Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Note taking. All comments removed by admin. [and restored years later. I'm surprised.]

A lot of good comments by others, but with few exceptions not really much defense of their importance even by those making them. They're all defending something and doing a good job of it. But what is it?

“the fiction of ideas ” vs the fiction of preferences and of preferences described in common form. When the fiction of ideas lasts, it’s not because of the author’s intent but in spite of it. The only immorality in craft is hypocrisy. There’s something hypocritical in fascist art, but there’s nothing hypocritical in a Titian portrait of the schmuck Philip II.

What Titian gives us is a complex description of the language and categories of meaning in the period. Categories of perception in Venice in 1550 are worlds away from those of Florence in 1520: the difference between flat and idealized images of substance and substance used to to describe immateriality. At the end of his life Titian was painting with his fingers. Try reading Kant for half an hour and then a page of Hegel. You feel like you’re suddenly on a different planet. Same thing

Mimetic art is the description of something you love so much you can be honest about it, or that you hate so profoundly and know so well that you show it in all its complexity. Marx and both Eliot work. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong about the subject only that you’re observant, articulate and honest in describing your response.

Shakespeare will be with us as long as Plato. But Plato’s taste for intellectual elegance is both his strength and his weakness. It’s only possible because Socrates is supplied with straw men to go against.
“It’s now no longer fashionable to insist that the arts ought to have practical value beyond the pleasure they give us”
Fashionable is the word, there’s no logical reason. Read Jerome Groopman on doctors as diagnosticians and the risks of going straight to testing rather than close observation and examination. A diagnostician is and needs to be a connoisseur: someone who doesn’t let rules do his thinking for him. What role does a connoisseur have in naturalized epistemology? None. Is an idea ever as complex as a human being? No. So maybe we need connoisseurs of humanity, not experts. And that’s what trial lawyers and politicians and actors and novelists and confidence men and playas are.
Hamlet is not an idea and even as an invention he’s more complex than most people. That’s a bit much but it’s the sort of rhetorical flourish that gets people in trouble. I’ll live with it.
“More to the point, though, we watch them again and again for the sake of the music of the verse.”
It’s more than that. The characters themselves are works of art: complex and contradictory and memorable unities, even if we can’t quite say of what sort.
To add one more thing about the whole thread and my defense of a kind of thinking.
These sort of arguments are important even though, or even because, there’s no one answer. It’s still arguing about ideas one step removed, as sensibility. Conversation itself creates culture. Since arguing over preference sharpens your awareness of it and actually changes it, making whatever you think a more sophisticated version of what it was.
And the morality of Shakespeare lies in this, and in his and his characters’ relation to the audience and theirs to him. The plays are very directly about and for and played by “us.”

Matthias Wasser: Aleksandr Nevsky was my Star Wars. And I saw it first couple of times in a theater. You have a point (but not a “data point”). Eisenstein wrote wonderfully about the difficulty of creating three dimensional characters for the new revolutionary culture. He loved Noh theater as a classical form with cardboard cutouts… that weren’t. That worry on his part makes even the pure propaganda films like The General Line worth seeing.
#98 “perhaps to describe Shakespeare as “amoral” would be better”
But he’s not amoral. Is Euripides amoral because he’s not Plato?
In as English harden chaotic because it’s not modeled on Versailles?
And Geo is the one arguing for Versailles. He’s the conservative. Shakespeare is radical by comparison, but he describes the radical so as to make it normative, and in a sense unthreatening.
Shakespeare’s order is unstable and protean but it’s an order. It’s just not something you can remove from the language of the plays: the subject matter and form are inseparable. There’s no takeaway without loss. The plays the thing. That’s the idea.
He doesn’t profess a philosophy he makes one manifest.
124: Shakespeare clearly means us to think that Macbeth, Antony, et al are heroes, that there’s something sublime and awe-inspiring about their character and purposes.

