Tuesday, February 07, 2012

How Sherlock Holmes enchants the world

I'm a little behind on my Hound reading, but fortunately I have a great link to keep that Sherlockian tingle going till next time. Via Andrew Sullivan, Michael Saler says that the deep appeal of the Holmes stories is a kind of enchantment--and not the usual kind, either. Holmes goes against the grain by making enchantment an effect of reason:

Unlike many contemporary scientists and logicians who disdained the imagination, Holmes brought reason and the imagination, logic and intuition, together in a new synthesis that he called “the scientific use of the imagination.” He made critical thinking into a romantic adventure. Through his discerning eye, every detail of modern life, from newspaper advertisements to the footsteps of a giant hound, became charged with meaning, possibility, and wonder.

If this is true, and I think it is, then the Holmes stories should be taught in every school in the land. Intellect and reason are the path to enchantment, not its enemies! Understanding, not ignorance, is the source of transcendent delight! Never mind that Conan Doyle himself got pretty woo-woo in his later life, when he fell for some "photos" of fairies that make the guy in the Bigfoot film look like Bigfoot. Perhaps Holmes is the unique product of a mind that craved magic, but couldn't (or wouldn't) yet accept its actual existence. So, like our best realist fiction writers, Holmes makes magic from the everyday.


Tara said...

When I was getting masters I took a class on Sherlock Holmes. It was amazing. I'd kind of dismissed Doyle in a way because I guess I assumed his stories were formulaic and silly. But they're not. Holmes is also a more emotional character in the books and I remember I wrote a paper on how in some stories it seemed he was really championing the rights of women - they sometimes had a significant role in stories and not always as victims. At times they were quite feisty and clear headed and brave.

buddy2blogger said...

Always a pleasure to meet a Sherlockian :)

I have been fascinated with this character since reading the stories in my childhood.