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Bruno Bettleheim's "The Use of Enchantment" Children are seldom told fairy tales nowadays

used with permissionIn this paragraph, there is not a single use of a first-person pronoun. The writer's opinions are undoubtedly lurking somewhere behind the piece, but they are not visibly betrayed by personal statement. Taking an objective stance like this might be a relatively easy matter if you, the writer, are removed from the events of Kansas and the creationism debate. What happens when your instructor asks you to write an essay about what you think about scientific theory versus creationism or about what is going on in a short story, or about some phenomenon in economics? How do you keep out of it?

The vision of the poet is not just a private matter: "all who heard" and "all should cry." It is a collective enchantment with the poet at the center of it. The magic of the final spellbinding lines — beyond explication — is based partly on abracadabra incantation ("Weave a circle round him thrice") and our corporate recollections of holy visionaries. The poet compels the vision of the public, but at the same time he is an outcast among them — untouchable and even cursed ("his flashing eyes, his floating hair!") by his gift. The lines become completely suggestive in their wild blend of holiness, sensuality, prophecy, and danger. The poet and poem have have become their own "miracle of rare device," and the reader has borne witness to the creative miracle.
Student paper: "Miracle of Rare Device"

THERE IS SUCH AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT of poetry criticism and poetic theory published at present that it seems impossible that any significant topic is neglected. Yet there are inevitably blind spots. As scholars and critics pursue the themes and theories of the moment, other subjects remain overlooked. Some topics have been neglected so long that they now seem not merely unfashionable but quaint, eccentric, even disreputable. This essay explores one of those disreputable subjects, one that I'm quaint enough to consider important, perhaps essential, to the art of poetry. It is a topic so remote from contemporary literary studies that there is no respectable critical term for it. Lacking a more stylish appellation, I'll borrow an antiquarian term, enchantment. That very word should cause responsible readers to cringe. What comes next? A damsel with a dulcimer? The horns of Elfland faintly blowing?

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