Ruskin’s Pathetic Fallacy

Cribbed from – where else – Wikipedia:

The pathetic fallacy or anthropomorphic fallacy is the treatment of inanimate objects as if they had human feelings, thought, or sensations.

The term was coined by the critic John Ruskin (1819–1900) in his 1856 work Modern Painters, in which he wrote that the aim of the pathetic fallacy was “to signify any description of inanimate natural objects that ascribes to them human capabilities, sensations, and emotions.” In the narrow sense intended by Ruskin, the pathetic fallacy is a scientific failing, since most of his defining paper concerns art, which he maintains ought to be its truthful representation of the world as it appears to our senses, not as it appears in our imaginative and fanciful reflections upon it.

Ruskin quotes a stanza from Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s Maud as an “exquisite” example of pathetic fallacy:

There has fallen a splendid tear
From the passion-flower at the gate.
She is coming, my dove, my dear;
She is coming, my life, my fate.
The red rose cries, “She is near, she is near;”
And the white rose weeps, “She is late;”
The larkspur listens, “I hear, I hear;”
And the lily whispers, “I wait.” (Part 1, XXII, 10)

In this poem the paradoxical events of flowers and animals talking are an explicit personification of non-human objects.

Link to Modern Painters:

http://www.ourcivilisation.com/smartboard/shop/ruskinj

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