The objective correlative conveys a sense of “the whatness of the thing.” According to T.S. Eliot, that means “a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” To paraphrase the late Lee Hays, it’s a way of unscrewing the inscrutable.
Why tell you all this? Well, first because I’ve been thinking a lot about this blawg and what it does and should do. In recent months it has taken on a new look (how do you like it, btw?) and the influx of student views has also changed the tenor. There is greater diversity of viewpoint and therefore more debate and, in my view, that is good for the animals.
The second reason for this disquisition is that conveying a sense of the whatness of the thing is something to think about as a goal for the animal advocacy movement. Rhetoric (the art of persuasion) can only do so much. For those whom rhetoric cannot reach (for whatever reason), the thing itself must carry the day. Animals and the plight of animals are the thing. Conveying their whatness is the goal.
The third reason is only tangential but relates to communication and the ability to express the ineffable. Liam Clancy (of the Clancy Brothers) has left us. Songs like “Will Ye Go Lassie Go, ” Red is the Rose,” and many, many others convey the harsh, joyful beauty of mortality. Sure, he was singing of the human condition but the emotions — the whatness of the thing — deal with being a being in the world. That seems relevant here.
I just thought that needed saying.