"You, say that reality is under no obligation to be interesting. To which I'd reply that reality may disregard the obligation that that we may not"

I think Geo doesn't understand the difference between reactionary intellectualized nihilism and a sympathetic interest in people as they are. Wilder's Double Indemnity like Macbeth has a central character as killer. And no one would justify his actions because they're interesting, without misunderstand the movie. It's not a mash note to Leopold and Loeb. Others have done that, and defended such things as necessary to counter bourgeois banality, but not Wilder, and not Shakespeare. To understand people you have to risk sympathizing with them, even if they're murderers or pedophiles or criminals of whatever sort. It's a standard line that authors needs to love all their characters, even the bad ones. And sympathy is risky, but not as risky as walling yourself off from experience. As I said on another thread refusing to ever take a drink is not a guarantee of being clearheaded. It could be another symptom of the opposite.

Count me among those who dislike Borges as a illustrator rather than an artist, and as a reactionary. But both Borges and Geo are interested in ideas more than people.
And by the way, the authors of mash notes to L&L are classed as a category of postmodernists and they are in the sense of being mannerists: imposing formal clarity on an unclear world. Like Borges. The mature post-modern is baroque. With Dworkin for example, neither legal positivism nor natural law theory but law as theater and argument as constitutive of justice. And with Shakespeare: conversation not truth is constitutive of society.
As I’ve tried to make clear you’re not arguing about literature but about values. Geo says that Shakespeare is conservative and defends what others call a schoolmarmish conservatism. He criticism Shakespeare worship but defends idealized heroes. Are they even appropriate for a democratic culture? Is it fair to say that Shakespeare only indulges human foibles while offering nothing better? I think the plays themselves offer something better: a public discussion of human foibles
Was Shaw’s socialism ever viable? What was it rooted in but paternalism? Is paternalism ever liberal? Stop talking about literary “tastes” and start talking about moral preferences. You are already anyway.

Art is the manifestation of ideas in ordered form. The artist concentrates on the form, the critic concentrates on the ideas. Art by critics usually sucks. Historians are too smart to try. And the criticism by artists is as idiosyncratic the conducting of composers. But we learn from both the authors and their interpreters.

Q- Is Geo a liberal or a conservative? The fact that he may consider himself a liberal is irrelevant.
I have one in moderation. I won’t repost it, since I have no idea what set it off. Or maybe it’s just me. But I want to add something that makes the same point.
The title of Geo’s book is “What Are Intellectuals Good For?” not “What are Poets Good For?”
There’s a lot of Platonism in modern criticism, even modern literary criticism. Just throwing that out as a defender of poetry over professors.

This whole debate is over philosophy by means of literature. Maybe you should make the philosophical debate explicit. In the wider scheme of things, is Shaw in fact a liberal? Are Geo’s arguments actually liberal?
Shaftesbury in The Moralist (1709). seems to have been the first to stress the basic contrast between such “tailored” gardens and untouched nature “where neither Art nor the Conceit or Caprice of Man has spoiled” the “genuine order” of God’s creation. Even the rude rocks” he feels “the mossy Cavern. the irregular unwroght Grottoes, and broken Falls of Waters. with all the horrid graces of the Wilderness itself, as representing Nature more, will be more engaging, and appeal with a Magnificance beyond the formal Mockery of princely gardens.” It took only one further step to postulate that the gardens themselves conform to the “genuine order of nature” instead of contradicting it. Where Le Notre had said that good gardens must not look like woods, Joseph Addison in the Spectator of 1712 painted the image of an ideal garden which comforms to the laws of “nature unadorned” (as Pope was to express it seven years later).

…To conceive of a garden as a piece of “nature unadorned” is of course a contradiction in terms; for a Joshua Reynolds was judiciously to remark in his Discourses on Art, ” if the true taste consists. as many hold, in banishing every appearance of Art or any any traces of the footsteps of man it would then be no longer a garden.” He therefore prcfers the definition of a garden as “Nature to advantage dress’d”; and it was this concept (well expressed by Pope when he admonishes the gardener “to treat the Goddess [Nature] like a modest Fair,/Nor Overdress nor leave her wholly bare”

Erwin Panofsky, "The Ideological Antecedents of the Rolls-Royce Radiator" in Three Essays on Style

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