“it relies upon the experiential process of art rather than upon statement; its strategy is primarily imaginative”

Image: “Author Christopher L. Hodapp asserts in his book The Templar Code for Dummies that Glastonbury Tor, Somerset, is one of the possible locations of the Holy Grail, because it is close to the monastery that housed the Nanteos Cup.(Wikipedia)

From: Signs for the Times – Symbolic Realism in the Mid-Victorian World (1984), by Chris Brooks:

“For both Dickens and Carlyle, symbolic realism was not only a way of representing the world but, simultaneously, also a way of guaranteeing the imaginative authority of such a representation. By asserting the presence of a semantic scheme in the very stuff of experienced reality Carlyle and Dickens sought to obviate the subjective basis of their interpretative models. Meaning was not, as it was for the Romantics, an interpretative structure generated from the self’s engagement with the non-self, but a structure that had objective existence in, and on the same terms as, material reality. The quest for an authority beyond the self, for the healing magic of certitude, was a constant element in the development of Victorian thought. The most obvious form in which it expressed itself was religious: Newman’s progress from the liberal theology of Oriel under Whately, to the High Anglicanism of the Oxford Movement, to the principium et fons of authority, Rome itself, is paradigmatic. Precisely the same quest could find the Grail totally elsewhere, in the narrow fundamentalism of Protestant dissent, in the no less dogmatic atheism of a man like Charles Bradlaugh. The need for spiritual authority has secular parallels, in the doctrinaire formulations of Utilitarianism and political economists: Coketown is all ‘fact’; how reassuringly final is the Iron Law of Wages!…

[“According to Alexander Gray, Ferdinand Lassalle “gets the credit of having invented” the phrase the “iron law of wages”, as Lassalle wrote about “das eiserne und grausame Gesetz” (the iron and cruel law). According to Lassalle, wages cannot fall below subsistence wage level because without subsistence, laborers will be unable to work. However, competition among laborers for employment will drive wages down to this minimal level. This follows from Malthus’ demographic theory, according to which population rises when wages are above the “subsistence wage” and falls when wages are below subsistence.” (Wikipedia)]

…The quest for authority finds aesthetic expression, as subsequent chapters will show, in the work of Ruskin and in the architectural theories of Pugin and the Ecclesiologists. Ironically – and inevitably – the proliferation of final solutions rendered the quest simultaneously more urgent and more impossible of resolution. “The age was learning, but it had not mastered, the lesson that truth lies not in the statement but in the process: it had a childlike craving for certitude, as if the natural end of every refuted dogma was to be replaced by another dogma.” (G.M. Young, 1934). The symbolic realism of Carlyle and, even more, of Dickens retains its currency for us where other Victorian solutions to doubt do not precisely because it relies upon the experiential process of art rather than upon statement; its strategy is primarily imaginative, remaking the very world that it also seeks to explain. As conscious as his contemporaries of the need for answers to doubt and confusion, Matthew Arnold adopted a different strategy, but one that gives an important perspective upon symbolic realism and – because of the terms upon which, it seems to me, it fails – serves to highlight the particular achievement of Carlyle’s and Dickens’s fusion of the real and the symbolic.”

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