A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
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Glimmering and trembling, trembling and unfolding, a breaking light, an opening flower, it spread in endless succession to itself, breaking in full crimson and unfolding and fading to palest rose, leaf by leaf and wave of light by wave of light, flooding all the heavens with its soft flushes, every flush deeper than the other. (4.3.34)
So, remember the image of Stephen’s soul withering like a desert flower before Father Arnall’s sermon? Here it’s reversed – his soul encounters a beautiful new world that unfolds like a gorgeous flower.
This supreme quality is felt by the artist when the esthetic image is first conceived in his imagination. The mind in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure, a spiritual state very like to that cardiac condition which the Italian physiologist Luigi Galvani, using a phrase almost as beautiful as Shelley's, called the enchantment of the heart. (5.1.149)
Stephen posits that the perception of the object of beauty by the artist is a suspended spiritual state – "the enchantment of the heart." This is what lies at the core of Stephen’s aesthetic theory and of his new individual spirituality.
The personality of the artist, at first a cry or a cadence or a mood and then a fluid and lambent narrative, finally refines itself out of existence, impersonalizes itself, so to speak. The esthetic image in the dramatic form is life purified in and reprojected from the human imagination. The mystery of esthetic, like that of material creation, is accomplished. The artist, like the God of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails. (5.1.150)
We are aware that the artist is not actually God; however, Stephen’s theory puts the artist on equally divine footing with the concept of God. Through the idealized act of artistic creation, the craftsman somehow transcends the work and remains distant, divine, and unconcerned. So unconcerned, in fact, that he can actually sit back and cut his nails.