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This article is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

Donald Davie and the Concept of Time Michael Grant

One of the most impressive features of Donald Davie's work as a critic is his ability to give a text detailed attention while engrossing us in wider, often urgent concerns, in part philosophical, in part cultural and moral. A remarkable instance of this capacity to engage with a complex of intersecting issues is the discussion of ideas in the Cantos, published as chapter 4 of Pound, a small volume that appeared in 1975 as part of the Fontana Modern Masters series. Davie's concern here is to elucidate what in Guide to Kulchur Pound calls the forma, the immortal concetto, the concept, the dynamic form which is like the rose pattern driven into the dead iron-filings by the magnet'. Davie aligns Pound's invocation of the forma with a passage in Allen Upward's The New Word, from which, it would seem, Pound's account 'more or less consciously and exactly' derives. For Upward, forma, the Latin translation of the Greek idea, designates a reality at once dynamic and energizing: 'idea' understood in this way finds representative embodiment in a builder's plan for an as yet un-built house. The Dutch word for such a plan is ontwerp, meaning 'out-throw' or 'out-reach', which for Upward captures precisely the notion of 'idea' as an idea for something. An idea is something the mind throws out, something it projects, rather than something it takes in. Ideas do not concern (as the empiricists thought) the appearance of a thing already there, but rather 'the imagination of a ...


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