Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Philosophy Aesthetics

Imitation & Design and Other Essays

by (author) Reid MacCallum

edited by William Blissett

University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division
Initial publish date
Feb 2019
Aesthetics, Poetry, Conceptual
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Feb 2019
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Imitation approaches identity with the thing imitated; design attenuates to a void. The visual arts must be practised somewhere between these two poles. The rival claims of the two for primary and the decision in favour of design occupy the first essay, which gives its name to Reid MacCallum's projected book on the theory of art.
Concurrently Professor MacCallum was asking related questions in the field of literature: what differentiates prose or scientific statement from poetic, and how may the latter be said to convey truth? Again the extremes of a polarity must be rejected -- the "dry light" of logic and laboratory experiment and the "moist darkness" of irrationalism. In the essay on "Poetry and Truth" and in a third called "Myth and Intelligence" it is argued that the perception and imposition of pattern on experience, the lifting of meaningless commotion to ordered emotion, is an exercise of intelligence as rigorous and valid as the work of the physicist or logician.
These three chapters -- on Painting, Poetry, and Myth -- were all of his book that Professor MacCallum lived to write. The study of T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, being a commentary on a poet's myth-making, clearly belongs with them. Together they form an extensive body of material not previously printed, which displays a unity not only of point of view but of argument hardly to be hoped for in a posthumous book.
Included also are four articles illustrative of the range of the author's interests and the quality of his mind. One on the "Group of Seven" shows his continuing interest in the practice of painting by his compatriots; "Contemporary Aesthetic Theory" balances it with an appraisal of current theories of art. "The Idea of Man" and "First and Second Self" round out the book by making explicit the religious conception of man and mind on which the entire work has been based.


IMITATION AND DESIGN has been edited with an introduction by William Blissett, Associate Professor of English in the University of Saskatchewan.

About the authors

The death in 1949 of Reid MacCallum, at the age of fifty-one, is a loss to Canadian letters as well as to the University of Toronto, because Professor MacCallum was not only a man of wide and unusual learning but was also an artist who took great delight in poetry, music and painting .. His teaching had a contemplative, exploratory character which made it extraordinarily stimulating to thoughtful students, and all the more so in the fact that, like his conversation, it was entirely free of professional ostentation. It was possible for anyone really interested in a subject to discuss it with him easily and rewardingly. A professor of philosophy, a man of equanimity, of great charity and humility, to his friends a man of some gaiety, Reid MacCallum's varied interests found their order in his religious faith.

Reid MacCallum's profile page

William Blissett was born in Saskatchewan on October 11, 1921. Reading the modernist poets at age sixteen, he wrote his first published scholarly essay, on T.S. Eliot, while still an undergraduate at UBC. He met George Johnston in graduate school at U of T where Northrop Frye supervised both their theses. Following ten years at the University of Saskatchewan and five at Western, Blissett returned to the University of Toronto in 1965, becoming a long-serving editor of the University of Toronto Quarterly and co-editor of The Spenser Encyclopedia. He retired from teaching, but not from scholarship, in 1987. Now in his ninetieth year, he still gives papers internationally.

Blissett is a writer in the Guy Davenport manner, extensive, encyclopedic and stylish, given to life-long projects at present being resolved into books: essays on his friend, the modernist poet and painter David Jones; on Shakespeare and Jonson; on the influence of Wagner on the literary modernists and of Edmund Spenser on poets alive at the mid-twentieth century (complete with letters from each poet); and essays for the William Morris Society and the Chesterton Society. Traveller, opera-goer, storyteller and wit, Blissett lives in Toronto.

William Blissett's profile page

Other titles by William Blissett