Art museums frequently remove old paintings from their original settings. In the process, the context of these works of art changes dramatically. Do museums then preserve works of art? To answer this question, I consider an imaginary painting, The Travels and Tribulations of Piero's Baptism of Christ, depicting the history of display of Piero della Francesca's Baptism of Christ. This example suggests that how Piero's painting is seen does depend upon its setting. According to the Intentionalist, such changes in context (...) have no real influence upon the meaning of Piero's painting, and consequently museums can be said to preserve works of art. According to the Skeptic, if such changes are drastic enough, we can no longer identify the picture's original meaning, and museums thus fail to pre- serve works of art. Skepticism deserves attention, for such varied influential commenta- tors as Theodore Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Maurice Blanchot, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Martin Heidegger, Hans Sedlmayr, and Paul Valery hold this pessimistic view of muse- ums. I develop the debate between the Intentionalist and the Skeptic. Ultimately skepti- cism is indefensible, I argue, because it fails to take account of the continuities in the his- tory of art's display. But Intentionalism is also deficient because it is ahistorical. In pre- senting the history of Piero's painting, The Travels and Tribulations of Piero 's Baptism of Christ shows that we can re-identify the original significance of Piero's work and the rec- ognizable continuities that obtain through its changes. It thus makes sense to claim that at least in certain circumstances art museums can preserve works of art. (shrink)
continent. 1.3 (2011): 158-170. The Fragment as a Unit of Prose Composition: An Introduction —Ben Segal The fragment, the note, the idea, the aphorism even: there are many names and as many uses for such small shards of free-floating text. Typically fragments are less works than gestures, arrows pointing in the direction a person might research, meditate on or develop. Unlike paragraphs or sentences, they do not flow directly from and into their bordering text. Instead they are independent, defined by (...) their singularity, by the white space that encases them on a page – even when they are cobbled together and marshaled into service as the contents of a book. Still, though not exceedingly common, books of fragments (or notes or what-have-yous) do exist. However they are labeled, the very aloofness of disconnected micro-texts allows them certain privileges and possibilities that a writer can employ and exploit. In such instances, the book of fragments may, almost paradoxically, gain a coherence as a singular work, all the more satisfying for its fractures. Two such books are Maggie Nelson's Bluets and Evan Lavender-Smith's From Old Notebooks . In this mini-feature, continent. is pleased to present a series of excerpts from each of these books, a selection of 'outtakes' – fragments that did not make it into the final manuscripts – from each, and short interviews with both Nelson and Lavender-Smith about the fragment as a literary device. Notes on the interviews: 1) Since this feature includes excerpts and outtakes from both Bluets and From Old Notebooks , I chose to ask both Nelson and Lavender-Smith similar questions about working with the fragment as the building-block of a larger work. This means that the questions are, for the most part, more concerned with things like form than about specific passages from the books. 2) In both interviews, I ask a question that cites The Literary Absolute . It should be noted that TLA is concerned with the fragment as developed and understood in the context of the Jena Romantics (the Schlegel brothers, Novalis, etc.), not necessarily the fragment in general. Maggie Nelson Interview: 1. "Bluet" conjures a constellation of similar words. These include Blue, Bullet, and the flower to which the word actually refers. I'm wondering if this range is intentional and if there's anything I'm leaving out. Or, more simply, can you talk a little about the title? I first got interested in the word BLUETS via the painter Joan Mitchell, about whom I’d written earlier in my book on women and the New York School. LES BLUETS is the name of one of my very favorites of all her paintings; she painted it the year I was born. Later the poet Jimmy Schuyler wrote a lovely prose poem about this painting, which I also adored, and which I’ve also written about. So the word had been in my mind for some time, as had her amazing painting (which is in several panels, so also in parts—i.e. in dialogue with questions of parts/wholes). While it was in progress, I always called BLUETS “The Blue Book.” But I knew I always wanted an eventual title that referred, however obliquely, to the book’s form. In this case, the form is notably PLURAL, as is BLUETS, which seemed right. Also, I have always pronounced BLUETS “bluettes,” which is kind of a personal joke about feminization. Like, “majorettes,” etc. It’s a joke because I think the book has a lot to do with the robustness of being a female human, so I found irony in the diminutive nature of the suffix. I also liked the fact that the word means a kind of flower, as it allowed each proposition, or whatever you might call each numbered section, to be thought of as a single flower in a bouquet. This sounds cheesy here, but I think I talk about this idea in a less cheesy way in the book itself, near the end, when I’m ruminating on its composition, and its surprising (to me) slimness, or “anemia.” 2. I know you've thought (and taught) about the fragment as a mode of writing. I'm wondering how your study of the form influences the way you use it. While writing a book, I’m influenced by things the same way I would imagine most writers are: I look for what I want to steal, then I steal it, and make my own weird stew of the goods. Often while writing I’d re-read the books by Barthes written in fragments— A Lover’s Discourse , Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes —and see what he gained from an alphabetical, somewhat random organization, and what he couldn’t do that way. I mostly read Wittgenstein, and watched how he used numbered sections to think sequentially, and to jump, in turn. I read Shonagon’s The Pillow Book , and tried to keep a pillow book about blue for some time. (It didn’t last long, as an exercise, but some of the entries made it into BLUETS.) I re-read Haneke’s Sorrow Beyond Dreams , which finally dissolves into fragments, after a fairly strong chronological narrative has taken him so far. In the course I taught on the fragment, which was somewhat after the fact of writing BLUETS, but conceived in relation to it, we studied a kind of taxonomy of fragments: the decayed fragment (Sappho); the contemporary fragment (text messages, twitter, blog posts, etc.); the modernist fragment (T.S. Eliot; fragment as mark of psychological disintegration); Freud’s fragment (dreams, slips, etc. as thruways to the unconscious; the sampled or plagiarized fragment; fragment as waste, excess, or garbage; the footnote; fragment as frame (Degas, Manet); life narrative as fragment: we can’t see the whole until we’re dead, and then we can’t see it (pathos); fragment as psychological terror (castration, King’s head); fragment as fetish, or as “organ-logic,” as pornography; fragment as metonym & synecdoche; fragment as that which is preserved, or that which remains; fragment as the unfinished or the abandoned; and so on and so forth. I think, in the back of my mind, I was aware of all these categories while writing BLUETS, and put them each into play as needed while writing. The book seems to me hyper-aware of the fragment as fetish, as catastrophe, as leftover, as sample or citation, as memory, and so on. Many of the anecdotes in the book (such as about the decay of blue objects I’ve collected, or my memory of a particularly acute shade of blue, or the recountings of dreams) perform these concepts quite directly. 3. In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like the idea of the “super-work,” the fragment that indicates the whole it has been excised from. However, on a concrete level, I don’t think that’s really true of BLUETS. Some of the propositions are very much in dialogue with the ones that have come before it, acting as rebuffs, or conclusions, or swerves. To detect their motion, one has to already be in the car. Often they are as short as: “ Disavowal , says the silence,” or “As if we could scrape the color off the iris and still see,” or “In any case, I am no longer counting the days.” These don’t make much sense outside of their context. Although, now that I’ve isolated just these few, I can see that they might gesture to the whole—but I think you’d have to know what the whole was, for the exercise to feel full. I am interested, however, in the notion of collecting, of a collection—and how to know when to stop, when you’ve amassed enough. While writing BLUETS, I thought of Joseph Cornell as the ultimate teacher in this respect: he collected enormous amounts of junk, he “hunted” for treasures all over the city, but each box or collage or even film has a certain minimalism, each feels as if it’s been distilled to become exactly as specific as it should be. In other words, the composition emanates from the piles of junk left in its wake, but it in itself becomes perfect. It may be unfashionable, but I’m interested in this sense of perfection. 3b. Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? I have to admit, I don’t entirely understand this question. Preservation of potentiality—that’s what I don’t quite understand. I will say this, though: writing a book, especially a book of this kind (i.e. I’d wanted to write a book on the color blue for my whole life), has a certain pain in it—the pain of manifestation. Every word that gets set down, every decision made—form, content, sentence structure, image—begins to define a work that previously was a kind of infinitely indeterminate mental cloud, or beautifully diffuse physical sensation. As the book comes into being, I’m often thinking, “this is it? this is all it’s going to be?” For me, I think it’s this feeling, rather than that of not having anything to say, or a terror of the blank page, that can bring a sort of writer’s block. Think of Lily Briscoe at the end of Woolf’s To the Lighthouse —after her long reverie, she eventually must make the mark on the canvas. She brings the brush down, then sighs: “There, I have had my vision.” To have made the mark, to have manifested the vision, brings with it a certain satisfaction, a certain euphoria and relief—but also a brand of pathos. Of all the possible books, you wrote this book. Of all the possible brush strokes, you made this one. How very strange! The good news is, you’re usually so tired when you finish a book that you don’t care anymore—you’re just happy it’s finished, and that you can move on. And if you’re lucky, you may eventually marvel at the specificity of the result, feel the magic and largesse in its specificity, in its singularity. I feel this way about BLUETS. 4. Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in Bluets as well as other texts that use a similar approach. BLUETS always had a specific set of dramatic personae, and also a sort of narrative arc. It begins by saying, “Suppose I were to begin,” which places the whole book, at least for me, in the realm of the novelistic, or at least the speculative. That freedom was important to me while writing. I have a lot of issues, for lack of a better word, with narrative, but I also have no problem with trying to structure a work so that it acts as a page-turner. I wanted there to be a lot of momentum in this book, as well as plenty of opportunities for eddying out into cul-de-sacs. That was the tension—how to make some chains of propositions that pull you forward, and then allow for some to bring you so far afield that you might find yourself wondering, “why are we talking about this here?” before remembering how you got there, and why it might matter. While some of the fragments may seem disconnected or distinct, the truth is that they each had to fall into one the book’s major categories, which included love, language, sex, divinity, alcohol, pain, death, and problems of veracity/perception. If I truly couldn’t tether an anecdote or factoid to the thread, it eventually had to go. I also spaced out the distinct threads fairly methodically, and had the characters reappear at a fairly regular rate. There’s even a kind of “where are they now?” section at the end, announced by my injured friend’s letter to her friends, in which she tells them how her spinal cord injury has affected her life, and how she feels today. I’m sure one could write a book of very disconnected fragments that didn’t so overtly weave into a whole—I’ve read many of them—but it’s also true that the mind will always work overtime to put disparate things together; the Surrealists mined that tendency for all it was worth. I think that’s a cool approach, to let the reader make the connections, but it’s important to me as a writer to make sure that the connections, when made, actually point toward what I want to be pointing at, rather than just reflecting the human brain’s capacity to make a bridge. 5. To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes, fragments, bluets, and aphorisms? Basically, is taxonomy important? Taxonomy, hmm. At some point I was very compelled by issues of taxonomy, but over the years I’ve grown less interested in the question, as the notion of the “hybrid” or the “cross-genre” seems to have become its own kind of jargon or pitch. I got very excited some time ago when I was trying to subtitle my book JANE, and I came across Brian Evenson’s book DARK PROPERTY: AN AFFLICTION. I thought—of course! A book can be a CONDITION rather than a GENRE. So I subtitled JANE “A Murder,” with this concept in mind. My most recent book, THE ART OF CRUELTY, I subtitled “a reckoning,” using the same logic. This has been one means of skirting the whole genre issue. On the other hand, I don’t really like it when people called BLUETS “notes” or “aphorisms,” or “fragments,” because it’s not really any of those things. Aphoristic philosophy—which was one of this book’s inspirations—is not made up of just aphorisms per se. There may be great aphorisms to be found in Nietzsche or Wittgenstein, for example, but neither is writing a series of one-liners. Their projects are bigger than that. They are in dialogue with argumentation as much as with impression. Likewise, I don’t really see BLUETS as poetry. I mean, I don’t care if someone wants to call it that—if they do, it happily expands the notion of poetry—but I’ve written enough poetry to have a lot of respect for its particular tools, which include the line break, and forms of logic unavailable to prose. BLUETS thinks in prose; it is written in prose. It sometimes thinks in images, and sometimes in sound, but essentially it is about sentences, and about trains of prose logic and their limits. But if someone wants to call it poetry, I wouldn’t go to the mat about it. 6. Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Texts about fragments to recommend: Here are the ones that come immediately to mind: The Notebooks of Joseph Joubert , Anne Carson’s If Not, Winter , Stevie Smith, “The Person from Porlock,” the poetry of Lorine Niedecker, Lucille Clifton, and Paul Celan, Tom Phillips’s A Humument , Ann Lauterbach’s essay on “the whole fragment,” Linda Nochlin, The Body in Pieces , Mary Ann Caws, The Surrealist Look , Heather McHugh, Poetry and Partiality . And the drawings of David Shrigley 7. And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. No, I’m happy with these questions!! The Beginning of Bluets (An Excerpt) 1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkins as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal. 2. And so I fell in love with a color – in this case, the color blue – as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns. 3. Well, and what of it? A voluntary delusion, you might say. That each blue object could be a kind of burning bush, a secret code meant for a single agent, an X on a map too diffuse ever to be unfolded in entirety but that contains the knowable universe. How could all the shreds of blue garbage bags stuck in brambles, or the bright blue tarps flapping over ever shanty and fish stand in the world, be, in essence, the fingerprints of God? I will try to explain this. 4. I admit that I may have been lonely. I know that loneliness can produce bolts of hot pain, a pain which, if it stays hot enough for long enough, can begin to stimulate, or to provoke – take your pick – an apprehension of the divine. ( This ought to arouse our suspicions. ) 5. But first, let us consider a sort of case in reverse. In 1867, after a long bout of solitude, the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé wrote to his friend Henri Cazalis: “These last months have been terrifying. My Thought has thought itself through and reached a Pure Idea. What the rest of me has suffered during that long agony, is indescribable.” Mallarmé described this agony as a battle that took place on God's “boney wing.” “I struggled with that creature of ancient and evil plumage – God – whom I fortunately defeated and threw to earth,” he told Cazalis with exhausted satisfaction. Eventually Mallarmé began replacing “le ciel” with “l'Azur” in his poems, in an effort to rinse references to the sky of religious connotations. “Fortunately,” he wrote Cazalis, “I am quite dead now.” 6. The half-circle of blinding turquoise ocean is this love's primal scene. That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it. To have seen such beautiful things. To find oneself placed in their midst. Choiceless. I returned there yesterday and stood again upon the mountain. 7. But what kind of love is it, really? Don't fool yourself and call it sublimity. Admit that you have stood in front of a little pile of ultramarine pigment in a glass cup at a museum and felt stinging desire. But to do what? Liberate it? Purchase it? Ingest it? There is so little blue food in nature – in fact blue in the wild tends to mark food to avoid (mold, poisonous berries) – that culinary advisers generally recommend against blue light, blue paint, and blue plates when and where serving food. But while the color may sap appetite in the most literal sense, it feeds it in others. You might want to reach out and disturb the pile of pigment, for example, first staining your fingers with it, then staining the world. You might want to dilute it and swim in it, you might want to rouge your nipples with it, you might want to paint a virgins robe with it. But you still wouldn't be accessing the blue of it. Not exactly. 8. Do not, however, make the mistake of thinking that all desire is yearning. “We love to contemplate blue, not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it,” wrote Goethe, and perhaps he is right. But I am not interested in longing to live in a world in which I already live. I don't want to yearn for blue things, and God forbid, for any “blueness.” Above all, I want to stop missing you. 9. So please do not write to tell me about any more beautiful blue things. To be fair, this book will not tell you about any, either. It will not say, Isn't X beautiful? Such demands are murderous to beauty. 10. The most I want to do is show you the end of my index finger. Its muteness. Bluets that did not make the final version of Bluets We think of a glowing chunk of sapphire, for instance, or a pane of Chartres stained glass, as luminous, and God knows they are. But such luminosity doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with clarity . To call something a false idol is to elevate it to the company of deities, even if one eventually casts it down (cf. Milton giving Lucifer the best speeches). For the truth is that I have never really understood what love and will have to do with each other. Following the blue, as if tracking a trail of decomposing crumbs left in the woods by a benevolent or absentminded stranger, is, at times, the best I can do. Joan Mitchell: so beautiful and athletic when young; so craggy and indomitable as she aged—in both cases, without vanity —like my Swedish grandparents, whom I barely knew, but whom I remember as being tan and fair at the same time, prematurely decimated by morning vodka with OJ and an endless boil of cigarettes. Do not think, however, that this is a scrapbook in which blue is the star and I its delirious fan. For it is a mistake to think of blue as separate from us. It is the bulge of the carotid against the bracket of your skin. It is the matrix of veins that enlaces your heart. At one point during this period, Klein—no stranger to grandiosity—“signed the sky.” He also arranged performances at which he dipped naked women from head to toe in IKB blue, rolled an enormous canvas out on the floor, and instructed the women to drag each other around on top of it while a string quartet played nearby. He called the women “human paintbrushes.” In both cases, I have arguably been nothing more than a child of illusion. Beethoven felt differently. “Can you lend me the Theory of Colours for a few weeks?” he wrote to a friend in 1820. “It is an important work. His last things are insipid.” There would seem to be a lesson here, but I am not prepared to describe it. “They feel as though if you fell into them you would be trapped and unable to breathe, choked and suffocated by the powdery pigment,” wrote Berger of Klein’s IKB monochromes. At times I look forward to this ravaging, if only because it represents all that I am supposed to fear, and because, if one manages to live long enough, it seems something of an inevitability, and looking forward to an inevitability seems at least an approximation of spiritual wisdom. In the far-off blue places, one finds oneself face to face with one’s stupidity. The cradle of it. It is a tremendous relief. Instead of sputtering forth a gargle, a howl, or an assertoric proposition, one can remain silent, stupefied. It is as if one’s tongue had been sewn, at long last, into its den. For one does not just seek oblivion. One can also find it. Sometimes one can even purchase it. Of the oblivion seekers themselves, Eberhardt says simply: “They are people who like their pleasure.” Caravaggio is a serious painter. He does not use blue. Neither does Goya, nor Velasquez. They are tenebrists , not denizens of the carnival. The blues of Picasso and Matisse, even in their most melancholy applications, do not strike me as altogether serious. The blues of Joseph Cornell, Hiroshige, Fra Angelico, and Cézanne, on the other hand, strike me as quite serious. The blue of Vermeer is simply too painful to discuss here. Let us leave the woman in blue alone with her letter. Let us leave her transfixed, standing on the bright edge of the earth, about to fall. In the Middle Ages, it was commonly thought that the most powerful mordant was a drunk man’s piss: yet another instance in which alcohol fastens the blue. But one can, I think, feel similarly bound, without the spirit. And when Cornell made Rose Hobart , he had to snip away 57½ minutes of the original film in order to showcase the object of his desire. Love, too, can sometimes be a condensery . On the other hand, speaking through the voice of the Egyptian god Thamus, Socrates comes down fairly forcefully for poison : “This discovery of yours [i.e. writing] will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth.” But what has a soul to do with memory? I admit that here I run out of ideas; I must again consult the Encyclopedia. “Much of our moral life depends on the peculiar ways in which we are embedded in time.” This has the aura of truth, but really it takes us no further. For what has morality to do with memory, or with a soul? Instead of a roving dialogue unfolding under the shade of a plane tree, this is more like a coarse talk show taking place in a hall of mirrors: no guests, one host. To do: make a list of people who seem to have found some dignity in their loneliness, and consult it when I feel constitutionally incapable of abiding my own. “Frequent tears have run the colours from my life” (Elizabeth Barrett Browning). Does it follow, in spiritual matters, that one’s doubt is surrounded by a plateau of certainty? “Whosoever unceasingly strives upward, him can we save,” wrote Goethe. But who is to say that faith isn’t the abyss, and doubt the surrounding peaks? For while we may have learned the names for these things, articulation is still a form of accommodation. We stutter to each other in a sort of shorthand, at times carving out shapely analogies. But we cannot be sure that we are talking about the same things, or that we are employing the same code. —But now you are talking as if you were drowning, your lungs swollen with expired air. Why not just give up the dive? In which case you could start swimming along the surface: a cold spot here, a warm patch there. Same pond. Remember: the knights pure enough to enter the presence of the Holy Grail never return. It is only those who have been “incompletely transformed” who come back to tell the tale. And some seekers don’t come back from the wilderness as shamans, but rather as brain-damaged vegetables whose musculature now resembles gelatin. Remember this if someone appears in a field of chollas, hands you a loincloth and a tab of pure blotter acid with one hand, and keeps the other out of sight. We might here note that Andy Warhol was also, for a time, riveted by blue pussy. His blue pussy was a beatific cat, gazing upward from the last page of his 1954 book of watercolors, 25 Cats Name Sam and One Blue Pussy , looking as if he were happily anticipating “pussy heaven,” as Warhol elsewhere termed the feline afterlife. Perhaps, then, the mistake is to look for a vividness, or a sweetness, apart from illusion. In which case we waste much precious time warding off the specter of the mirage . In such moments, death itself may appear a light-hearted occurrence. Evan Lavender-Smith Interview: 1) Do you consider From Old Notebooks (FON) to be a kind of constraint writing? I guess it would have been more of a constraint if you'd only culled things from your notes instead of writing pieces specifically for/relating to FON. I certainly think that the book shares something important with constraint writing, as I think it does with conceptual writing, although I don't know that it fits neatly into either of these categories. Perhaps it's a kind of faux-constraint or -conceptual writing. The book's primary constraint—only things written in notebooks are allowed —sort of collapses under the weight of its own self-reflexivity; as you say, the entries become about the book itself, which I think ends up undermining or subjugating the austerity we associate with a more typical constraint-based writing. I suppose there's also a secondary constraint associated with the structure of the book and the ordering of the entries, this zany process whereby I classified entries according to a number (1 through 12, I think) referencing subject/theme, then deleted all of the entries leaving only their reference numbers, then arranged the numbers in something resembling sonata form, then plugged all the entries back into their placeholders. But that's a very secret, Roussel-type constraint, one that perhaps does not do much to create a noticeable intensity of constraint. And also I ended up making many revisions to the order of the entries that broke with the output of my secret formula. So yes, I think something like "sham constraint" writing is probably a more appropriate designation. 2) FON is very often self-reflective, often feels as if it is struggling to pin itself down. I'm wondering if the form (disjointed notes) allows for that kind of reflection to creep in repeatedly without weighing down the whole book. Does the ability to ask a question and then immediately head off in a totally different direction free you to be self-doubting without wallowing? Does this question make sense? Maybe I should ask more generally what kinds of content does this form afford that more traditionally structured work might not? I am hopeful that the self-reflexivity is less cloying in this book than I find it to be in other highly self-reflexive texts on account of what you mention, the ability of the book to veer off in another direction nearly every time an instance of explicit self-reflexivity occurs. I would say this is also the case with respect to the book's many instances of pathos and sentiment or even bathos and sentimentality: whenever the book broaches sentimentality in an entry, it is followed by another entry about something totally different, which can serve to undercut the sentiment of the previous entry. And this is probably also the case with the book's movement toward and immediately away from entries/fragments dealing with specific literary or philosophical texts/authors with which some readers may be unfamiliar, insofar as one entry might concern Kant's transcendental idealism and the next entry the color of my infant son's poo. The book is quite contrapuntal, in this respect, which is one of the things that original structuring scheme was meant to effect. As to alternative or unusual kinds of content afforded by the book's form, I'd like to think they are many, but I have always been most excited by what I perceive to be the book's presentation of a kind of form-becoming-content, this process by which the reader is engaged with form as he might otherwise be with character, or with setting, or with plot—part of what's driving the reading experience may be the reader's sense of an evolving form, a form that begins somewhat expositionally, that becomes somewhat conflicted and tense, and that finally achieves a kind of resolution. But, from another perspective, the book's form remains exactly the same from the first to the last page. My reading of the book would posit or project a kind of talk-to/talk-back relationship between form and content; each is strongly influencing our vision of the other, and perhaps, over the course of the book, they become difficult to distinguish. 3) In The Literary Absolute , Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy write that "each fragment stands for itself and for that from which it has been detached."(44) They go on to explain that the fragment is both "sub-work" (in the obvious sense of being only a small piece of the Work), but also "super-work", as it stands, complete in itself, outside the work and calls up the plural potentiality of the work. What do you make of this idea and how do you understand the relation of the fragment to the Work as a whole? I like this idea, but I may have some reservations about generalizing it too far beyond Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe's intended historical context. In my book, there are perhaps some entries/fragments that possess a sort of immanent intensity—entries seemingly able to "speak for themselves," so to speak—but there are also very many that do not. I think that the book itself would argue—in fact, I believe it explicitly does so—against this notion that any one of its constituent parts could be removed from the whole and still remain "meaningful" or "true." I imagine the parts of the whole, in this book, not as cogs in relation to some whole mechanics or machine, say, but instead as mechanical movement itself; perhaps the most important thing about any given entry is not what it says so much as the fact that it begins and ends. The book seems to me to be always moving forward in time and space; once a fragment has happened, the book is done with it; there's no turning back, no looking over the shoulder. There's an entry somewhere that goes something like "This book is nothing more than the trash can of my imagination," a potential interpretative model that has become something of a guiding light in my understanding of the book's form: the entries/fragments do certainly accrue, as trash accrues, but we don't necessarily feel compelled to go picking through this heap of trash. 3b) Fragments collected together become a whole that gestures to dozens of other, potential wholes. How, if at all, do you think about your book in relation to the preservation of potentiality? Of course I think about this mostly in relation to the fragments/entries concerning specific potential works, the entries that begin "Story about" or "Novel about," etc. As I continue to work to see many of the ideas in the book realized, even today—and as I will likely continue to do for a long time—I remain in a sort of dialogue with the book. So I find myself still writing the book, in some sense, even though the book is already written. One of my favorite things about From Old Notebooks is how it opens its own amorphous and evolving prefatory engagement with my future writing. I believe the book references the claim of some critics that Ulysses was written in such a way to make it appear as if it were presaged by passages in the New Testament, just as some have claimed that passages in the New Testament were written to create the appearance of having been forecasted by passages in the Old Testament (I believe there is a specific poetic figure denoting this kind of retroactive foreshadowing that I'm now failing to recall). I've always really loved that idea and perhaps still hold out hope that my future writing will serve to indirectly modify From Old Notebooks in these types of sly and tricky ways. Also, in relation to the above-mentioned trash-can model as one of many such potential models for the book's form, there's a way in which the book regularly returns to a reading of itself, always trying to understand how it is working and always coming up with new strategies for its own analysis. So it seems to me, with respect to the preservation of potentiality, that the book is also intent on preserving its own "infinite hermeneutics" (or at least an illusion thereof). 4) Can you talk a little about the way traditional prose standbys like character and narrative develop out of distinct and disconnected fragments? I feel like this definitely happens in FON as well as other texts that use a similar approach. I think it's important to address the burden placed on the reader vis-à-vis development when considering narratological staples like character and plot in relation to highly fragmented narratives. In my own reading experience of books in which neat narrative progression is supplanted by a fragmentary or elliptical progression, the reader oftentimes must begin committing to processes of projection and transference in order to eke out that amount of development she would require of narrative. I especially like this possibility for two reasons. The first is that in the absence of stable or "full" development, we may feel inclined, as readers, to fill in the blanks with manifestations of our own, consciousness-specific desire for coherence, which can create a sort of personalized Möbius strip out of reading and writing, artistic creation and reception becoming tangled, distinctions and distances between these categories becoming blurred. The second, which may follow from the first for the more theoretically inclined reader, is that this process may serve to expose our own prejudices about what narrative is supposed to do or achieve, thereby leading us to an anxious readerly condition in which we are forced to confront the poverty of our own understanding regarding the first principles of narrative art. These two effects—1) tangling the reading/writing experience, and 2) forcing the reader's reconsideration of artistic rule—are, to my thinking, among the most powerful effects available to writing. 5) To what extent does how you label your texts matter? What is the difference between notes , fragments , thoughts , and aphorisms ? Basically, is taxonomy important? Supplementary question: In FON , there is a passage: "Why am I so averse to classifying FON as poetry-because poetry doesn't sell." If you want, this might be a good place to talk about genre classifications as well. This answer will surely seem coy or naïve to some people, but the fact is that my own tedious and protracted grappling with the strictures and arbitrariness of generic classification has finally given way to a vision of an imaginative writing largely unfettered by those academic or commercial or cultural pressures which have served to delimit the typological boundaries of art and language. That seems to be a goal for me, anyway, to work to maintain a position of restless and relentless searching in relation to form, and to resist, as best I can, pressures associated with the commodification or canonization of language and form. Of course that position is itself probably overdetermined by pressures both within and beyond my comprehension—e.g. it is very reactionary; very Modernist, in a sense—and it also strikes me to be of a piece with a rather antiquated and distasteful image of artistic creation and the "author-function," but nonetheless it's what I seem to prefer. 