In Thresholds and Testimonies, Frederic Will presents a hymn to the Great Chain of Being, that metaphor for cosmic order frequently invoked in the eighteenth century. In presenting his image for that order of things which the great religions affirm, Will draws from his experience as translator poet, essayist, and analyst of literary and linguistic history.
Will sees evidence for such order when junctures form between adjacent but discrepant planes of experience. Such thresholds can be found, for example, between texts in different languages, or with seemingly discrepant scientific and poetic ways of accounting for experience. When we experience these thresholds, we testify to our discovery in writing, or in thought, or in silent awareness.
Will's first and last chapters- on translation and testifying, respectively- lay out the book's argument. His second and third chapters are concerned with how beauty finds its actuality. Next Will examines texts concerning water, taken from religious, poetic, and scientific discourse, and concludes that they are only different ways of doing the same work.
A long essay, "The Quanta of Imagination" juxtaposes two differently accented accounts of what the imagination is and does. Here Will looks into the convergences between Coleridge's view of the art-making faculty, and the views of major positivists, in a spectrum from Wittgenstein to Carnap.
Other essays promote similar awarenesses of continuity by their involvement with activities such as translation, essaywriting, the work of lyricism, or the articulation of one's sense of historical time.
Will's hope is to contribute to what he takes to be the major human tradition: as sense of the order, shape, and purpose in a universe which opens itself only to oblique partings.