Category: Denis Donoghue

“We have lost the symbolic value of the family meal; our festal days no longer remind us of human continuity or a vie antérieure common to all, but are monstrously corrupted and humiliated by a consumer society. The institutions we have devised to make daily life more harmonious continue to impose themselves as obstacles between feeling and value. We live with objects so secularised that we can only suppose behind them a void, an absence. The first result is that increasingly meaning becomes not a natural aura surrounding objects, events, and relationships but the work of will, spasmodic and synthetic. Meaning is invented, instigated, and produced by an imagination determined upon that labour.” – Denis Donoghue, The Sovereign Ghost

“It is not the purpose of imagination to act as cheerleader for the spirit of the age but to find or make a place in aesthetic forms for values which the spirit of the age cannot even recognise. Increasingly, fundamental values must be apprehended as living beneath or beyond the structure of needs and drives which, in a consumer society, constitutes normal life. There are values so alien to those of any actual society that they can be sustained only in effigy as the virtualities of artistic form: this is the role of form, to preserve as fundamental truths the values which are otherwise homeless. So it is that the artist has been driven into the position of writing against time in the desperate hope of redeeming time.” – Denis Donoghue, The Sovereign Ghost

“Writers accept the limitation of words at least in theory, though they struggle to circumvent it in practice; they know that words serve two masters, the purity of the work of art and the impurity of common use. Words used with pure intention drag impure allegiance into the sanctuary of art; there is no help for this situation. The novelist makes his fiction, and the normal means is by reciting a story, because stories, like lives, are temporal and they must begin and end. If he wants something more subtle, the novelist secretes it in the texture of his story. In return for the story, the available part of fiction, the novelist claims the right to qualify his report, insinuating doubts and hesitations where the story would run boldly from one episode to the next.” – Denis Donoghue, The Sovereign Ghost

“The essential power of imagination, the quality of spirit, is the power of making fictions and making sense of life by that means. Fiction is the most available form of freedom, freedom of feeling and action.” – Denis Donoghue, The Sovereign Ghost

“We have been conscious for centuries, and look, we have not come through. The quality of our consciousness is wrong, to begin with. We need the consciousness of appreciation, not the consciousness of possession; the open hand, not the grip of claw.” – Denis Donoghue, The Ordinary Universe

“To reconcile the demands of the imagination with the impositions of the world is a delicate exercise; especially if the natural idiom of the imagination is a language of freedom, mobility, and range, and the idiom of the world is, for the most part, deception and abuse.” – Denis Donoghue, The Ordinary Universe

“Reverence for life involves saying ‘yes’ to the human situation, limited and finite as it is; it disposes us to respect persons, to value them, to find the human predicament full of hazard and therefore full of significance; to find that moral choice is important and that life is possibility if not promise.” – Denis Donoghue, The Ordinary Universe