6) Are there other texts (of or about fragments) that you'd like to recommend? Here are some things I've recently read and enjoyed in which I felt the fragment was the text's dominant or near-dominant mode of engagement with narrative/poetic/philosophical development and progression. Mean Free Path , Ben Lerner Bluets , Maggie Nelson Varieties of Disturbance , Lydia Davis Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel , Evan S. Connell AVA , Carole Maso Reader's Block , David Markson Deepstep Come Shining , C.D. Wright The Passion According to G.H . by Clarice Lispector The Crab Nebula , Éric Chevillard The Book of Questions , Edmond Jabès Monsieur Teste , Paul Valéry Mourning Diary , Roland Barthes The Arcades Project , Walter Benjamin Philosophical Investigations , Ludwig Wittgenstein "Diapsalmata," from Either/Or , Søren Kierkegaard Unfortunately, I haven't read much theory discussing the fragment as a narratological device, although I did enjoy the Nancy and Lacoue-Labarthe book you mention above. 7) And finally, is there anything you wish I would have asked? Please ask/answer if so. I should say that From Old Notebooks is currently out of print, as I, perhaps bullheadedly, insisted that the publisher remove the book from their catalog when I discovered that they'd been implementing a pay-to-publish scheme, which, given the revelation of its specific details, I felt to be manipulative and unethical. There are many used copies floating around, though, and I am hopeful that the book will be reprinted someday. From Old Notebooks Excerpts NB: The first excerpt covers the first few pages of the book. The second covers pages 16 and 17. These excerpts show how FON develops from a series of ideas for texts to a more varied series of notes that further reveal the character, preoccupations, and desires of the writer. Excerpt 1: Short story about a church on the ocean floor. Congregation in scuba gear. Memoir in which narrator struggles to describe her childhood – offering two or more contrary accounts of the same event – having been raised by divorced parents with unresolved anger toward each other such that discrepancies between parents' accounts of each other's involvement in her childhood have damaged narrator's memory beyond repair. Academic essay entitled “ Cute Title: Serious Subtitle : On the Preponderance of Precious Subtitling in Academic Essays.” Novel in chapters, each chapter spanning one year, 1977 – 2006. In lieu of chapter number, photograph of Tom Cruise's face from that year. Story about a garbage man who cannot fathom how anyone might be content living a life not wholly dedicated to being a garbage man. Excerpt 2 Something entitled “From Old Notebooks,” simply a transcription of entries from these notebooks. Story involving a couple whose divorce proceedings center upon the allocation of the books contained in the family library. Living off-campus on the outskirts of a city where I knew no one, in a studio apartment the size of a large walk-in closet, I would occupy myself in the evenings with and obsessive study of the shadows of my hands against the wall as I faux-conducted piano concertos; and later, after having taken three Ambien, intimate conversations with bits of magma crawling across the carpet that had detached from the glowing wires on my electric space heater. That same year, in a fit of manic loneliness, I invited a raccoon into my apartment with a trail of cracker crumbs. Do not let Jackson and Sofia live off-campus as undergraduates. Cached auto-complete entry options that appear when I type the letter e into the search field in the toolbar of my internet browser: evan lavender-smith “evan lavender-smith” “evan lavender smith” evan + “lavender-smith” evan + “lavender smith” evan + lavender + smith The letter f: fear of death Contemporary authors who construct a thick barrier between themselves and their readers such that authorial vulnerability is revealed negatively, i.e., via the construction of the barrier. If Team USA had a mascot, it would be God. Character who refers to Wellbutrin as his muse. “I hope to one day storm out on Terry Gross during an interview because I am that kind of eccentric famous author.” ----------------- Notes that were cut from From Old Notebooks Short story about literary executors sifting through the Gmail account of a recently deceased author. It would better suit me to drive a hybrid hearse. First line of a story: "The M.F.A. in creative writing was the degree Shontiqua had her sights set on . " Story/mock-essay: conflation of the obnoxious languages of U.S.A. patriotism and M.F.A. workshops. The flag at half-mast because the market’s way down today. Awakened from dream . . . saw figure in arrangement of stars . . . closed eyes . . . dream changed. . . . The smile is perhaps the human equivalent to the dog's wagging tail, with an important caveat: the human can fake a smile. Can a man fake an erection? To do philosophy, Back then I was doing some philosophy —what a ridiculoususage. It is thanks to the proud philosopher who, attempting to justify his existence, humbles himself to a position of activity. The greatest act of fraud on the part of philosophy is that it attempts to exist outside of time , the word of the philosopher presented to us as the Word. This is what Derrida means to criticize when he praises Nietzsche's pluralism, or Levi-Strauss's mythopoetics: Philosophy cannot pretend to be above or beyond the form of the book. The question of being flashes through us , mind and body. The corporealization of the question of being. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must—write? The proliferation of M.F.A. programs in creative writing has given rise to the whirlpool of conservatism which is contemporary American literature. Surely it's no coincidence that I began From Old Notebooks shortly after I stopped seeing my therapist. Somewhere I read Edmund Wilson refer to Beckett's late style as terminal . I understand why he would say so, but I would prefer to reserve that term for David Markson's late style. Random House settles out of court to pay $2.35 million in genre-damages made by James Frey against his readers. What if the publisher of F.O.N. markets the book as a novel , and it later comes to light that the book was in fact a memoir . . . ? That the problem of death has been outmoded is the grand illusion of philosophy after Heidegger. The modern philosopher says, "Death is not my problem. Being is my problem." The modern philosopher might call death an adolescent problem , and being an adult problem . But what he fails to recognize is that the concept of being is merely an abstraction of the concept of death. (He forgets that being is incidental to non-being, and that the latter is only conceivable by way of analogy to death .) The modern philosopher wants to pretend that death is irrelevant to his project, but it is the impetus for his project. Surely the reason I lash out against it is that I am jealous of poetry. Surely contemporary poetry does not deserve my wrath . Someone could read the book with an almanac in hand and point to certain entries which suggest the concurrence of public events (e.g., terror, war, football), thereby assigning dates to those entries. As if. Do people auction their personal diaries on eBay? I might consider auctioning these notebooks if the book is ever published, in keeping with the spirit of the book, that is, the spirit of facile self-disclosure. The poem is dead. Long live the poem! The ending of F.O.N. might contain the beginning of the next book—a sequel entitled Work-In-Progress . F.O.N. might blurinto W.I.P. The point of physical distinction between the two books would be arbitrary. Work-In-Progress would be written in the same form as F.O.N., but it would be also written in an entirely different form, as the (conception of the) form of the book "F.O.N. + W.I.P." is an evolving (conception of) form, a (conception of) form that is always becominganother (conception of) form. No matter how much I want to force From Old Notebooks to become something called Work-In-Progress , I won't be able to: any contrived becoming of that sort would represent a violence on the form of the book. I'm going to have to take a leap at some point, though, a leap out of the book, like a leap from a burning building. “The Voidhood of the Void; or, An Archaeology of Nothing.” Rather than enact the high drama of self-reflexivity, the new writing will accept self-reflexivity as status quo —metafiction's birthday is passed, no need to keep celebrating—in the tradition of the documentary film, the reality TV show, and the internet blog. Such a writing must, by definition, be genreless, or make the question of genre irrelevant: hence, the post-generic . Perhaps my next novel will be a one-page poem. (shrink)
continent. 1.2 (2011): 136-140. In early 2011, Cow Heavy Books published The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature , a compendium of catalog 'blurbs' for non-existent desired or ideal texts. Along with Erinrose Mager, I edited the project, in a process that was more like curation as it mainly entailed asking a range of contemporary writers, theorists, and text-makers to send us an entry. What resulted was a creative/critical hybrid anthology, a small book in which each (...) page opens to a new iteration of textual desire. These texts explore the material possibilities of the book. Somewhat parallel to the call of N. Katherine Hayles who, in her book Writing Machines , urges literary theorists to take up the practice of Medium Specific Analysis (to account for the way the medium in which it is presented conditions or at least bears on a literary text). I see in the imagined works of The Official Catalog a call for the innovative writers of today to become Medium-Responsive. This would mean thinking through the specific (materially constrained) possibilities offered by the media in which texts are presented, and in thinking of the literary text as a kind of art in the greater context of other arts and the book as a medium situated within the context of many other media. In doing so, the contemporary writer refutes the chorus of critics who lament the death of the book by consistently reinvigorating literary innovation. The following are selections from The Official Catalog of the Library of Potential Literature that show possible paths for (thinking about) new writing that engages with its medium. —Ben Segal, Editor THE CUBE Even the most radical non-linear texts have tended to exploit or subvert only the sequential possibilities of print—from the continuous loop of Joyce's Finnegans Wake to the shuffled cards of Marc Saporta's Composition No. 1 —but The Cube takes such multiplicities to an entirely new level. Set in a grid, the book's words can be read conventionally, across the page, as well as down each column—with either route making complete grammatical sense. But they can also be read as stacked strata and mined like lexical core samples through the layered pages of the book. Each path tells the same story from a different perspective (the narrative, naturally, hinges on the potential outcomes of a throw of cubed dice). By opening up the z-axis to reading in this way, The Cube recognizes the book as a three-dimensional sculptural space. Taking its lead from Armand Schwerner's (If Personal) and Raymond Queneau's Cent mille milliards de poèmes , The Cube reads like a experiment by Christian Bök precision printed by Emily McVarish. Craig Dworkin is the editor, most recently, of The Consequence of Innovation: 21st Century Poetics (Roof Books, 2008), The Sound of Poetry/The Poetry of Sound , with Marjorie Perloff (U. Chicago Press, 2009), and Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing , with Kenneth Goldsmith (Northwestern UP, 2010). He teaches at the University of Utah. HE GOES In He Goes , we read notes, letters and e-mails from a scholar father to his novelist daughter. We read of the father's musings on Beckett, on Pinter, on Anne Frank; his description of a woman hanging laundry from a line. We read about his journey toward dying, followed by a brief, third