apologies!

I hope that you have fun with this prompt. Please remember that you are welcome to post tomorrow as well, and I will be around to read all links.

Ella said...

I sprained my wrist-I will be by but my typing is slow~

Kerry, thank you for this prompt-it pairs well with some art I recently created~ :D

Suze said...

Gosh, this sounds like such a lovely idea for a blog hop.

I see you're an artist as well as a writer, Ella. That is wonderful.

(T.S. Eliot is one of my all-time favorite poets.)

ccchampagne said...

Hope I managed to get this right... Otherwise it would, indeed be a pathetic fallacy on my part! *laughs at her own silly joke* Great prompt! Always a pleasure!

Jim said...

Hi Kerry -- This should have been fun but I messed up, got mixed up, and worse. But I didn't have time for better today. Perhaps tomorrow.
Thanks for all you do here.
..

Susan said...

Kerry, you distinguished so clearly between simple personification and the pathetic fallacy that I think I should go back in time and reteach my students! And I'm not sure I achieved it. It may read more like a miracle. But I picked a song to accompany my poem that absolutely has pathetic fallacy that works. Thank you for the challenge.

grapeling said...

mine's a bit oblique, or maybe just bleak... ~

blueoran said...

Great lead, very well done ... I'm sure Ruskin had plenty to complain about as the romantic era frilled into the lacy obsequities of the Victorian .. It's like our age, riddled with irony ... "Pathetic fallacy" perhaps protects us some from the self-indulgence of the Romantics, though there's also this older unity with nature which I pray we'll never escape. Best -- B.

Ella said...

I will return to read all of your poems! I am off to x-ray~
More later!

Sumana Roy said...

thanks for the prompt Kerry...hope i
got it right..

jo-hanna said...

Don't think I had ever consciously noticed this. Not sure I like it, but I'll try anything once.

Phil Slade said...

Mmm. Never heard of "pathetic fallacy" until your post but thanks to your explanation I recognise it and will understand it better in the future. No chance of me doping any poetry - sorry. I ain't that clever.

Ronald Shields said...

I do hope I got this right - otherwise red faced and apologetic.

Jerry E Beuterbaugh said...

Surely this is a site well worth seeing.

hedgewitch said...

I have something I hope applies--I was working on it after reading this, but not really sure at all if I nailed it--I will be around tomorrow to catch up with my toadly ones.

manicddaily said...

Hey Kerry--this is what came to mind--I also am not sure it fits in with Ruskin's ideas--but a very interesting prompt--thanks. K.

manicddaily said...

Kerry-- I should say that my whole poem would be alien to Ruskin! And probably to imagists--but it has to do with qualities that were ascribed to inanimate things--anyway! Thanks for thoughtful prompt. k.

Margaret said...

I really adore this challenge and it made me get out my T.S. Eliot poetry book --- THANKS!

Margaret said...

… with that said, I hope I understood what it is… :P

Kerry O'Connor said...

Late to my own party, my poem is also linked to Music with Marian, because I have combined the prompts.

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