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This review is taken from PN Review 11, Volume 6 Number 3, January - February 1980.

HEROIC EMBLEMS Ian Hamilton Finlay and Ron Costley, Heroic Emblems: introduction and commentaries by Stephen Bann (Z Press)

The relation between image and rhetoric, symbol and discourse, is one which has teased modern thought into various kinds of productive paradox. In the world-view of Wittgenstein's Tractatus, logic stood to empirical fact in a "picturing" connection, through a network of coordinates extending from the single proposition through the whole of logical space. As a metaphor pushed to the limits of abstraction, this doctrine shows a curious resemblance to the ideas of literary Imagism, expounded most forcefully by T. E. Hulme. Thought, according to Hulme, consisted in nothing more than a projective geometry of images, present to the mind's eye and thus staking out the contours of imaginative space. Wittgenstein later rejected this whole line of thought, and came to regard the commonsense sanctions of "ordinary language" as providing a cure for the inbred puzzles of an abstract-pictorial logic. Among literary critics also, the Imagist aesthetic came in for a round of debunking treatment, with books like Kermode's Romantic Image seeking to rescue poetry from the timeless prison of visual analogy, and restore it to the realm of consecutive discourse. Sartre put the case most succinctly in his book Imagination. If an image were assumed to consist wholly of its "sensory content", then it would logically have to be "expelled from thought". One might perhaps think on such images-brood on them inventively-but never with or through them. In order to be reconciled with thought, the image would require "an awareness of itself", a quality of "self-transparency", which comes into ...


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