person account of his death, and his obituary. Then a long series of blank pages that demand to be read in real time, non-sentence by non-sentence, blank page by blank page. Finally—and it is here that this peculiar little book begins to soar—the dead father writes to his as-of-yet-still-living daughter. He does not write from death. He does not write from life. The words unprint, unstamp, unkindle. Still, they require no translation. The father "writes" (for lack of a better word) about the serendipitous, the commonplace; he recommends another book. He jokes. He asks his daughter how her stomach is. He says forget about presence in absence, darling; screw words as memorial and the guys in garbage cans and loss as redemption and I can't go on I must go on. He goes, "Love, Fodder." He goes, "incidentally." He goes, "I thought you might like to know." Elizabeth Graver is the author of a story collection, Have You Seen Me? , and three novels: Unravelling ; The Honey Thief ; and Awake . Her work has been anthologized in Best American Short Stories , Best American Essays , and Prize Stories: the O. Henry Awards . She teaches at Boston College. THE PAPER ARCHIVIST A stunning package and a triumph of imagination, The Paper Archivist at times looks to be less a book than an abstract expressionist painting. Softly bound, its contents unfold to a single sheet of uneven thickness and texture—a canvas splattered with colored lines, stickers, broken sentences, and nonsense pictographs. But by following the directions to fold, dip, smell, rub, scratch, and tear the sheet according to the contingencies of the weather and using only the objects at hand, the reader slowly brings the forces hidden in the noise into a glorious sculptural convergence, processing a different story and shape each time. This is the rare book that continues to stir, whirl, and pop on every new reading. Sean Higgins blogs at BOMBlog where he is responsible for the column Volumes and Territories, as well as Ghost Island , a fledgling collaborative intellectual collective. THE SLOW BOOK The Slow Book , written by an anonymous author at the dawn of literacy, on a minor planet (otherwise notable only as the source of that exceptionally hardy, not very tasty grain called “shef” sowed on hostile planets as an early step to colonization), and encoded into a series of punctures on a strip of copper coiled inside a clever device, something between a player piano and an old-fashioned film projector, is being released into print, as was the author’s intention, at a rate of one word per century (local time). Each word is, across the Forty Galaxies, agreed to be uncannily apt for the century in which it appears—even “of,” in a century during which the highest value was attached to fidelity, whether to ideals, worlds, or romantic love; even “the,” which governed two centuries, one extraordinarily materialistic, during which advances in propulsion and navigation accelerated the exchange of exceptional objects between the remotest planets of the Forty, and one in which the central concern, both of philosophers and the common man, was whether, in an age of rapidly proliferating hypothetical worlds, anyone or anything concretely existed at all. Even those words published long before interstellar contact can be seen in retrospect to have transgalactic pertinence. As a result, attempts to abstract the machine from its publishers, Hobson & Hui, in order to “predict the future” for insight or gain by “fast- forwarding” the copper strip have been many and ingenious. While, in centuries of skepticism (“maybe”), or of unrest (“go”) the book has been nearly forgotten, in others it seems to haunt every thought, every deed, despite the fact that the subject of The Slow Book is still unclear. So far only a few sentences exist in print; everyone knows them, can quote them, offer the standard exegeses and assorted heresies; yet certainties are the stuff of adolescence; mature readers are forced to acknowledge that these sentences are probably only a preamble to the main argument. They contain no proper nouns, nor can we identify any definite theme. There is even disagreement about their tone, whether coolly ironic, as some insist, or ardent. The appearance of an unusual grammatical case, sometimes called the future pluperfect continuous, used to describe events that at some future point will have always been true (but are not yet)—hitherto known to appear only in the synthetic dogmas of the Thanatographical Society, and in certain highly circumscribed religious contexts—has suggested to some scholars that the Slow Book was originally intended for ritual use, but the proximity of the usage to a term designating a small hand plow that, as Pott and Mielcke have convincingly shown, would have borne a distinctly obscene double meaning in its culture of origin in the author’s time, argues otherwise. It is likewise unclear whether the situation that seems to be—with teasing incompleteness—sketched out in these few lines is intended as an illustration of general principles, a case study, a dramatic scene, or an extended metaphor. In short, we have no idea what The Slow Book is about. In our own time, we believe that it is almost certainly a work of fiction, but that may be because we live in the century of “if”. In each age, perhaps, we see the book we most need to read. Some have dared to suggest that the metal strip is blank until, with millennial fanfare, it advances into its new position, that no ur-text exists, that the book itself is brought into being—written—by our need. But that is exactly the sort of thing we would believe, in 7645. Shelley Jackson is the author of the story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy , the novel Half Life , and hypertexts including Patchwork Girl . The recipient of a Howard Foundation grant, a Pushcart Prize, and the 2006 James Tiptree Jr Award, she has also written and illustrated several children's books, including The Old Woman and the Wave ; Sophia, the Alchemist's Dog ; and Mimi's Dada Catifesto . Her stories and essays have appeared in Conjunctions , McSweeney's , The Paris Review , and Cabinet Magazine . In 2004 she launched her project SKIN , a story published in tattoos on 2095 volunteers. THE BOOK OF SOUNDS The Book of Sounds is just that: a book of sounds made when letters are construed in new ways to bring forth out of the alphabet new forms of speech. A book meant to be read out loud, The Book of Sounds is not unlike Laurie Anderson's O Superman or Brian Eno's Music for Airports in its attempt to make music out of the most primary and simplest of methods. It breaks language down to its barest bones and makes out of the page a drum that has never before been beaten upon. Peter Markus is the author of a novel, Bob, or Man on Boat (Dzanc Books) as well as two books of short fiction, Good, Brother and The Singing Fish , both of which were published by Calamari Press. A new collection of stories, We Make Mud , is now available from Dzanc Books. PARADISE OF THE BLIND by Celan Solen Although the reclusive Celan Solen published his first and only book in 1963—paying out-of-pocket for a limited edition of the slim collection No One May Have the Same Knowledge Again —he remained in American obscurity for almost three decades. In 1992 a micro-press in Istanbul brought out No One in Turkish. A German translation followed in 1995. Soon it became clear in literary circles Solen was a world-class (if highly unclassifiable) artist—lyrical, dense, enigmatic—who could undo the conventional short story in 397 words by inventing impossible worlds housed in impossible whirls (in “Small Sadnesses,” a single chartreuse tree frog in Borneo unknowingly holds time together by its very presence in the universe, while each letter of its tale refers, not to itself, but to the one preceding it in the alphabet). By his disappearance last year, Solen was considered master by a generation of writers and critics (except, alas, for those gentlemen in the Swedish Academy). Imagine, then, that generation’s delight at the discovery, locked away in the author’s safe-deposit box, of his second and final composition. Had Lynch’s Lost Highway been book instead of film, and had it been penned by Beckett at his least certain, revised by Barthelme at his most formally deranged, and typeset by Derrida at his most semiotically catastrophic, the result might have been something like Paradise of the Blind : interlacing narratives of a man composed of borrowed organs (whose most cheerless and difficult to locate, god, could only have been invented by an empty heart), a nonexistent medieval painting blamed for the ruin of future hope, and the spread of a philosophy that holds earth a mistake constantly recurring in the dream of a fish lying on the floor of the Atlantic (if the fish wakes, our world winks off)—all contained in a text packed with typed-over passages, torn postcards, poems that can be deciphered only when held up to a mirror, pages ornamented with trompe-l'œil paperclips and coffee stains and buzzing houseflies, some busy with illegible runes that dissolve when exposed to light, three that smell like roses or lemons (depending on whether a man or woman is reading), two that stain with the bloody fingerprints of the those who handle them, one that ignites when brushed with breath, thirteen sewn from baby skin, one that moans when touched, and one that screams—yet all without mass, unimaginable, and invisible. Lance Olsen is author of more than 20 books of and about innovative fiction, including, most recently, the novels Calendar of Regrets (2010) and Head in Flames (2009). He teaches experimental narrative theory and practice at the University of Utah. SUPERSTRUCTURE! by Barbara D'Albi As soon as I opened the third drawer of Barbara D'Albi's wooden novel, everything became hopeless. Now in Ithaca, there was no going back. And it wasn't just the intricate series of shelves, hinged doors and locked drawers which D'Albi layered into the book, no, lo, I was constructed anew by the story. Who else but D'Albi to imagine a God who becomes a carpenter and gets killed?! And makes it good! You want stories? D'Albi is a skyscraper, built with planes and levers. Momentarily I wondered where I could shelve this book, and then I thought: no matter; I couldn't put it down. Adam Robinson lives in Baltimore, where he runs Publishing Genius. He is the author of Adam Robison and Other Poems and Say, Poem. 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In his Critical Aesthetics and Postmodernism, Paul Crowther argued that art and aesthetic experiences have the capacity to humanize. In Art and Embodiment he develops this theme in much greater depth, arguing that art can bridge the gap between philosophy's traditional striving for generality and completeness, and the concreteness and contingency of humanity's basic relation to the world. As the key element in his theory, he proposes an ecological definition of art. His strategy involves first mapping out and analyzing the (...) logical boundaries and ontological structures of the aesthetic domain. He then considers key concepts from this analysis in the light of a tradition in Continental philosophy (notably the work of Kant, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Hegel) which--by virtue of the philosophical significance that it assigns to art--significantly anticipates the ecological conception. On this basis, Crowther is able to give a full formulation of his ecological definition. Art, in making sensible or imaginative material into symbolic form, harmonizes and conserves what is unique and what is general in human experience. The aesthetic domain answers basic needs intrinsic to self-consciousness itself, and art is the highest realization of such needs. In the creation and reception of art the embodied subject is fully at home with his or her environment. (shrink)
Zombie art, or salvage art, are artworks that are damaged beyond repair, deemed ‘no-longer-art’ by insurance companies, and removed from the market and stored at claims inventories due to their purported loss of value. This paper aims to make sense of the notion of zombie art. It then aims to determine whether artefacts that fall under this concept retain any aesthetic value, and whether they can genuinely cease being artworks, i.e. be dead art.
