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Romanticism, Bicamerality, and the Evolution of the Brain

Edward Proffitt
The Wordsworth Circle, 1978, 9, 1: 98-105.
Reprinted in Marcel Kuijsten (ed.), Gods, Voices, and the Bicameral Mind: The Theories of Julian Jaynes (Julian Jaynes Society, 2016).


... The central question of the modern poet vis-a-vis poetry is summed up by Frost in "The Oven Bird": "what to make of a diminished thing." Stripped of his singing robes, the poet now must be not a nightingale but an oven bird, who "knows in singing not to sing." He must, that is, be maker rather than shaman, conscious artificer rather than sacred vessel. Such, of course, seems a diminishment given the origins of poetry in divine prophecy. Still, the poet must be singing even if now he knows "not to sing." In other words, he must give up inspired song for the more mundane melodies of consciousness; he must give up the magic of verbal music, we might say, for the musicality of speech. How has the poet come to this pass? The answer, I believe, can be gleaned from Julian Jaynes's ground-breaking book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind ...