*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the ‘classical’ vs. the ‘romantic’).—part I: a paean…

*(—follows on from ‘on “Art and Life”.’ …).

 

 

a paean to the ‘classical’. (—a pinch of salt). …
(—legitimate criticism part II.).

 

 

I’ve struggled to edit and to rewrite this material…

 

*            *            *

 

This all contains, and is motivated by, a prejudice. …

 

*            *            *

 …

 

—All of this grew, originally, out of my reading (having read) Joyce’s Portrait (—the theory of art) and my attraction, in particular, to the concept of the ‘epiphany’ in-of the aborted Stephen Hero draft…

*—the experience of a sudden revelation of what had been the case (—in-within the ‘thing’,… —in-within the ‘self’), but which had remained… unsensed,—unseen,… —unknown, until the moment of that revelation *(the ‘epiphanic’ moment.). …

(—what I’ve attempted to analyse and to define in ‘on “Art and Life”’, in my reading of the ‘epiphany’ and (—to) the image, from Stephen Hero to Portrait. …).

 

But,

 

(hmm).

 

Stemming, I think (it seems to me), from my, in the wake of the death of someone I regarded as a kind of mentor, having come to realise or to understand that I’d never had a genuine, heart-felt (so to), or abiding faith, my… abandonment (so to) of the church, and a still quite adolescent, if maturing, dislike-distaste for the ‘metaphysical’ and of the faux-lyrical, pseudo-profound, slightly prating, platitudinous ‘mystical’/‘spiritual’ tone and philosophical claims that it is used to support/gives rise to,…

—I wanted (and it was (is) a desire and a deliberate purpose… agenda in studying and in writing the chapter of my doctoral thesis that this material is adapted from…) to starkly differentiate the ‘epiphany’ (—the image) from the… almost (what?)… shamanistic (?—sic), prophetic, self-aggrandising, life-renouncing mysticism and otherworldliness of what will here be referred to as the ‘romantic’.

 

 

*… —In particular, I read Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘idealism’ in Portrait as an incorporation and revision of the definition of the ‘classical’ (—vs. the ‘romantic) in his earlier textual incarnation in Stephen Hero (which Joyce seems to have appropriated and adapted directly from his own early critical writing), and I link this to Nietzsche and his definition (in what is referred to as his ‘middle period’—the ‘free spirit trilogy’: Daybreak; Human, All Too Human, and The Gay Science) of the ‘classical’ and rejection of Romanticism (—the ‘romantic’) and Christianity (—particularly in On the Genealogy of Morality).

 

 

And therein, I think, lies the-my problem here (and why I’ve found it quite so difficult, awkward and… anxious to revisit and to revise this material). …

 

*            *            *

 

*… —Though I reference Percy Bysshe Shelley (whom I’ve already used as a touchstone (so to) or exemplar of-for Romanticism-the Romantic in my reading of Birth)—particularly as Stephen explicitly references Shelley’s account of artistic inspiration (in A Defence of Poetry) in his exposition of aesthetic theory in Portrait—I read Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘idealism’ as a (somewhat coded) rejection of Yeats’s early critical writing and, in particular, his definitions of the ‘symbol’ and of Symbolism, and , in effect, treat of Yeats as a kind of synecdochal  representative of the ‘romantic’ itself. …

 

—in effect, that is, I turn Yeats (who I here confess I don’t like, either as a poet or a theorist —for his characterisation of the artist as a kind of mystic visionary, somehow elevated above or beyond the common run by what would become that odious sixties cliché of the ‘expanded’ consciousness… ; his naïve (deluded), unsettling—and not unconnected—occultism-mysticism; and for all of those strange, culturally essentialist, pseudo-mythic, nationalist political claims that these lead him into…)

… —I turn Yeats into a sort of straw man and arch- artistic and philosophical criminal here…

 

*            *            *

 …

—In the hardness, concision, and clarity of the ‘classical’, as Joyce, Nietzsche, and T.E. Hulme all seek to define it, I see an honesty, integrity, and adherence to life-as-lived (to the quotidianness of the quotidian (so to),—without it’s being characterised or employed as a strait gate to the transcendental, or the otherworldly…),—a making art about those moments of (uncanny) ironic inversion, and what they give or can tell us about the nature or (faulty, provisional, always—ineluctably—incomplete and inadequate) process of self-knowledge. …

 

*That is,… —In the conception of art and the artwork (—of the image) that Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme’s definitions of the ‘classical’ and rejection of ‘romantic’ seek to establish, I see, I confess, the embodiment of what I think art is (—ought to be, and to do…).

