“A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry”

Katharine A. Rodger

in Breaking Through

Published by University of California Press

Published in print May 2006 | ISBN: 9780520247048
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520932661 | DOI:
“A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry”

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The shortest of Edward F. Ricketts's three philosophical essays—the 1939 version reproduced in this chapter is a fourteen-page typescript—“A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry” represents an attempt to “work out” his notions about breaking through and non-teleological thinking “in an actual, practical way in life.” Though classifying poets according their ability to convey or to trigger transcendence is undoubtedly subjective, it can be seen as an exercise, an experiment in how to implement Ricketts's philosophical modus operandi. The essay itself—particularly its discussion of the four “growth stages” of poets—is the most detailed analysis of literature Ricketts ever wrote, and reveals his scientific impulse to group and categorize objects in a world before his gaze, from intertidal specimens to poets. Indeed, the significance of a scientist venturing a detailed discussion of poetry becomes apparent when “A Spiritual Morphology of Poetry” is placed in the context of Ricketts's body of major writings: he sought to heal the breach between the seemingly disjointed worlds of the sciences and the humanities, championing instead a more integrated viewpoint.

Keywords: Edward F. Ricketts; Spiritual Morphology; breaking through; non-teleological thinking; poets; poetry; sciences; humanities

Chapter.  4899 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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