Document Type

Faculty Essay


In lieu of an abstract, below is the essay's first paragraph.

"This is an old-fashioned passage expressing an old-fashioned view about oldfashioned music in a book that is no longer fashionable to read. These are all characteristics that draw me to it; those and the coincidence that I have been struggling with the notion of imitatio dei – the imitation of God – in my work. That also is an old-fashioned notion from a spirituality of another time, but I believe it remains an important one that commends itself to contemporary Christianity. I want to explore how we might gain some insight into this spiritual idea by examining a particular type of aesthetic experience, and there is some irony in this approach. It seems obvious that imitation in art is something that we do not prize or praise. In fact, we consider imitation in art to be, at best, inauthentic and, at worst, cause for claims of forgery. In art we prize originality and fresh perspectives, so much so that the ‘classicism’ Mann mentions in the first sentence had already been moribund for over a hundred years when he wrote, surpassed by romanticism, which was surpassed by the impressionist, which was surpassed by the modern, which... well, you get the idea. Perhaps the “sophisticated” of his time would be more inclined to appreciate Igor Stravinsky or Alban Berg rather than a music that had once been innovative a long while before. But these issues are too large, even though I touch on them. In fact, almost every paragraph of this essay should be expanded, claims explored and defended more carefully, and other examples examined. Alas, I lack not only the time but also the erudition and the skill. So I must content myself to do only what I am able – hence the “sketch” of the title – and beg indulgence.

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