Notes on William Jones

“Third Anniversary Discourse”

  • etymology not universally useful – analysis, not synthesis, is key to understanding language and its origins
  • “uncovering” India’s history
    1. languages and letters – sanskrit as the “base language” or “mother language”; attempts to strengthen argument by bringing in Hebrew and “Ethiopic letters” but sidesteps Native American, African, and East Asian languages completely
    2. religion and philosophy – common religious ancestry to the Greeks/Romans; implicit belief in the Tower of Babel and the flood; calls Hinduism “heretical” and “wild” but the comparison drawn allows for an independent and autonomous view of the people of India
    3. architecture and sculpture – suggests a common ancestor with those in Africa
    4. arts and manufactures – notes obvious historical evidence of commercialism, gives high praise but still manages to come across paternalistic
  • concludes with an assertion of a common ancestor

“On the Poetry of Eastern Nations”

  • pastoral poetry of Yemen/Arabian Peninsula – talks about the natural beauty that lends itself to simile/metaphor that wouldn’t be as effective in Europe, the environment allowed for this poetry as opposed to any special talent of the poet’s
  • poetry as integral to Arabic culture, including religious contexts
  • argues for the study of Eastern poetry in Europe

“On the Arts Commonly Called Imitative”

  • Jones counters Aristotle’s assertion of “art as imitative”
  • poetry as expression of emotion – praise of nature/gods, so not imitative
  • music as an extension of poetry – musical sound vs. common sound; poetry put to music: “not an imitation of nature, but the voice of nature herself”
  • poetry as the language of violent passions expressed in exact measure with strong accents and significant words; music as poetry delivered in a succession of harmonious sounds to please the ear
  • ultimately:
    • poetry/music are expressive of passions and work through sympathy
    • expressions of love, pity, desire, and tender passions and objects that delight the senses are Beautiful
    • expressions of hate, anger, fear, and terrible passions and objects that displease the senses are Sublime

The Romantic Movement

  • importance of personal voice – move away from the public voice, allows for a universal perspective
  • the sublime – grotesque, beautiful, physically huge
  • expression as the heart of the Romantic movement – movement/motion/rhythm; spontaneous overflow of powerful emotions
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