“Ancient quarrel” and its synonyms (1950’s)

From Eliot to Seneca (Review of The Senecan Amble: A Study in Prose from Bacon to Collier) (1953)

Professor Williamson has written a technical discussion of the battle of the prose styles from Bacon to Collier.

the natural and age-old antipathy of Senecan and Ciceronian is rooted in diversity of aim and method in communication.

Quarrels between Senecans and Ciceronians are inevitably the result of the triumph of specialized temperament over general intelligence.1 

Eliot and The Manichean Myth As Poetry (1954)

The crime of Professor Cleanth Penn Ransom is to attempt to invent a machine for reducing the time-world of the arts to the space-world of the sciences.  Time and space thus appear as two gods, one light, the other dark. Time is heavenly, space is infernal.  Since this is not and never has been a Catholic quarrel, the shifting terms in which the quarrel has been conducted through the centuries seem both familiar and unreal to Catholic ears.  Socrates abandoned the outer world of Ionian science and sophistic rhetoric for the inner world of the dialectical quest.  The division between inner and outer, between astrology and alchemy, between philosophy and magic is a familiar one.(…) Naturally the roots of these divisions are Light and Dark, Spirit and Matter.

If we grant that human existence is the state of damnation, two possibilities follow.  Either we can learn to retrace the stages of our fall into matter [in order to extricate our individual personality from it], and so escape, or we can devise some means of extinction of [individual] personality.  The pagan art and culture of the world, past and present, is divided in the pursuit of these alternatives. On one hand art is followed as a continuous labyrinth in which by blind, dogged persistence we may struggle upward by means of will power and ethical struggle. On the other hand there is the intellectual course presented by Mr. Eliot, in which we move from one intensity to another, towards a final flash of awareness and extinction [of mere individuality]. In the one art — that linked with Plato’s cave man — time, continuity, dialectic, are of the essence. In the other, time is lost in simultaneities and juxtapositions. (…)  The one proceeds by linked statement in time, the other by discontinuous arrangement in space.  In the broader cultural terms, the one view tends to locate human value in the [individual] will, the other in the [common] intellect. (…)  Generally speaking, both of these positions are Manichean so far as they postulate not just a Fallen Man, but a Fallen World.

Basic, however, for the understanding of vertical and horizontal, time and space, as these terms structure and agitate philosophy, aesthetics, anthropology and sociology, is the peculiar Manichean theory of communication. (…)  Vertical symbolism is of the dualistic variety, setting the sign or the work of art as a link between two worlds, between Heaven and Hell. It is concerned with the world as Time process, as becoming, and with the means of escape from Time into eternity by means of art and beauty. Vertical symbolism asserts the individual will against the hoi polloi. (…) Horizontal symbolism, on the other hand, sets the work of art and the symbol a collective task of communication (…) the horizontal, or space school, appeals to intuition, emotion and collective participation in states of mind as a basis for communication and of transformation of the self. The vertical school seeks to elevate the [existing] self above mere existence. The  horizontal symbolists seek to transform the self…

A Catholic poet like Paul Claudel, of course, is not bound by these dichotomies of space and time, the vertical and horizontal. (…) Claudel’s thought and poetry obviously move freely in both time and space. As a symbolist he avails himself to the utmost degree of the spatial techniques of inner and outer landscape for fixing particular states of mind. This procedure makes available to him all the magical resources invoked by the Romantics for using particular emotions as immediate windows onto Being, as techniques of connatural union with reality. But he values equally the resources of dialectic and continuous discourse [ie, rhetoric]. He can therefore be both Senecan or symbolist — and temporal. That would seem to be an inevitable program for any Catholic for whom Time and Space are not sectarian problems. 

(To be continued through all of McLuhan’s work.)