A psychoanalytic psychology and art of unconscious emotion -- An inward turn : Vienna 1900 -- Exploring the truths hidden beneath the surface : origins of a scientific medicine -- Viennese artists, writers, and scientists meet in the Zuckerkandl Salon -- Exploring the brain beneath the skull : origins of a scientific psychiatry -- Exploring mind together with the brain : the development of a brain-based psychology -- Exploring mind apart from the brain : origins of a dynamic psychology -- (...) Searching for inner meaning in literature -- The depiction of modern women's sexuality in art -- The depiction of the psyche in art -- The fusion of eroticism, aggression, and anxiety in art -- A cognitive psychology of visual perception and emotional response to art -- Discovering the beholder's share -- Observation is also invention : the brain as a creativity machine -- The emergence of twentieth-century painting -- A biological science of the beholder's visual response to art -- The brain's processing of visual images -- Deconstruction of the visual image: the building blocks of form perception -- Reconstruction of the world we see : vision is information processing -- High-level vision and the brain's perception of face, hands, and body -- Top-down processing of information : using memory to find meaning -- The deconstruction of emotion : the search for emotional primitives -- The artistic depiction of emotion through the face, hands, body, and color -- Unconscious emotions, conscious feelings, and their bodily expression -- A biological science of the beholder's emotional response to art -- Top-down control of cognitive emotional information -- The biological response to beauty and ugliness in art -- The beholder's share : entering the private theater of another's mind -- The biology of the beholder's share : modeling other people's minds -- How the brain regulates emotion and empathy -- An evolving dialogue between visual art and science -- Artistic universals and the austrian expressionists -- The creative brain -- The cognitive unconscious and the creative brain -- Brain circuits for creativity -- Talent, creativity, and brain development -- Knowing ourselves : the new dialogue between art and science. (shrink)
Increasingly, medical educators integrate art-viewing into curricular interventions that teach clinical observation—often with local art museum educators. How can cross-disciplinary collaborators explicitly connect the skills learned in the art museum with those used at the bedside? One approach is for educators to align their pedagogical approach using similar teaching methods in the separate contexts of the galleries and the clinic. We describe two linked pedagogical exercises—Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in the museum galleries and observation at the bedside—from “Training the Eye: (...) Improving the Art of Physical Diagnosis,” an elective museum-based course at Harvard Medical School. It is our opinion that while strategic interactions with the visual arts can improve skills, it is essential for students to apply them in a clinical context with faculty support—requiring educators across disciplines to learn from one another. (shrink)
Morals from Motives develops a virtue ethics inspired more by Hume and Hutcheson's moral sentimentalism than by recently-influential Aristotelianism. It argues that a reconfigured and expanded "morality of caring" can offer a general account of right and wrong action as well as social justice. Expanding the frontiers of ethics, it goes on to show how a motive-based "pure" virtue theory can also help us to understand the nature of human well-being and practical reason.
With this, the first volume in the Oxford Philosophical Monographs series, Paul Crowther breaks new ground by providing what is probably the first study in any language to be devoted exclusively to Kant's theory of the sublime. It fills a gap in an area of scholarship where Kant makes crucial links between morality and aesthetics and will be particularly useful for Continental philosophers, among whom the Kantian sublime is currently receiving widespread discussion in debates about the nature of postmodernism. Crowther's (...) arguments center on the links which Kant makes between morality and aesthetics, and seek ultimately to modify Kant's approach in order to establish the sublime as a viable aesthetic concept with a broader cultural significance. (shrink)
Heidegger places Wagner’s will to the total work of art at the centre of the long 19th century. Nietzsche’s and Mallarmé’s responses to Wagner reflect all the ambiguities of modernism’s myth of absolute creation: the dreams of a new mythology and a new community are shadowed by the knowledge that the gods are nothing more than our fictions. Nietzsche and Mallarmé continue and critically interrogate the two distinct lineages of the total work of art deriving from German romanticism and the (...) French Revolution respectively, at the same time as they anticipate the contrary constructions of the sacred in society in Le Bon and Durkheim. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: Introduction: The Rise of Philosophical Art Criticism 1 -- Chapter 1. In the Beginning Was Formalism 17 -- Chapter 2. The Structuralist Adventure 33 -- Chapter 3. The Historicist, Antiessentialist Definition of Art 55 -- Chapter 4. Resentment and Its Discontents 71 -- Chapter 5. The Deconstruction of Structuralism 87 -- Afterword: The Fate of Philosophical Art Criticism 111.
Realists regarding scientific knowledge – those who think that our best scientific representations truly describe both observable and unobservable aspects of the natural world – have special need of a notion of approximate truth. Since theories and models are rarely considered true simpliciter, the realist requires some means of making sense of the claim that they may be false and yet close to the truth, and increasingly so over time. In this paper, I suggest that traditional approaches to approximate truth (...) are insensitive to two crucial features of scientific knowledge, and that for each of these, analogies between representational practices in the sciences and in art prove useful to understanding how this situation can be remedied. First, I outline two distinct ways in which representations deviate from the truth, commonly referred to as ‘abstraction’ and ‘idealization’. Second, I argue that these practices exemplify different conventions of representation, and that for each, the conditions of approximation relevant to explicating the concept of approximate truth must be understood differently. The concept is thus heterogeneous; approximate truth is a virtue that is multiply realized, relative to different contexts of representation. This understanding is facilitated, I suggest, by considering the distinction between realistic and non-realistic representation in art. (shrink)
This article attends to Deleuze and Guattari's idea of a ‘minor literature’ as well as to Deleuze's concepts of the figural, probe-heads and the diagram in relation to Bacon's paintings. The paper asks specifically what might be usefully taken from this Deleuze–Bacon encounter for the expanded field of contemporary art practice.
This article takes its shape from a recent conference at the School of Visual Arts in NYC on the theme, 'Tradition and the New: Educating the Artist for the Millennium'. Central to the way the conference was advertised and described was an implicit tendency to view tradition as wholly separate from the new. While the conference did not itself make a theoretical argument for the opposition of tradition and the new, Arthur Danto's recent elaboration of a thesis of the 'end (...) of art' does provide such a theoretical underpinning for the opposition that the conference seemed to presuppose. Danto's thesis of the end of art offers a compelling view of 'what' and 'where' art is today, but it also has troubling implications for how our relation to the past is configured and, in Danto's view of art's having come to an end, for what it means that we are now living in 'post-historical' times. That is, as a compelling contemporary reading of the history of art, Danto's thesis seems to be more implicated in the very modernist project that he, in other ways, seeks to move effectively beyond. This article, then, explores the problem of counterposing tradition and the new, specifically, in Danto's thesis, but also more generally. In the first part of the article, I present Danto's end of art thesis. Next, I will offer a counterweight to this tendency to separate tradition and the new by examining the concept of 'effective history', focussing here on the writing of Hans-Georg Gadamer. Gadamer's insights, which I will link to Nietzsche, provide a way of moving beyond some of the problematic implications of Danto's thesis, and also illuminate some of the ethical dimensions at stake. In concluding, I will look at some contemporary examples where the notion of effective history can be productively applied. Key Words: art theory effective history end of art hermeneutics modernism tradition. (shrink)
(1994). Introduction to the special issue on art and science: Studies from the world academy of art and science. World Futures: Vol. 40, Art and Science: Studies from the World Academy of Art and Science, pp. 1-1.
I relate the aesthetic mediation of reason and the identity of religion and mythology found in the Earliest System-Programme of German Idealism to Hegel’s account of the transition from the ancient Greek religion of art to the revealed religion (Christianity) in his theory ofabsolute spirit. While this transition turns on the idea that the revealed religion mediates reason more adequately in virtue of its form (i. e., representational thought), I argue that Hegel’s account of the limitations of religious representational thought, (...) when taken in conjunction with some of his ideas concerning Romantic art, suggests that he fails to demonstrate the necessity of the transition in question, thus undermining the triadic structure (i. e., art, religion, philosophy) of his theory of absolute spirit.Dans cet article, jelais un lien entre, d’une part, la médiation esthétique de la raison et l’identite de la religion et de la mythologie formulées dans le premier programme systématique de l’idéalisme allemand et, d’autre part, le récit que fait Hegel de la transition menant de la religion grecque antique de l’art à la religion révélée (la chrétienté) dans sa théorie de l’Esprit absolu. Bien que cette transition repose sur l’idée que la religion révélée médiatise la raison plus adéquatement grâce à sa forme (la pensée représentationnelle) , je soutiens que, si on considère parallèlement à ses idées sur l’art romantique les explications que donne Hegel au sujet des limitations de la pensée représentationnelle religieuse, ces explications laissent apercevoir qu’il échoue à démontrer la nécessité de la transition en question, ce qui a pour effet de faire s’effondrer la structure ternaire art, religion, philosophie de sa théorie de l’Esprit absolu. (shrink)
Perceptions are often merely regarded as the basic elements of knowledge. They have, however, a complex structure of their own and are far from being elementary. My paper will analyze two basic patterns of perception and some of the resulting medical implications. Most basically, all object perception is characterized by a mixture of knowledge and ignorance (Husserl). Perception essentially perceives with inner and outer horizons, brought about by the kinesthetic activity of the perceiving subject (Sartre). This first layer of perceptual (...) reality, the world of open perceptions, is the inescapable background for every rationality, every value, every existence (Merleau-Ponty). On an epistemological level a characteristic change of perceptual patterns in medicine was introduced by pathological anatomy (Foucault). The reference of medical perception to the dead body created the new possibility of absolute perception, allowing for more precise medical interventions, but at the same time coming into conflict with the open structures of ordinary, non-scientific perception patterns in everyday life. On the basis of these distinctions, an analysis of the different perceptual patterns in medicine becomes possible. Such an analysis would be the task of a sub-field in medical philosophy that could be called medical aesthetics having as its goal an art of perception understood as a technique of adequately applying different perceptual patterns in medical practice. (shrink)
