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The term, Metaphysical literature, originally referred to poetic works from the 17th century and defined intellectually challenging poetry.
Striving to incorporate the incorporeal, the transcendent, the noumenal, the subject matter itself posed a problem and poses it still. According to philosophers such as Nietzsche and Kant, nothing can be known about noumenal reality, not even that it exists. Yet, throughout the ages, humankind has striven to express the notion of soul, the fervour and truth accompanying vision and revelation, the divinity that speaks from within.
Early metaphysical poets such as John Donne extended metaphors that compared very dissimilar things. This was to make us think, to try to express the paradoxical nature of all things metaphysical. After all, in the search for truth and meaning, a truth is only considered a truth if it expresses both opposites and everything in between. Such is the struggle of the writer of metaphysics who attempts to clothe philosophical ideas plucked from the ethers of universal thought.
T.S. Eliot is a fine example of a more modern metaphysical poet. He wrestles with noumenal experiences using extended metaphor, as the ‘Things of God’s cannot be known in any other way.
In terms of modern metaphysical literature, writers such as Paolo Coelho, Herman Hesse, and Jean Paul Sartre weave philosophical concepts into simple stories to which most can relate. These stories make us think. They make us question the meaning of life. They ask us to reach beyond the world of tangible reality and allow soul into life.
These days, modern metaphysical/visionary literature often crosses genres and enters into the little celebrated field of magic realism. In this genre, the supernatural is part of tangible reality; spirit and nature are interwoven, inseparable, and unquestioned, and the extraordinary is made ordinary. Metaphysical literature tells tales of the inner life. Usually these tales are told simply, in prose that reaches to express the beauty inherent in us and in the world about us. Its task is to give voice to soul and its yearning to transcend the suffering of everyday reality.