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Over time, and especially with modernism, a muse has come to refer to any source of creative inspiration for an artist. In ancient Greek literature, epic poems and stories were generally introduced by a muse on behalf of the author.

Muse explanation

The term muse is a relatively mysterious one. Do you want to know more about it? 

It's impossible to talk about the term muse without talking about inspiration. This is because a muse is nothing other than the source of inspiration for a creative artist and his/her literary work

Essentially, the artist feels the need to get in touch with a creative force in order to begin producing his works. The (male) artist thinks of that force as a woman; and that woman would be the artist's muse. 

Usage in literary work

Here are some examples for you of how the term muse can be used in sentences. 

"The poet began his work with a prayer to a muse because he felt that he had to give credit where credit was due."

"The writer had a very specific reason for going to the bar: he was hoping that he would run into a woman who could serve as a muse, so that he could start writing again." 

"He was in the middle of a terrible writer's block; and he couldn't help but wonder why his muse had abandoned him all of a sudden." 

From these examples, you probably get the picture. But just in case, here are a couple basic rules. 

1. Properly speaking, the muse is always a woman (or a feminine force). This is due to the historical reason that originally, a Muse was one of nine Greek goddesses of knowledge and literature. This connotation has stayed with the term over time. 

2. The term muse is often used to refer to an actual flesh-and-blood woman who inspires a creative artist. However, the term can also sometimes refer to a more general or cosmic force that the artist feels "in tune" with when he experiences inspiration. 

Inspiration from a muse

Again, a Muse was originally a Greek goddess. Within that cultural context, it is quite possible that poets and writers literally felt that they were in touch with one of these goddesses, and that the goddess was directly responsible for granting them the power of inspiration. Over time, it seems that the literal goddesses morphed into a more general feminine force that could shine through actual individual women who artists were in love with. 

Often, though, the muse (even when she is a real girl) still stays more of spiritual force than anything else. For example, Dante—the man who wrote The Divine Comedy—surely thought of Beatrice as his muse. And yet, he never had an actual romantic relationship with her at all. Something similar can be said about the Existentialist writer Kierkegaard and the woman he thought of as his muse. So, even when an actual woman becomes an artist's muse, his relationship to her may be more or less the same as the relationship he would have with an actual goddess. 

Of course, women can be creative artists as well. But it is unclear whether the word muse would be applicable in this context. Again, this is because a muse is always female: this is derived from the original Greek meaning of Muse as goddess

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