 

*            *            *

 

*And so,…

 

—This will be (have been), in the end, a kind of a paean to the ‘classical’, then. …

(partial, prejudiced, loaded,… bereft of a seemingly necessary—distance, and balance (&c.), then, I suppose…)

 

—I pay no mind, really, here to the problems that this throws up…

 

*—For example, in ‘The Modern Mind’, an essay of 1933 (so, not insignificantly, later than the works I’m focussing on here), T.S. Eliot, in reaction to Jacques Rivière’s characterisation of ‘Romanticism’ as (what Eliot sarcastically dubs—good man): ‘a new literary disease’, Eliot rejects the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’…

*—‘I wish myself to avoid employing the terms Romanticism and Classicism, terms which inflame political passions, and tend to prejudice our conclusions’… (in The Use and Abuse of Poetry and The Use of Criticism [London: Faber and Faber, 1970], 121-142 *[128-129]).

 

—Their use, then, (it’s safe to say) is not without problems.

 

 

More importantly perhaps,… the history of the use of the terms goes back at least as far as Schiller and Goethe, through Romanticism (the Romantic) itself, into the aesthetic of Hegel, and so on, and, again, I pay no real mind or homage to that history here, focussing instead, solely on their use by Nietzsche, Joyce, and Hulme (as if, in effect, this/these were somehow apropos of nothing, I suppose)…

*(—I would like to say, however, that I do plan to do more toward this end in this BLOG and have already done so to some extent, having written on Hegel’s aesthetics and Tragedy and used this as a basis for lecturing on them during my tenure as Visiting Lecturer on the Drama degree at Queen Margaret University, both of which I intend to revisit, and to publish here…).

 

 

—There is not nearly enough here, still, really, on the Romantic—Romanticism—and its relation (if such does truly exist) to the ‘romantic’ (as it’s figured here) and to the Romantics (beyond Shelley and Yeats), to justify what I do with-to the terms. …

(though, again, I do hope to remedy this as the material in-of this BLOG develops-continues…).

 

*            *            *

 

*—The agenda (and, hell,… —let’s go right on ahead and call it that) here is to fully lay out and to define the ‘classical’ and its artistic and philosophical implications. … —to tie together (—to clarify the parallel between) Jimmy J., ol’ Fritz, and Hulme…

 

*—Between Nietzsche, then, and Modernism. …

 

 

So,…

 

*—What follows hereafter dear readers, then (and, if you’re reading this, I would like you to know that you truly are dear to me), is a (frankly unrepentant), prejudiced, paean, and ought (as such) to be taken, ideally, with a (really fairly generous) pinch of salt (to coin a very lazy cliché). …

 

 

*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty…
*—anti-metaphysics & ironic anti-romanticism
in the definition of the ‘classical’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, & neo-classical Modernism

 

 

The mind of the artist in that mysterious instant Shelley likened beautifully to a fading coal. The instant wherein that supreme quality of beauty, the clear radiance of the esthetic image, is apprehended luminously by the mind which has been arrested by its wholeness and fascinated by its harmony is the luminous silent stasis of esthetic pleasure. *(Portrait, 231)

 

In the first part of this chapter, I argued that Stephen’s aesthetic theory between Stephen Hero and Portrait represents an ironic appropriation of the terms of Aquinas’s theory of beauty to an ironic, implicitly anti-Thomist—anti-metaphysical aesthetic project. …

 

*My comparative close reading of the (pertinent) analogous extracts from Stephen Hero and Portrait revealed what I’ve called here the *refining (refinement) of the concept of the ‘epiphany’ in Stephen Hero—as being concerned with experience in general—into the (‘esthetic’) image in-of Portrait,—with its far more specific analysis of artistic inspiration and creation. …

 

 

*—In what follows (here), I’ll focus particularly on Stephen’s final definition of claritas in Portrait. …

 

*…—I’ll argue that it constitutes an implicit critique and rejection of Platonic metaphysical aesthetic at stake in W.B. Yeats’s early critical writing, and, in particular, in his definition of Symbolist poetry *—the ‘symbol’. …

*(and I’ll be focussing in particular here on Yeats’s definitions of ‘Symbolism’ in his early critical writings, dating from the period 1895-1903.

