Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Art as the Unnameable

A plea was published in the NY Times by Robert B. Pippen, In Defense of Naïve Reading, on behalf of the as yet, and thankfully, uncemented and not well-framed relationship of Literature and scholarship. He mentions an important point along the way about the sort of knowledge/understanding gained through experience of a piece of art that resists purely formalized and theoretical explication, and in turn, any necessary application of "results" in the scientific sense. Radical poets (even tenured ones) recognize and celebrate this reality in their performances/publications that call attention to the inadequacy (and aft-reckoning, really) of academic observations and valuations. Of course, the humanities programs must insist on having methodological criteria so to be taken seriously enough by the populace to receive funding. And given the fear of artistic compromise and assimilation by academic forces of rigid, expositive communication, I think most true, working artists prefer it that way. But what interests me is this casting of Theory as professing to be a totalizing or summative extraction of a "whole" or wholly exploited meaning. Granted, the worst kind of criticism pretends to this very idea. But some, and let's employ that word, the best, critical analyses that I have read typically admit from the get-go their reductive and cognitive mythologizing or archetypal tendencies, and really only crippling one's admiration for works of art (classical as well as modern) when taken as the say to end all says, rather than one ideologically grounded inference within a vast constellation of possible inferences. The business of academic discourse has, so far as I've seen, recently been to detract such monumental positions toward aesthetic experiences/investigations. Drawing one's own sense of several critical perspectives can be daunting, but we already (hopefully) do it with the two-party political system, acknowledge this and that exaggeration or misstep, and being widely informed enough to justify voting for/against a party-sanctioned candidate. Of course, this is my take, not necessarily yours.

"Literature and the arts have a dimension unique in the academy, not shared by the objects studied, or 'researched' by our scientific brethren. They invite or invoke, at a kind of 'first level,' an aesthetic experience that is by its nature resistant to restatement in more formalized, theoretical or generalizing language. This response can certainly be enriched by knowledge of context and history, but the objects express a first-person or subjective view of human concerns that is falsified if wholly transposed to a more 'sideways on' or third person view. Indeed that is in a way the whole point of having the 'arts.'"

No comments:

Post a Comment