“Such are the perfections of fiction...Everything it teaches is useless insofar as structuring your life: you can’t prop up anything with fiction. It, in fact, teaches you just that. That in order to attempt to employ its specific wisdom is a sign of madness...There is more profit in an hour’s talk with Billy Graham than in a reading of Joyce. Graham might conceivably make you sick, so that you might move, go somewhere to get well. But Joyce just sends you out into the street, where the world goes on, solid as a bus. If you met Joyce and said 'Help me,' he’d hand you a copy of Finnegans Wake. You could both cry.” – Gilbert Sorrentino, Imaginative Qualities of Actual Things


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Inhuman

'The emancipation of the subject in art is the emancipation of art's own autonomy; if art is freed from consideration of its recipient, its sensual facade becomes increasingly a matter of indifference. The facade is transformed into a function of the content, which derives its force from what is not socially approved and prearranged. Art is spiritualized not by the ideas it affirms but through the ele­mental--the intentionless--that is able to receive the spirit in itself; the dialectic of the elemental and spirit is the truth content. Aesthetic spirituality has always been more compatible with the fauve, the savage, than with what has already been appropriated by culture. Spiritualized, the artwork becomes in itself what was pre­viously attributed to it as its cathartic effect on another spirit: the sublimation of nature. The sublime, which Kant reserved exclusively for nature, later became the historical constituent of art itself. The sublime draws the demarcation line between art and what was later called arts and crafts . Kant covertly considered art to be a servant. Art becomes human in the instant in which it terminates this service. Its humanity is incompatible with any ideology of service to humankind. It is loyal to humanity only through inhumanity toward it.'
--Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, pp. 196-7.

1 comment:

B Carmichael said...

"The facade is transformed into a function of the content, which derives its force from what is not socially approved and prearranged. Art is spiritualized not by the ideas it affirms..."

Yes! I've never been fond of the idea of art being some sort of therapy session. The great works challenge us, judge us in a way. Reminds me of a delightfully elitist Arnold Bennett quote: "your taste has to pass before the bar of the classics. That is the point. If you differ with a classic, it is you who are wrong, and not the book."

I haven't yet had a chance to read any Adorno, but something about this makes me want to choose the Botticelli over the baby. Would you recommmend Aesthetic Theory?

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