You are not currently logged in.

Login through your institution for access.


Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

Symbols in Life and Art

Symbols in Life and Art

edited by / rédigé par James A. Leith
Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 166
Stable URL:
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Symbols in Life and Art
    Book Description:

    Northrop Frye describes the way symbols operate as media of exchange in literature, drawing examples from English literature in difference periods. Eva Kushner examines the increased freedom on expression possible to Renaissance poets because of the availability of a wider range of symbols. Poet and literary historian Douglas Jones probes the use of the railway as a distinctive symbol of both unity and alienation for English Canadians. Abraham Moles analyses the social impact of "dynamic myths" on social changes which break with established traditions. Bogomila Welsh-Ovcharov discusses the function of symbols in the art of Van Gogh. James Leith examines the role of symbols in revolutionary movements, in particular the adaptation of the ancient symbol of the equilateral triangle. Anthony Storr discusses the vital role of symbols in the search for a sense of unity in life. Wilfred Cantwell-Smith considers various world religions as symbolic efforts to give ultimate meaning to life. In conclusion, Norman Mackenzie reflects on all the essays, drawing on his own command of modern literature and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6143-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature
    × Close Overlay

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface (pp. vii-viii)
    John M. Stedmond
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. ix-x)
  5. Remerciements (pp. xi-2)
  6. The Symbol as a Medium of Exchange (pp. 3-16)

    The word symbol is a term of such Protean elusiveness that my instinct, as a practical literary critic, has always been to avoid it as much as possible. However, the title of this conference, ʺSymbols in Life and Art,ʺ indicates, quite correctly, that it is a word of major importance in an aspect of criticism which has also been central to my interests, the linking of the arts, including literature, to other social phenomena, and the study of the place and function of the arts in social life. Symbol comes, we are told, from the Greeksymballein, which means to...

  7. Symbols of Unity and Integration (pp. 17-32)

    The psychology of symbols is a vast subject. I have therefore given this lecture a subtitle, ʺSymbols of Unity and Integration,ʺ in order to indicate that I can only comment upon a small part of the subject. Perhaps the best way of beginning is to ask why we use symbols at all? What is the place of symbols in the mental economy of human beings? What function do symbols serve? It is clear that symbolization belongs with the higher reaches of human mentation; with conceptualization and abstraction rather than with reflex responses or emotional outbursts. Although higher animals may well...

  8. Steel Syntax: The Railroad as Symbol in Canadian Poetry (pp. 33-51)

    The train, the railway, has marked Canadian life politically, economically, sentimentally. It has shaped and coloured Canadian space; it has structured time.¹ As the Canadian Pacific became one of the worldʹs great transportation empires in the earlier twentieth century, many Canadians could easily identify the life of the country with the life of the railroad.

    Indeed, the two were intimately linked from the beginning. As Susan Mann Trofimenkoff says, for some of the liberal politicians of Quebec in the nineteenth century, the whole idea of Confederation appeared to be merely an excuse to build railroads.² Pierre Berton notes that ʺBy...

  9. Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, and Albert Aurier: The Perception of Life in Death (pp. 52-65)

    In writing about Vincent van Gogh in the inaugural issue ofLe Mercure de Francewhich appeared January 1890, Albert Aurier, while not overlooking the painterʹs roots in traditions of Realism, could nonetheless describe him as ʺa symbolist who feels the continual need to clothe his ideas in precise, ponderable, tangible forms …ʺ¹ This characterization is sometimes challenged as the imposition of an aesthetic foreign to the artist by a leading Symbolist critic, but the astuteness of Aurierʹs the artist by a leading Symbolist critic, but the astuteness of Aurierʹs perceptions is being steadily reinforced in recent literature on van...

  10. Illustrations (pp. None)
  11. La Fonction des Mythes Dynamiques dans la Construction de l’Imaginaire Social (pp. 66-88)

    Les ʺsymbolesʺ peuvent être considéréd comme dérivés dessignes, cʹest-à-dire des assemblages dʹéléments connaissables et répertoriables, mais qui, en même temps, se proposent comme desfantômes du signifié, qui retiennent une partie des critères de lʹobjet quʹils désignent. De nombreux symboles sont de nature visuelle ou graphique et une grande part du mouvement de la recherche sur lʹImaginaire comme structure causale de lʹexplication sociale part des symboles graphiques, des monuments et des architectures comme un fait, pour y retrouver des ʺelements symboliques,ʺ ceux des forces quʹils contiennent. A cet egard, lʹoeuvre de C. Jung sur les Mandalas, celle de Leith...

  12. Symbols in Religion (pp. 89-104)

    Human beings live their lives in an environment in which three sectors may reasonably be distinguished – provided that one not thereby infer that they are necessarily separate. Persons are involved with, participate in, three orders or levels or dimensions of reality. There is the realm of things: what we in the West often call the world of nature. There is the realm of people: the human order. And there is a less tangible realm – of values: aesthetic, intellectual, moral: beauty, truth, and justice, as the Greeks put it; a transcendant realm, to use another vocabulary; one having to...

  13. Symbols in the French Revolution: The Strange Metamorphoses of the Triangle (pp. 105-117)

    Since Durkheim many anthropologists have shown that in primitive societies different cosmologies not only reflect but reinforce various social structures. Using rituals and symbols, such cosmologies mask, legitimate, and sanctify power.¹ Other social scientists have extended this analysis to certain modern societies as well. Usually these scholars have emphasized the need for a symbolic centre around which the members of society can unite.² One could argue that there was such a cosmology in Old Regime France that helped to uphold the monarchical, aristocratic, hierarchical social structure. Aristocrats had dress, swords, and coats of arms that distinguished them from the common...

  14. Illustrations (pp. None)
  15. Le Statut du Symbole dans la Poésie de la Renaissance (pp. 118-132)

    Lʹetude des symboles en tant que structures de lʹimaginaire est conçue, le plus souvent, en synchronie. Mais, précisément parce quʹelle est liée à des constantes du comportement humain, elle gagne également à être considérée dʹun point de vue historique, ne serait-ce que dans le but de connaître, au travers des transformations, les permanences; les transformations, elles, illustrent, pour chaque coupe chronologique, ses traits spécifiques et le mode de leur rattachement aux réalités permanentes.

    Au moment de ce quʹil est convenu dʹappeler la Renaissance, il se produit dans le domaine de lʹimaginaire comme dans bien dʹautres une sorte de saut quantique,...

  16. Reflections (pp. 133-152)

    For my own contribution, rounding out this ambitious colloquium on ʺSymbols in Life and Art,ʺ our chairman Dr Jim Leith has chosen the symbolic and significant title ʺReflections.ʺ In the larger university Installation symposium which so nearly overlapped and overwhelmed us, a rather different role was assigned to people who, under organizers less sensitive to language, were denominated ʺDiscussants.ʺ For this audience, a select interdisciplinary group, I need hardly paraphrase the laws of physics which explain why reflections glancing off a plane unruffled surface are always less brilliant than the light falling on it.

    Dr Leith tried to arrange for...

  17. ORGANIZING COMMITTEE (pp. 153-153)