LOGOS: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture


To Imagine Realistically


Joseph Schwartz

Publication Date

Spring 1997

Document Type




First Page


Last Page



Francesca Aran Murphy's new book Christ the Form of Beauty is about the Christological imagination. It makes the argument that our ability to enter into the Incarnation is in proportion to our willingness "to imagine realistically."' The book is valuable in that it brings together some ofthe important ideas regarding aesthetics by Jacques Maritain, William Lynch, Allen Tate, and Hans Urs von Balthasar.' Since the book, however, is organized around persons rather than ideas, it is sometimes clumsy where it should be clear and lengthy where it should be brief. Further, since these writers are very alike in essential matters, the amount of needless repetition becomes wearying. At the same time essential material that might have been helpful in developing the subject is excluded. Maritain, central to our understanding of this topic, is, of course, included, but Etienne Gilson, felt by some to be the neo-Thomist who has written best on this topic, is not.Why include Caroline Gordon but omit G. K. Chesterton? I recognize that studies like this must have arbitrary boundaries, but some boundaries are more arbitrary than others. In any event, the problem would not exist had the book been arranged according to the constituent ideas of the topic (imagination, realism, beauty) which finally are Murphy's real interest. On the other hand, the book is of great value in encouraging a re-thinking of what "to imagine realistically" means.


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