Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Art is Essentially Communal

Scraps and Thoughts Gathering Toward an Aesthetic Manifesto

Something I need to build on... too tired, but want to paint the thought on a sign board... to force myself to follow up on it...

Imagination is real. Yes, Blake was right. Everything we are capable of imagining is real. Not, perhaps, as Blake meant this... a particular kind of reality, not to be confused with the real of science, of the objective physical world. Real, none the less.
Politics is a reality of that same order; hence, the lie of those who would write and promote literature in the guise of an aesthetics free of politics... and worse,  in the name of "realism".. James Wood, Nigel Beale... ideological anti-realists dedicated to protecting their unacknowledged politics through  an aesthetics infused in every word with politics, permitting themselves to be used by that which they refuse to see-- a campaign of denying the reality of the impact of politics, class and privilege...not speaking here of fictional characters--of narratives about politics, but the politics that informs aesthetic judgment itself
The myth of the lone artist is a lie. Yes, a writer returns to a room alone to work on a novel... but filled with the fizz and clang of engagement with others--other writers, artists, thinkers, friends and enemies--not to imitate, not to fit in, but to stand alone with others.  No accident that great movements in art and letters have been centers of communal engagement... we learn how to be great individuals by learning how to find our place with others. Life is with others. Art comes into being with others. Arguing, defending, resisting, competing... not only with the Great Dead, but with the living.  The pretense  of an aesthetics without politics is a myth propagated by those with a vested interest in preserving power as it is, bought into by those who court the confirmation of established order,  the security of'rule and measure' brought out in a year of dearth.


  1. Jacob,
    My heart goes out to Nigel. When he was less informed, he picked the wrong side of a crucial argument and now, because of ego, he's stuck with it. Look at how unhappy he is in his choice. I wish there was a way to help him get himself right with himself. Truth is, I also feel that way for Cap'n Wood. Or I would, if he hadn't already done such terrible damage to writers I truly care about. Hideous, deformed man.

  2. Frances,
    I sense nothing duplicitous in Nigel. His tastes seem governed by a certain anxiety, perhaps, staying close to what's safe. He defends and promotes what he believes in, and for the most, leaves his buddy, Wood, to carry out the disingenuous attacks against writers who don't pass the Strunk & White Sentence Dress Code. or worse, as Edmond Caldwell argues so well on Contra James Wood, the way he takes novels that challenge his comfort level, yet whose authority and power cannot be dismissed, and sets out to domesticate and tame them by what can only be deliberate misreadings--I mean, he's not stupid--he's got to know what he's doing. This is what places him (Wood) for me in the New Criterion camp: politically driven criticism in the guise of virginally pure aesthetic judgment.

    I detect no evidence of bad faith in Nigel's criticism, but Wood is full of it, which makes it almost impossible to take him on without appearing to indulge in ad hominem attacks. Arguing in the framework he offers validates the very thing that makes his criticism so objectionable.

    Most of all, I HATE the perpetuation of "realist versus ... whatever." It's ALL real! Such wonderful stuff on Paul Bryant's Larvel Subjects, his forging past Deleuze and Lacan on just this... what a rich brew for a future aesthetics on that blog!

    Interesting to see how Wood seems to have picked up on this, how he's painted himself into a corner on the 'realist' thing... trying to expand what he means by the "real," without beginning to grasp the problem he creates with his almost childishly simplistic assumptions about representation.

    I do ramble on... troubled by Nigel's last embrace of Wood. There's a place for what he does with his blog, and his interviews... but the more he turns to Wood to defend his own views, the more rigid he makes himself out to be (where I think there's a naturally more expansive sensibility being taken advantage of... ). I can take Nigel as Nigel... but with Wood...he's let himself be corrupted.