—W. B. Yeats, Selected Criticism and Prose, ed. Norman Jeffares [London: Pan Books, 1980] *(hereafter SCP for convenience).—See George Bornstein, Yeats and Shelley [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970],—xi, 41.

*—What interests me here is the extent to which Yeats and (more particularly) the ‘symbol’, as he defines it, can be seen to represent or to embody precisely what it is that Dedalus seeks to reject, and so I won’t be taking Yeats’s own poetry, nor Joyce’s treatment-quotation-allusions to-from it elsewhere in his writing, into consideration here. …

*—The question of the relationship between Yeats’s poetical output (so to) and his (early) critical writing—to what extent the former embodies, perhaps, the principles of the latter (—?)—is best left, I feel, for another time. …

… —All I want to do here, for my current purposes, is to establish the terms of Yeats’s definition of the ‘symbol’—of Symbolism—and the relationship of this to what I will argue is his establishment of  a form of late-Romanticism. … )

 

—I’ll argue that Stephen’s definition of claritas represents the incorporation and refinement of the earlier opposition of the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ artistic ‘tempers’, and privileging of the ‘classical’ in Stephen’s ‘Art and Life’ paper in Stephen Hero. …

 

*Further,… —I’ll argue that the terms of this opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’, are identical to those established by Nietzsche, in his writing on art *(—from Human, All Too Human onward…), and those of T.E. Hulme. …

 

 

*This parallel will form the foundation of a larger comparison of the terms of Stephen’s exposition of the ‘esthetic image’ in Portrait with those of Hulme’s writings on Bergson’s philosophy and Modern art and, in turn, Hulme’s influence on, and relationship to, Ezra Pound’s writing on Modern art, the ‘image’, and the ‘vortex’, and (as well as) the Imagist movement in poetry).[1]

 

And this will, in turn, allow me to argue that Stephen’s adoption of the terms of Shelley’s definition of artistic inspiration in A Defence of Poetry, in his definition of the ‘esthetic image’, represents an ironic appropriation of Romantic aesthetics to an implicitly anti-Romantic project.

 

*… —So,… —The ‘image’, then, will be seen to represent an attempt to forge a new trajectory for the legacy of Romanticism through a rejection of the aesthetics and metaphysics of (what I’ll refer to here as) late-Romanticism, in particular that exemplified by Yeats, and to lie at the heart of an attempt to forge a Romantic–anti-Romantic classicism. …

 

 

 

[1] Though I’ll draw on Hulme’s more explicitly political writing, in particular ‘A Tory Philosophy’ (first published in five instalments in The Commentator, 1912. T.E. Hulme, T.E. Hulme: Selected Writings, ed. Patrick McGuinness [Manchester: Carcanet Press, 1998] [hereafter Hulme, Selected Writings], 157-172) and on Sorel’s Reflections on Violence (‘Translator’s Preface to Georg Sorel’s Reflections on Violence’, first published in The New Age 17/24 [1915], Hulme, Selected Writings, 173-179. ‘Reflections on Violence’, Speculations, 249-260), insofar as these bear on the terms of his aesthetics, I won’t be discussing Hulme’s politics, or their relationship to his aesthetics, at any length here…

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3 thoughts on “*on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the ‘classical’ vs. the ‘romantic’).—part I: a paean…

  1. […] *(—follows on from *‘from the “epiphany” to the “esthetic image”… *—the evolution of the aesthetic theory in Joyce’s early fiction’ and, more particularly, *‘on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the “classical” vs. the “……). […]

  2. […] on from ‘Art and Life’ (from the ‘epiphany’ to the ‘esthetic image’), ‘a paean’, ‘the image.—vs. Platonic ressentiment’, and ‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental […]

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