About the work …
In his "Thoughts on Poetry and Its Varieties," Mill regards the poet and the artist, whether by nature or cultivation, as one who individually expresses the intuitive truth of thoughts which embody feelings. Mill's Šsthetics are of interest since they stand in contrast to the dominant view of nineteenth-century Šsthetics that the ideal of art is the expression of the typology of divine nature itself. Indeed, most of the writers on Šsthetics in the nineteenth century were nonphilosophers who viewed art from a moral and religious point of view. For Mill, poetry is an intrinsic expression of feeling, not a means of communication as is eloquent speech. While poetry expresses feeling as an end-in-itself, fiction communicates feeling through incident and plot. In this sense, poetry is similar to other arts such as sculpture, painting, and music: their beauty is in soliloquy rather than dramatic effect. Even though the value of poetry is intrinsic, Mill believes poetry is, as well, culturally significant.
How does Mill distinguish poetry from non-poetry? What is his distinction between a novel and a poem?
What, according to Mill, is a good definition of poetry?
How does Mill contrast science and poetry? Does his contrast depend upon the different faculties of sensibility and understanding?
How does Mill characterize the difference between the born poet and the cultivated poet? How is this difference illustrated in his discussion of the poetry of Wordsworth and Shelley?
What, according to Mill, is a sufficient condition for the presence of poetry? Why does he think the critic has difficulty recognizing the presence of poetry?
Describe Mill's discussion of the relation between poetry and philosophy. On Mill's view, why is a philosopher becoming a poet less likely than a poet becomming a philosopher?
John Stuart Mill. Autobiography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1971. Chapter IV.
John Stuart Mill. Dissertations and Discussions. London: Parker. 1859.