Monday, January 7, 2008

Realist Narrative/ Political Propaganda

In an additional comment on the Shakespeherian Rag, I wrote:

I would stretch Dan Green's idea here... that I think it is precisely the motive to represent reality with precision and honesty, that is the greatest driving force pushing artists to move beyond established conventions.

It's an open question as to what has contributed to the confusion since the innovations of the Modernists, and their more insistent inclusion of the artifice as part of the reality. After all, this is far from new... think of Stern, Cervantes, Shakespeare.

Somehow this has been cast as a quest for the new. I think critics of the visual arts have contributed more to this impression than literary critics. My idea here, is that this misrepresents a deeper and more telling impulse. We do want to represent reality--but reality eludes us. Again and again, we discover that all our attempts have fallen short--mere conventions mirroring, not "reality," but the projections of the age.
There's a weak analogy here to scientific theories, with a difference that makes the difference--and this would be my main point: that the representations of art are self-deconstructing, in that they INCLUDE the artifice in the presentation itself, they do not hide it. The naive view of "realist" or "naturalistic" narrative is a reactionary misreading, ignoring the foregrounded structure... like ignoring that the pleasure of trompe d'oeil painting resides in our very awareness that the fly on the rose petal is made of paint!

The triumph of a Flaubert set piece--the wedding in Mdm Bovary, or Zola's race scene in Nana, resides, not in our making ourself stupid enough to believe it's real, but in knowing, even while we physically and emotionally respond to its evocation, that it's made of words!

The reactionary response pretends the artifice doesn't exist--or is only there to make us forget it (the so called, "suspension of disbelief")... not at all unlike the rhetoric of reactionary politicians.

Story telling that demands the suspension of mindfulness is not innocent entertainment. It is the fundament of propaganda, its necessary precondition. Those who write in this mode are the servants of the tyrants of our age.

1 comment:

  1. And it is metaphor that reminds us that wedding scenes and races are made of words.