In his philosophy of nothingness, Kitarō Nishida illuminates the matrix of transformation of the world "from the Created to the Creating" (tsukuru mono kara tsukurareta mono e) through shintai, or the body. In this matrix, shintai enters into the stage of an action-sensation continuum and emerges as the immaculate iconic tool of nothingness to create new figures as extended self. This idea of shintai has resonance with the development of postwar art in Japan. The "Space of Transparency" put forth by (...) Ufan Lee, the leader of Monoha, is the principal example. This essay investigates Nishida's notion of shintai and its influence on Lee's theory of art. (shrink)
Introduction : cinema, memory, modernity: the return of memory as film -- No escape from time : memory and redemption in the international postwar art film -- The "crisis" of memory : "traumatic identity" in the contemporary memory film -- "Global memory" : cinema as lingua franca and the commodification of the image -- The eye of history : memory, surveillance and ethicality in the contemporary art film -- "Prosthetic memory" and transnational cinema : globalized identity and narrative recursivity in (...) City of God -- Conclusion: remembering to forget: the catachreses of modernity. (shrink)
In his article, "The End of Aesthetic Experience" (1997) Richard Shusterman studies the contemporary fate of aesthetic experience, which has long been regarded as one of the core concepts of Western aesthetics till the last half century. It has then expanded into an umbrella concept for aesthetic notions such as the sublime and the picturesque. I agree with Shusterman that aesthetic experience has become the island of freedom, beauty, and idealistic meaning in an otherwise cold materialistic and law-determined world. My (...) paper starts from the main dimensions of aesthetic experience in the history of Western aesthetics as concluded by Shusterman. In terms of our experiential practices in the fragmentation of modern life and the disjointed sensationalism of the media, I also agree with Shusterman that people are losing the capacity for deep experience and feeling, especially when we are undergoing various extensive series of informational revolutions. My paper is also a response to Shusterman's claim that the concept of aesthetic experience is worth recalling, not for formal definition but for art's reorientation toward values and populations that could restore its vitality and sense of purpose. I mention the recent calls for values and life concerns in art in the Anglo-American aesthetics circles, which has also turned to the possible strength of aesthetic experience, claiming that "Aesthetics is the Mother of Ethics." Amidst the discourse is the review of John Dewey's notion of "aesthetic experience," which claims to support a transcultural view and common patterns, as the relationship is structured around human needs. A basic question posed in the article is whether this Deweyan notion still remains equally influential as in the past and whether it really provides a satisfying answer to the problem of art and value? The discussion will turn then to neo-Confucian aesthetic models for reference, and to point out some meaningful comparative revelations. (shrink)
The geography of contemporary bohemia is integral to Richard Florida’s thesis of the rise of a new creative class in the USA. The strong correlation between the presence of bohemians and innovative high-tech industries in a number of American cities stands in sharp contrast to the historical image of a bohemian subculture of artists and intellectuals, defined by their antagonistic relationship to bourgeois society. Rather than a sign of social marginality, bohemian life-styles have now become a marker of the ‘new (...) economy’, variously labeled the creative, the cultural or the aesthetic economy. In my paper I want to compare and contrast these two opposed images of bohemia – the 19th-century idea of bohemia as the libertarian other of liberal-bourgeois society and the new, highly topical economic geography of bohemia – with the following questions in mind: How and why does the 19th-century artistic critique of capitalism mutate into an expression of the new spirit of capitalism? Does this change from an antagonistic to an affirmative relationship signal the emergence of a new spirit of art that can be related to the new spirit of capitalism? (shrink)
Up until fairly recently it was philosophical orthodoxy – at least within analytic aesthetics broadly construed – to hold that the appreciation and evaluation of works as art and moral considerations pertaining to them are conceptually distinct. However, following on from the idea that artistic value is broader than aesthetic value, the last 15 years has seen an explosion of interest in exploring possible inter-relations between the appreciative and ethical character of works as art. Consideration of these issues has a (...) distinguished philosophical history but as the Compass survey article suggests ('Art, Morality and Ethics: On the (Im)Moral Character of Art Works and Inter-Relations to Artistic Value.' Philosophy Compass 1.2 (2006): 129–43), it is only very recently that figures in the field have returned to it to develop more precisely what they take the relationships to be and why. Consensus is, unsurprisingly, lacking. The reinvigoration of the issues has led sophisticated formalists or autonomists to mount a more considered defence of the idea that aesthetic and literary values are indeed conceptually distinct from the justification or otherwise of the moral perspective or views endorsed in a work (Topic I). The challenges presented by such a defence are many but amongst them are appeals to critical practice (Lamarque and Olsen), scepticism about whether or not art really can give us bona fide knowledge (Stolnitz) and the recognition that truth often seems to be far removed from what it is we value in our appreciation of works (Lamarque). One way to motivate consideration of the relevance of a work's moral character to its artistic value concerns the phenomena of imaginative resistance. At least sometimes it would seem that, as Hume originally suggested, we either cannot or will not enter imaginatively into the perspective solicited by a work due to its morally problematic character (Topic II). In some cases, it would seem that as a matter of psychological fact, we cannot do so since it is impossible for us to imagine how it could be that a certain attitude or action is morally permissible or good (Walton). The question then is whether or not this is a function of morality in particular or constraints on imaginative possibility more generally and what else is involved. At other times, the phenomena seem to be driven by a moral reluctance to allow ourselves to enter into the dramatic perspective involved (Moran) or evaluation of the attitude expressed (Stokes). Nonetheless, it is far from obvious that this is so of all the attitudes or responses we judge to be morally problematic. After all, it looks like we can and indeed often do suspend or background particular cognitive and moral commitments in engaging with all sorts of works (Nichols and Weinberg). If the moral character of a work interacts with how we appreciate and evaluate them, then the pressing question is this: is there any systematic account of the relationship available to us? One way is to consider the relationship between our emotional responses to works and their moral character (Topic III). After all, art works often solicit various emotional responses from us to follow the work and make use of moral concepts in so doing (Carroll). Indeed, whether or not a work merits the sought for emotional responses often seems to be internally related to ethical considerations (Gaut). Yet, it is not obvious that we should apply our moral concepts or respond emotionally in our imaginative engagement with works as art as we should in real life (Kieran, Jacobson). A different route is via the thought that art can convey knowledge (Topic IV). There might be particular kinds of moral knowledge art distinctively suited to conveying (Nussbaum) or it may just be that art does so particularly effectively (Carroll, Gaut, Kieran). Either way where this can be tied to the artistic means and appreciation of a work it would seem that to cultivate moral understanding contributes to the value of a work and to betray misunderstanding is a defect. Without denying the relevance of the moral character of a work some authors have wanted to claim that sometimes the immoral aspect of a work can contribute to rather than lessen its artistic value (Topic V). One route is to claim that there is no systematic theoretical account of the relationship available and what the right thing to say is depends on the particular case involved (Jacobson). Another involves the claim that this is so when the defect connects up in an appropriate way to one of the values of art. Thus, it has been claimed, only where a work reveals something which adds to intelligibility, knowledge or understanding in virtue of its morally problematic aspect can this be so (Kieran). The latter position looks like it could in principle be held whilst nonetheless maintaining that the typical or standard relationship is as the moralists would have it. Yet perhaps allowing valence change for such reasons is less a mark of principled explanation and more a function of downright inconsistency or incoherence (Harold). The topics themselves and suggested readings given below follow the structure articulated above as further amplified in the Compass survey article. The design and structure given below can be easily compressed or expanded further. Author Recommends 1. Carroll, Noël. 'Art, Narrative and Moral Understanding.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 126–60. This article develops the idea that engaging with narrative art calls on moral concepts and emotions and can thereby clarify our moral understanding. 2. Carroll, Noël. Beyond Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Part IV consists of six distinct essays on questions concerning the inter-relations between art and morality including the essay cited above and the author's articulation and defence of moderate moralism. 3. Gaut, Berys. 'The Ethical Criticism of Art.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 182–203. 4. Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. This monograph provides the most exhaustive treatment of the issues and defends the claim that, where relevant, whenever a work is morally flawed it is of lesser value as art and wherever it is morally virtuous the work's value as art is enhanced. Chapters 7 and 8 defend concern ethical knowledge and chapter 10 is a development of the article cited above concerning emotional responses. Chapter 3 also gives a useful conceptual map of the issues and options in the debate. 5. Jacobson, Daniel. 'In Praise of Immoral Art.' Philosophical Topics 25 (1997): 155–99. A wide ranging and extended treatment of relevant issues which objects to generalising moral treatments of our responses to art works and defends the idea that particular works can be better because of rather than despite their moral defects. 6. Kieran, Matthew. 'Forbidden Knowledge: The Challenge of Cognitive Immoralism.' Art and Morality . Ed. Sebastian Gardner and José Luis Bermúdez. London: Routledge, 2003. 56–73. A general argument for immoralism is elaborated by outlining when, where and why a work's morally problematic character can contribute to its artistic value for principled reasons (through enhancing moral understanding). 7. Kieran, Matthew. Revealing Art . London: Routledge, 2005. Chapter 4. This chapter argues against both aestheticism and straightforward moralism about art, elaborating a defence of immoralism in relation to visual art whilst ranging over issues from pornographic art to the nature and demands of different genres in art. 8. Lamarque, Peter. 'Cognitive Values in the Arts: Marking the Boundaries.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 127–39. This article concisely outlines and defends a sophisticated aestheticism that denies the importance of truth to artistic value. 9. Stolnitz, Jerome. 'On the Cognitive Triviality of Art.' British Journal of Aesthetics 32.3 (1992): 191–200. This article articulates and defends the claim that no knowledge of any interesting or significant kind can be afforded by works appreciated and evaluated as art. 10. Walton, Kendall. 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, I.' Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. 