Belle wants to start a conversation about beauty so I thought I would double up on topics and blog on that and the pictures I took of my work space.
Put it on slideshow and focus on the woodgrain. I took that pic to review some concepts about beauty.
I wanted to do this because in our RR What is Poetry thread most of us habitually invoked the sublime. So point 1 is I think of beauty in relation to the sublime and the question of distinguishing one from the other (or of denying the distinction).
So, what is the Sublime? Kant defined it as the mathematical infinite. For Edmund Burke it was the illusion of infinite regressing Doric columns. Wordsworth and Coleridge went to Germany, and returned to write verbal images of the Sublime.
For a touchstone, I go to Coleridge’s “Kubla Kahn”:
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round :
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree ;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
To me, this is not the beautiful, or the ugly but rather the cancelled product of the two (e.g. the sublime). It is a studied passage of pointless description and like abstract art it forces a discussion about form itself. When I took that picture of my garage work table, I wanted to reframe it as wavy abstract art: it is my attempt to illustrate the sublime, but it is not beautiful.
Hegel thought the beautiful was Dutch Still Life. Marx understood that to mean the beautiful was only a commodity, an unfixed signifier. This seems overly reductive but it is a nice and useful place to rest as any teacher knows. And it is, as we use to say, PC.
Freud, of course, goes as bluntly in the other direction: there is only one drive. It is a sex/death drive and the question of beauty intersects with it, as does the question of form.
A conversation about beauty then has to thread through all these. And then oh yes: lets throw in a final complication, the question of pedagogy. To wit, what happens when a teacher encounters a beautiful young thing in his or her classroom (see my blog on Jay Leno).
My stock answer at this point is to talk about Jane Gallop’s Feminist Accused of Sexual Harassment. To me that book is a great conversation starter on this subject because she cuts to the nub: can you police transference? I am not saying I agree that there can be no teaching without transference. Nor am I saying that transference when it happens always has a sexual dynamic but they are good suppositions to start with or to deconstruct.
So we are back to beauty. The pictures were taken inside my cinderblock two car garage. I don’t know what else that is relevant to say about them. I do write in there and I will take my computer out there and work sometimes but I do have an office inside too. So this is something of a cop out I know, but I will post a pic or two of that writing space as well.
I am done with my line edit! Yea . . . Me!! Just the notes and acknowledgements to go.
1. When I wrote (in my blog about Bidart) that form is to be approached psychoanalytically, I am saying that questions of formal verse are being deployed to facilitate a kind of “talking cure” where a change is FORCED via poetry.
2. Written to Paul Weller's new super cool single "Have you made up your mind" with a SUBLIME art loop that is ok but Belle's first stab at a video for her China Elegy is just as good. See for yourself:
3. Emily Dickenson's comment about poetry taking the top of your head off is another definition of the sublime. In logical terms, the sublime occurs when the experience transcends a meaning bound by the binary beautiful/ugly and the one labeled sense/nonsense.
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