Universality and the Particular

1615 WordsJul 12, 20187 Pages
Universality and the Particular “History,” Gilman writes, “is, or should be, the story of our racial life” (Gilman 216). Eliot is a bit less succinct, but perhaps he could be most pithily summed up as saying: “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all” (Eliot 1919, 23). It is not immediately evident what either author means by these statements, however, they both contain the core of the argument. Both authors have their individual aims and intents with their writings, however, in spite of the differences, their arguments find more common ground than disagreement. Their terminology is certainly…show more content…
Eliot implies here that there are some who will quite simply miss the entire point of literature. The distinction seems slight, however it creates a very different notion of the author. It also raises unanswered questions about what the basic purpose of literature is if it is meant to be so inaccessible. In spite of the differences regarding the purpose of literature, Gilman and Eliot seem to agree on the goals of literature. Both have a sense that literature should somehow be all-inclusive of the human experience. Gilman is particularly explicit about this as her gender argument rests firmly on the idea that the entirety of humanity must be represented in literature. It is “the story of our racial life” and is unquestionably all-inclusive (Gilman 216). “The artist, if great enough, has transcended sex; and in the mightier works of the real masters, we find fiction treating of life, life in general, in all its complex relationships” (222). Interestingly, Gilman seems to echo Eliot’s arguments by “tak[ing] life personally” (220). However, even in her examination of the particular, she finds herself irresistibly drawn to her conclusions about the universal. “Out of this field of personal life, with all its emotions, processes, and experiences, fiction arbitrarily selects one emotion, one process, one experience, mainly of one sex” (220). Eliot also finds the universal rooted in the particular, though in a much more
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