68 (1994): 27–51. This article builds on some comments from Hume to develop the idea that when engaging with fictions it seems impossible imaginatively to enter into radically deviant moral attitudes. Online Materials 'Aesthetics and Ethics: The State of the Art.' American Society of Aesthetics online (Jeffrey Dean): http://www.aesthetics-online.org/articles/index.php?articles_id=15 >. 'Art, Censorship and Morality' downloadable podcast of Nigel Warburton interviewing Matthew Kieran at Tate Britain (BBC/OU Open2.net as part of the Ethics Bites series): http://www.open2.net/ethicsbites/art-censorship-morality.html >. 'Art, Morality and Ethics: On the (Im)Moral Character of Art Works and Inter-Relations to Artistic Value.' Philosophy Compass 1.2 (2006): 129–43 (Matthew Kieran): http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118557779/abstract >. 'Ethical Criticism of Art.' Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Ella Peek): http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/art-eth.htm >. 'Fascinating Fascism.' New York Review of Books Piece Discussing Leni Riefenstahl (Susan Sontag): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/9280 >. 'The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1450s), Giovanni de Paolo' (Tom Lubbock): http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-1450s-giovanni-di-paolo-1684900.html >. Vladimir Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discuss Lolita (CBS): http://www.listal.com/video/3848698 >. Sample Syllabus Topic I Autonomism/Aestheticism • Anderson, James C. and Jeffrey T. Dean. 'Moderate Autonomism.' British Journal of Aesthetics 38.2 (1998): 150–66. • Beardsley, Monroe. Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism . New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958. Chapter 12. • Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgement.Trans. James Creed Meredith . Oxford: Oxford UP, 1952 . • Lamarque, Peter. 'Cognitive Values in the Arts: Marking the Boundaries.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 127–39. • ——. 'Tragedy and Moral Value.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73.2 (1995): 239–49. • Lamarque, Peter and Stein Olsen. Truth, Fiction and Literature . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. Chapter 10. • Stolnitz, Jerome. 'On the Cognitive Triviality of Art.' British Journal of Aesthetics 32.3 (1992): 191–200. Topic II Imaginative Capacities, Intelligibility and Resistance • Moran, Richard. 'The Expression of Feeling in Imagination.' Philosophical Review 103.1 (1994): 75–106. • Nichols, Shaun. 'Just the Imagination: Why Imagining Doesn't Behave Like Believing'. Mind & Language 21.4 (2006): 459–74. • Stokes, Dustin. 'The Evaluative Character of Imaginative Resistance'. British Journal of Aesthetics 46.4 (2006): 387–405. • Tanner, Michael. 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, II'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. Vol. 68 (1994): 51–66. • Walton, Kendall (1994). 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, I'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. Vol. 68 (1994): 27–51. • Weinberg, Jonathan. 'Configuring the Cognitive Imagination.' New Waves in Aesthetics . Eds. K. Stock and K. Thomson-Jones. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 203–23. Topic III Moralism and Emotions • Carroll, Noël. 'Moderate Moralism.' British Journal of Aesthetics 36.3 (1996): 223–37. • Carroll, Noël. 'Art, Narrative and Moral Understanding.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.126–60. • Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Chapter 10. • ——. 'The Ethical Criticism of Art.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 182–203. • Hume, David. 'Of the Standard of Taste.' Selected Essays . Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993 . 133–53. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Emotions, Art and Immorality.' Oxford Handbook to the Philosophy of Emotions . Ed. Peter Goldie. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. 681–703. • Tolstoy, Leo. What is Art? . London: Penguin, 2004. Chapters 5 and 15. Topic IV Moralism and Knowledge • Aristotle. Poetics . Trans. M. Heath. London: Penguin, 1996 [367–322 BC]. • Carroll, Noël. 'The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature and Moral Knowledge.' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60.1 (2002): 3–26. • Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Chapters 7 and 8. • Gaut, Berys. 'Art and Cognition.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 115–26. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Art, Imagination and the Cultivation of Morals.' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54.4 (1996): 337–51. • Nussbaum, Martha. 'Finely Aware and Richly Responsible: Literature and the Moral Imagination.' Love's Knowledge . New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 148–68. • Plato. The Republic . Trans. D. Lee. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. Book 10. Topic V Immoralist Contextualism • Harold, James. 'Immoralism and the Valence Constraint.' British Journal of Aesthetics 48.1 (2008): 45–64. • Jacobson, Daniel. 'In Praise of Immoral Art.' Philosophical Topics 25 (1997): 155–99. • ——. 'Ethical Criticism and the Vices of Moderation.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 342–55. • John, Eileen. 'Artistic Value and Moral Opportunism.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 331–41. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Forbidden Knowledge:The Challenge of Cognitive Immoralism.' Art and Morality . Ed. Sebastian Gardner and José Luis Bermúdez. London: Routledge, 2003. 56–73. • Kieran, Matthew. Revealing Art . London: Routledge, 2005. Chapter 4. • Patridge, Stephanie. 'Moral Vices as Artistic Virtues: Eugene Onegin and Alice.' Philosophia 36.2 (2008): 181–93. Focus Questions 1. What is the strongest argument for the claim that the moral character of a work is not relevant to its artistic value? Does artistic or literary criticism tend to concern itself with the truth or morality of works? If so, in what ways? If not, why do you think this is? 2. What different explanations might there be for difficulty with or resistance to imaginatively entering into attitudes you take to be immoral? How might this relate to the way our imaginings work as contrasted with belief? How might different literary or artistic treatments of the same subject matter make a difference? 3. How do narrative works draw on our moral concepts and responses? Can we suspend our normal moral commitments or application of moral concepts in responding emotionally to art works? Should we respond emotionally to art works as we ought to respond to real world events we witness? Why? Why not? 4. How, if at all, do art works convey moral understanding? How, if at all, is this related to the kinds of moral knowledge art works can teach or reveal to us? When, where and why might this be tied to the artistic value of a work? How can we tell where a work enhances our moral understanding as opposed to misleading or distorting it? 5. What art works do you value overall as art which commend or endorse moral values and attitudes that you do not? Is appreciation of them always marred or lessened by the morally dubious aspect? If not, what explains the differences in evaluation? What, if anything, might you learn by engaging with works which endorse moral attitudes or apply moral concepts different from those you take to be justified? How, if at all, might this connect up with what makes them valuable as art? (shrink)
Ethics plus theory of action -- Thinking the good through -- Fallacious conclusions -- Animal morabile -- Action -- The principle of happiness: eudaimonia -- The happiness of aspiration -- The art of living -- Four life goals -- Virtue -- Prudence, composure, selflessness -- Wisdom rather than calculation -- Does virtue make one happy? -- Euthanasia of morals? -- From an ethic of teleological aspiration to an ethic of the will -- The principle of freedom: autonomy -- Locating moral (...) freedom -- Practical reason: freedom of action -- Autonomous reason: freedom of the will -- Objection one: determinism -- Objection two: brain research -- The criterion -- The universalizability test: two examples -- Reality -- Morally evil -- Autonomous morality and the art of living -- Does morality make one happy?. (shrink)
The State, envisioning a social function reserved for the fine arts, is engaged in driving the artistic destinies of the country. These politics were imposed as the example of a religion of the state. . . . But the slow instruction of the masses that has endured since 1908 deviated from the interest of our artists that was formed in the course of these twenty-three years.The cooperative movement began in Egypt in 1908, but up to now it has not taken (...) the necessary steps. Among the reasons are the sluggish ignorance of the masses, and its neglect by the elite and its weakness of character. The chief cause is that the cooperative movement is mostly official, for which civil servants work, and the civil servants do .. (shrink)
On the whole, neither those who hold that pornography can never be art nor their opponents specify what they actually mean by ‘art’, even though it seems natural that their conclusions should vary depending on how the concept is understood. This paper offers a ‘definitional crossword’ and confronts some definitions of pornography with the currently most well-established definitions of art. My discussion shows that following any of the modern definitions entails that at least some pornography not only can be, but (...) actually is, art. (shrink)
Total work of art in an age of mechanical reproduction -- Total stage: Wagner's festspielhaus -- Total machine: the Bauhaus theatre -- Total montage: Brecht's reply to Wagner -- Total state: Riefenstahl's triumph of the will -- Total world: Disney's theme parks -- Total vacuum: Warhol's performances -- Total immersion: cyberspace.
The new art of videogames -- What are videogames anyway? -- On definition -- Theories of gaming -- A definition of videogames -- Videogames and fiction -- From tennis for two to worlds of warcraft -- Imaginary worlds and works of fiction -- Fictional or virtual? -- Interactive fiction -- Stepping into fictional worlds -- Welcome to rapture -- Meet niko bellic -- Experiencing game worlds -- Acting in game worlds -- Games through fiction -- The nature of gaming -- (...) What are the rules of this game? -- Playing, cheating, fragging, and griefing -- Videogames and narrative -- The stories games tell -- Would you kindly put down that wrench? -- Reconciling games and narratives -- Emotion in videogaming -- How can we be moved by the fate of Niko Bellic? -- My fear of mutants -- The role of the emotions in gaming -- The morality of videogames -- The problem with crime simulators -- Are games bad for you? -- On being offensive -- Sticking up for videogames -- Videogames as art -- Are videogames art? -- A cluster theory of art -- The art in videogames -- New art from old bottles. (shrink)
Does strolling through an art museum, admiring the old masters, improve us morally and spiritually? Would government subsidies of "high art" (such as big-city opera houses) be better spent on local community art projects? In What Good are the Arts? John Carey--one of Britain's most respected literary critics--offers a delightfully skeptical look at the nature of art. In particular, he cuts through the cant surrounding the fine arts, debunking claims that the arts make us better people or that judgements about (...) art are anything more than personal opinion. Indeed, Carey argues that there are no absolute values in the arts and that we cannot call other people's aesthetic choices "mistaken" or "incorrect," however much we dislike them. Along the way, Carey reveals the flaws in the aesthetic theories of everyone from Emanuel Kant to Arthur C. Danto, and he skewers the claims of "high-art advocates" such as Jeannette Winterson. But Carey does argue strongly for the value of art as an activity and for the superiority of one art in particular: literature. Literature, he contends, is the only art capable of reasoning, and the only art that can criticize. Language is the medium that we use to convey ideas, and the usual ingredients of other arts--objects, noises, light effects--cannot replicate this function. Literature has the ability to inspire the mind and the heart towards practical ends far better than any work of conceptual art. Here then is a lively and stimulating invitation to debate the value of art, a provocative book that will pique the interest of anyone who loves painting, music, or literature. (shrink)