The Role of Imagination in Culture and Society
228 Pages
English

The Role of Imagination in Culture and Society

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Owen Barfield (1898-1997), philosopher, historian, and literary theoretician, is well known for his friendship with C. S. Lewis. What is virtually unknown is that he was also admired and promoted by T.S. Eliot, who in the 1920s became his publisher at Faber and Faber. There can scarcely be two writers at greater variance than Lewis and Eliot; that Barfield was admired by both showed that he was an independent thinker, far more subtle and complex than has so far been recognized.
Diener's book about Barfield's early work is the first systematic study to trace the roots and the development of his thought. It places Barfield in the tradition of British and European cultural and social critics, including Coleridge, Arnold, Nietzsche, and Rudolf Steiner. In the light of this tradition, Barfield's work emerges as a unique and constructive contribution to twentieth-century thought.

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Published 22 July 2013
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EAN13 9781725233201
Language English
Document size 45 MB

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Wipf and Stock Publishers 199 W 8th Ave, Suite 3 Eugene, OR 97401 The Role of Imagination in Culture and Society: Owen Barfield’s Early Work By Diener, Astrid and Hipolito, Jane Copyright©2002 by Diener, Astrid ISBN 13: 978-1-62564-130-4 Publication date 6/15/2013 Previously published by Galda + Wilch Verlag, 2002
Foreword to te 2013 Edîtîon
ïn wHat way Is e îmàgîàîo rue?As Astrîd Dîener lucîdly and engagîngly demonstrates, tîs questîon was crucîal or Owen BarIeld – and în BarIeld’s vîew, ît îs crucîal or te world as well. hrougout îs entîre adult lîe, BarIeld experîenced îmagînatîon as a powerul agent o cange în îs own conscîousness. ïn îs ïntro-ductîon toRomàîcîŝm Comeŝ of Age(1944), e recalled te moment, some 25 years earlîer, wen îmagînatîon’s transormatîve efects became apparent to îm: “he Irst serîous tîng tat appened to my mînd was (at about te age o twenty-one) a sudden and rapîd încrease în te întensîty wît wîc ï experîenced lyrîc poetry. hîs was a act. ït was not sometîng ï could convîct mysel o belîevîng because ï wanted to belîeve ît….hus, wîtout any partîcular exertîon or teorîsîng on my part ï ad two tîngs strongly împressed on me, Irstly tat te poetîc or îmagînatîve use o words enances teîr meanîngs and secondly tat tose enanced meanîngs may reveal îterto unappreended parts o realîty.” Wît caracterîstîc resolve, energy, and resourceulness, BarIeld îmmedîately set out to clarîy, deepen, extend, and solîdîy îs un-derstandîng o wat te îmagînatîon truly învolves. One aspect o îs exploratîon was scolarly. As an undergraduate student at Oxord Unîversîty, e cose to major în wat was ten te very new subject area o Englîs Language and Lîterature, and ollowed tîs by earnîng a B.Lîtt. degree or developîng a teory o poetry as a orm o knowl-edge. Durîng tese same years, e publîsed numerous essays and revîews about language, lîterature, and te îmagînatîon, as well as two
ïV THE ROLE OF IMAGINATION IN CULTURE AND SOCIETY: OWEN BARFIELD’S EARLY WORK
substantîal books,îŝorY î Eglîŝ Wordŝ(1926) andPoeîc Dîcîo: A SudY î Meàîg(1928). BarIeld was not only a scolar o te îmagînatîon, owever; e was also an împressîvely eloquent and versatîle creatîve wrîter. Hîs Irst publîsed work was a poem, “Aîr-Castles” (1917), and e wrote poems all îs lîe. Several o tem are încluded înA Bàrield Sàmpler(1993), te antology o îs poetry and Ictîon wîc îs, lîkehe Role of ïmàgîàîo î Culure àd SocîeY, an essentîal resource or stu-dents o BarIeld’s lîe and work. ïn te 1920s, BarIeld was wîdely known and respected as a poet; one measure o tîs îs tat two o te many poems e publîsed ten were selected or re-publîcatîon în “best o ” volumes. He also publîsed several sort storîes and a book-lengt aîrytale or cîldren o all ages,he Sîlver Trumpe (1925). he most ambîtîous project tat BarIeld undertook în te ’20s was îs novelEglîŝ People, în wîc e îmagînatîvely portrays and crîtîques modern Englîs culture and socîety; regrettably, only a portîon o te novel as been publîsed to date, îts brîllîant epîlogue,he Roŝe o e Aŝ-eàp(2009). BarIeld, wo knew tat “ïmagînatîon îs really tînkîng wît a bît o wîll în ît,” empatîcally “not te enced preserve o poetry, or even o te Ine arts în general” (îŝorY, Guîl àd àbî, 1979), recognîzed în te 1920s tat te îmagînatîon îs essentîal or creatîng ealty u-man communîtîes and or developîng balanced, responsîble ecologî-cal awareness. ïn addîtîon to explorîng cultural and socîetal questîons în îs îmagînatîve wrîtîngs, e wrote a great many nonIctîon essays about tese matters, and partîcîpated actîvely în progressîve socîal and arts movements; and în te early 1930s e studîed economîcs at te Unîversîty o London wîle at te same tîme earnîng îs law degree. Begînnîng în 1923, e also took up serîous study o antroposo-py, te “scîence o te spîrît” înaugurated by te Austrîan pîloso-per and reormer Rudol Steîner. “Steîner’s metod o knowledge îs, în îts essence,ŝYŝemàîc îmàgîàîo,” BarIeld apprecîatîvely noted în îs 1930 essay “An ïntroductîon to Antroposopy.” Steîner’s
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Crîst-centrîc worldvîew airmed, ocused, and enlarged BarIeld’s dawnîng awareness o te sîgnîIcance o te Logos trougout world îstory and în te ongoîng evolutîon o uman conscîousness. Steîner’s însîgts înto uman psycology elped BarIeld to under-stand ow and wy ît îs tat te îmagînatîon makes possîble “te most împortant tîng în a meetîng o two uman beîngs – tat ît sould be not merely a relatîon between two penomena, but a relatîon be-tween two spîrîts” (BarIeld, “Matter, ïmagînatîon, and Spîrît,” 1974).And antroposopîcally-înormed înîtîatîves în educatîon, medîcîne, agrîculture, economîcs, te arts, and oter Ields tremendously îm-pressed BarIeld, wo tougt tem encouragîng evîdence tat te danger, uglîness and waste e ound endemîc în modern lîe could be remedîed by Steîner’s metod o systematîc îmagînatîon – truly “Romantîcîsm come o age.” Cultural and socîetal îssues contînued to engage BarIeld all troug îs lîe. He addressed tem bot în nonIctîon wrîtîngs and în îmagînatîve works suc as îs dystopîan novellaNîg Operàîo (1983-84) andEàger Sprîg(publîsed postumously în 2008), te ecologîcal novel wîc was îs last ull-lengt book. Astrîd Dîener îs te Irst to ave recognîzed tîs core aspect o BarIeld’s lîe and work.Clear-sîgted and solîdly researced,he Role of ïmàgîàîo î Culure àd SocîeYîs a genuînely oundatîonal contrîbutîon to BarIeld studîes.
Jane Hîpolîto Placentîa, Calîornîa May 2013