Discussion in 'Glossary Term of the Day' started by MsJacquiiC, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. MsJacquiiC

    Poetica Magnifique Staff Member
    Jun 8, 2006
    Anthropomorphism -- from the Greek ánthrōpos ("human") and morphē ("shape" or "form") -- is a form of personification in which human characteristics (or characteristics assumed to belong only to humans) are attributed to anything inhuman, usually a god, animal, object, concept, phenomena and/or abstract concepts, such as organizations, governments, spirits or deities. The term was coined in the mid 1700s.

    As a literary device, anthropomorphism is strongly associated with art and storytelling where it has ancient roots. Most cultures possess a long-standing fable tradition with anthropomorphised animals as characters that can stand as commonly recognized types of human behavior.

    In Vachel Lindsay’s “What the Rattlesnake Said,” for example, a snake describes the fears of his imagined prey. John Keats admires a star’s loving watchfulness (“with eternal lids apart”) in his sonnet “Bright Star, Would I Were as Steadfast as Thou Art.”

    [fieldset=Bright Star by John Keats]Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
              Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
    And watching, with eternal lids apart,
              Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
    The moving waters at their priestlike task
              Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
    Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
              Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
    No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
              Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
    To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
              Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
    Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
    And so live ever—or else swoon to death.[/fieldset]

    In contrast, such religious doctrines as the Christian Great Chain of Being propound the opposite, anthropocentric belief that animals, plants and non-living things, unlike humans, lack spiritual and mental attributes, immortal souls, and anything other than relatively limited awareness.
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