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Dissociation Of Sensibility

  Dissociation of sensibility was a phrase coined by T.S. Eliot, writing about the activity of writing poetry. In brief, he drew a distinction between ‘reflective’ poets, (who used words and images as the ‘mechanism of sensibility’ which allowed them to ‘devour any kind of experience’), and ‘intellectual’ poets (who dissociated their sensibility from the activity of writing poetry). To write about the scent of a rose was a different matter entirely from experiencing the scent of a rose. The idea was fashionable in literary criticism for half a century, but even Eliot came to deplore the way in which it had been taken as a view about poets in general to whom it is clearly not applicable rather than about Milton, Dryden and their followers, to whom he originally applied it. KMcL

Further reading T.S. Eliot, ‘The Metaphysical Poets’, Selected Essays.



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