Some time ago, it might have been revolutionary to criticize Shakespeare as hardly anyone had done it before. Today, holding the Bard cheap would be like crediting an outlook of a dweller of an imaginary sleepy town, where everyone would wear the same clothes, eat the same food and, as a result, have the same dreams. Naturally, one would need to imagine that there would be a formula for making dreams merely out of garment and viands.
Washington Allston coined the phrase “objective correlative” in his Lectures on Art. His primary tool being his painter’s brush I could hardly imagine used to the graceful Impressionist effect ever, Allston would have looked to vegetables, judging on human emotion.
Take an example from one of the lower forms of organic life,—a common vegetable. Will any one assert that the surrounding inorganic elements of air, earth, heat, and water produce its peculiar form? Though some, or all, of these may be essential to its developement, they are so only as its predetermined correlatives, without which its existence could not be manifested; and in like manner must the peculiar form of the vegetable preexist in its life, —in its idea,—in order to evolve by these assimilants its own proper organism.
No possible modification in the degrees or proportion of these elements can change the specific form of a plant,―for instance, a cabbage into a cauliflower; it must ever remain a cabbage, small or large, good or bad. So, too, is the external world to the mind; which needs, also, as the condition of its manifestation, its objective correlative. Hence the presence of some outward object, predetermined to correspond to the preexisting idea in its living power, is essential to the evolution of its proper end,―the pleasurable emotion.
There have been theories on vegetables and light: veg can have more sugar under some red or blue auras ― the color is hardly relevant, as the cost of the shine would hatchet production. Should one harbor especially vindictive feelings about music, tune playing might be also purported to elevate plant mood before the thing is eaten ― all the above having no possible relation to human feelings except meal times.
T.S. Eliot proceeded with making the jacket for the potato. In Hamlet and His Problems, Eliot states,
Hamlet is a stratification, (…) it represents the efforts of a series of men, each making what he could out of the work of his predecessors. The Hamlet of Shakespeare will appear to us very differently if, instead of treating the whole action of the play as due to Shakespeare’s design, we perceive his Hamlet to be superposed upon much cruder material which persists even in the final form.
Eliot also says,
The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an “objective correlative”; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.
Hardly sound on literary grounds, the criticism may be psychologically revealing about Eliot himself. In his critical endeavors, Eliot referred to the thing theory, mimesis and diegesis, as well as pathetic fallacy. All these frameworks would involve the agent-patient relations that T.S. Eliot would have had some difficulty grasping.
The thing theory would alienate perception, objects becoming things when in focus. The approach to mimesis would seek equanimity in having the object for the medium. The pathetic fallacy would quantify and thus deny sentiment.
Both the emotionally “objective” authors, Allston as well as Eliot, had own emotional problems. Allston is reported to have suffered from melancholia. Eliot had an aboulic stage in life. Both would have been seeking ― a non-existent ― mechanism to produce feelings. And feelings objectively would be non-correlative with mere utility.
Needless to say, animacy would have such an “objective” actually reism linguistically only for a plaything. And well, I can agree both with haters and lovers of potatoes ― feel welcome to see my Potato nut.