AskDefine | Define afflatus

Dictionary Definition

afflatus n : a strong creative impulse; divine inspiration; "divine afflatus"

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

The noun derives directly from the word "afflatus" [which is the past participle of "afflare"], meaning "to blow". It was thought that the gods blew on creative people, who would then inhale the god's breath and have an idea. This is the premise of "inspiration": inhaling divine breath and ideas.

Pronunciation

Noun

afflatus
  1. A sudden rush of creative impulse or inspiration, often attributed to divine influence.

Quotations

  • "No man was ever great without a touch of divine afflatus." -Cicero
  • "The Divine Afflatus", Mencken, H.L.This book was famous for the quote of 'There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.' It is a popular quote, appearing in such places as being muttered by Grissom on an episode of CSI entitled 'Chaos Theory'.

Extensive Definition

Afflatus is a Latin term derived from Cicero (in On Divination) that has been translated as "inspiration." Cicero's usage was a literalizing of "inspiration," which had already become figurative. Literally, "inspiration," like "afflatus," means "to be blown into" by a divine wind. As "inspiration" came to mean simply the gathering of a new idea, Cicero reiterated the idea of a rush of unexpected breath, a powerful force that would render the poet helpless and unaware of its origin.
In English, "afflatus" is used for this literal form of inspiration. It generally refers not to the usual sudden originality, but to the staggering and stunning blow of a new idea, an idea that the recipient may be unable to explain. In Romantic literature and criticism, in particular, the usage of "afflatus" was revived for the mystical form of poetic inspiration tied to "genius", such as the story Coleridge offered for the composition of Kubla Khan. The frequent usage of the Aeolian harp as a symbol for the poet was a play on the renewed emphasis on afflatus.

References

  • Brogan, T.V.F. "Inspiration" in Alex Preminger and T.V.F. Brogan, eds., The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993. 609.

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Apollo, Apollo Musagetes, Bragi, Calliope, Castilian Spring, Erato, Euterpe, Geist, Helicon, Hippocrene, Muse, Parnassus, Pierian Spring, Pierides, Polyhymnia, animating spirit, animation, animus, apocalypse, creative imagination, creative thought, creativity, daemon, daimonion, demon, direct communication, divine afflatus, divine inspiration, divine revelation, enlivenment, epiphany, exhilaration, fire, fire of genius, firing, genius, infection, infusion, inspiration, moving spirit, mystical experience, mysticism, poesy, poetic genius, prophecy, revelation, soul, spirit, talent, the Muses, theophania, theophany, theopneustia, theopneusty
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