Inscape and instress

Inscape and instress are complementary and enigmatic concepts about individuality and uniqueness derived by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins from the ideas of the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus. Inscape has been rendered variously as: external design, aesthetic conception, intrinsic beauty, the intrinsic form of a thing, a form perceived in nature, the individual self, the expression of the inner core of individuality, the peculiar inner nature of things and persons, expressed in form and gesture, and an essence or identity embodied in a thing. These twin concepts are what his most famous poems are about.
[Hopkins] felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called inscape, the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe 'selves,' that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls instress, the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation on it.


Inscape and instress are complementary and enigmatic concepts about individuality and uniqueness derived by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins from the ideas of the medieval philosopher Duns Scotus. Inscape has been rendered variously as: external design, aesthetic conception, intrinsic beauty, the intrinsic form of a thing, a form perceived in nature, the individual self, the expression of the inner core of individuality, the peculiar inner nature of things and persons, expressed in form and gesture, and an essence or identity embodied in a thing. These twin concepts are what his most famous poems are about. [Hopkins] felt that everything in the universe was characterized by what he called inscape, the distinctive design that constitutes individual identity. This identity is not static but dynamic. Each being in the universe 'selves,' that is, enacts its identity. And the human being, the most highly selved, the most individually distinctive being in the universe, recognizes the inscape of other beings in an act that Hopkins calls instress, the apprehension of an object in an intense thrust of energy toward it that enables one to realize specific distinctiveness. Ultimately, the instress of inscape leads one to Christ, for the individual identity of any object is the stamp of divine creation on it.
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