*on the ‘classical’ vs. the ‘romantic’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, and T.E. Hulme

*(—follows 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 “classicism”’. …)

 

 

*on the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment.
—part (ii)…

*—the ‘classical’.—vs. the ‘romantic
(—in Joyce, Nietzsche, & T.E. Hulme.) …

 

 It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but a shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol. (Joyce, Portrait, *—230).

 

(Hmm.).

 

 

*—In the ‘Art and Life’ ‘paper’ which Stephen delivers to the Literary and Historical Society of his college in Stephen Hero, he defines literature in terms of two contrasting and competing artistic ‘tempers’: *—the ‘romantic’ and the ‘classical’.

*(SH, 83. *—See also, Joyce’s own ‘James Clarence Mangan’ article (—of 1902),—CW, 53-60, where he refers to ‘the classical and romantic schools’ [53.—emphasis added here.]).

 

 

—In terms, of which I’d maintain (at least) the later rejection of: ‘a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but a shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol’ in-of Portrait forms (-represents) an… echo, or a reiteration, Stephen (in his earlier textual incarnation in Stephen Hero) defines the ‘romantic’ as an—*‘unsatisfied, impatient temper which sees no fit abode here for its ideals and chooses therefore to behold them under insensible figures’. …

(—SH, 83. And I’d argue that this represents a clarification of sorts of an almost identical and yet perhaps more intemperate passage in ‘James Clarence Mangan’… —

The romantic school is often and grievously misinterpreted not more by others than its own, for that impatient temper which, as it could see no fit abode here for its ideals, chose to behold them under insensible figures, comes to disregard certain limitations, and, because these figures are blown high and low by the mind that conceived them, comes at times to regard them as feeble shadows moving aimlessly about the light, obscuring it. [53]

… ).

 

 

*Stephen, then, castigates what he calls the—*‘romantic temper’ in art, for its idealism:

… a seeking after an ideal-ideals,—a disappointment with life’s inability to furnish that ideal (—those ideals), frustration and dissatisfaction with, and a (subsequent-resultant) renunciation of, lived experience *(—of life): ‘no fit abode here’…, and a presentation of its ‘ideals’ through ‘insensible figures’: —I’d argue intentionally reminiscent of Yeats’s definition of the symbol as the ‘expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame’, and what Chadwick lucidly and concisely dubs the ‘built in obscurity’ of (transcendental) Symbolism *(—on this, see: *‘on the image vs. the “symbol”’).

 

 

And so,… (why ever not?) …

 

*—Following (on from) my reading of Joyce’s ironic appropriation of the terms of Aquinas’s account of ‘Beauty’ in the evolution of the concept of the ‘epiphany’ (—in-of Stephen Hero) to the (‘esthetic’) *‘image’ (of Portrait) *(see: ‘on “Art & Life”.’ [—link].), I’m now in a position, I feel, to argue that it’s the terms of this castigation of the ‘romantic’ which are (implicitly) at stake in Stephen’s rejection of the ‘Platonic’ metaphysics in-of ‘symbolism and idealism’ in his definition of the ‘image’ in his later textual incarnation in Portrait.

 

—I’ve already argued that Stephen’s interpretation of Aquinas’ claritas and definition of the ‘image’, represents the refinement of the earlier concept of the ‘epiphany’. …

 

*—I want to go further here, and argue that, although the terms may not appear explicitly in Portrait,… his rejection of a ‘Yeatsian’ (or, at perhaps at the very least,—‘Yeats-esque’ (?—sic)) ‘Platonic’ aesthetical metaphysics, represents the synthesis (so to) of the ‘epiphany’—or, perhaps rather,—its *incorporation … —with the terms of Stephen’s rejection of the ‘romantic’, and subsequent definition—and championing—of the ‘classical’, in-of Stephen Hero (—these terms being drawn from Joyce’s own early critical writing).

 

 

*—To conceive of the ‘image’ in-of Portrait as the refinement of the ‘epiphany’, and its implicit incorporation with the earlier material on the ‘classical’ (—vs. the ‘romantic) in this way, I’ll argue, places the text—intellectually and philosophically—in a close relationship to the terms of Nietzsche’s writing on art, T.E. Hulme’s writing on Modern art and Bergson’s philosophy, and to (/as well as) the terms and manifestoes of self-styled neo-classical Modernism more broadly.

 

 

* … —To read the terms of Nietzsche’s writing on art, Hulme’s conception of Modern art and reading of Bergsonian philosophy, and the Modernist manifestoes and works, can reveal a parallel, or (perhaps rather) parallels, that can help define what’s at stake, philosophically, in the ‘romantic’ and the ‘classical’,… *(that is)—the philosophical underpinnings (foundations) and consequences for art *(—form, style, and its proper subject matter) of the ‘image’. …

 

 

 

*—In Stephen Hero (and this is also true of Joyce’s own early critical writing),—it’s specifically over—and against—the… otherworldly life-renunciation, at stake within what he defines as the ‘romantic’, that Stephen offers his definition of the ‘classical’. …

 

*—‘The classical temper on the other hand, ever mindful of limitations, chooses rather to bend upon these present things and so to work upon them and fashion them that the quick intelligence may go beyond them to their meaning which is still unuttered.’ (283) …

*(Cf. ‘James Clarence Mangan’, 53.—Also Stanislaus Joyce, My Brother’s Keeper. …

 

—Stanislaus cites Joyce’s rejection of ‘poets for whom only what is imaginary possesses poetic value’, against which he posits Joyce’s conception of poetry that seeks ‘to capture moods and impressions, often tenuous moods and elusive impressions, by means of verbal witchery that magnetizes the mind like a spell, and imports a wonder and grace’. [—166]. …).

 

 

*—For Stephen,… —the ‘classical’ artist, in contrast to the ‘romantic’, retains an ineradicable consciousness, then, of their finitude,—their… rootedness (sic—so to) in-within the everyday. …

 

—They don’t seek, then, as does the ‘romantic’ artist, to exceed or to escape these bounds. …

 

 

—Instead,… the ‘classical’ artist focuses (—‘bends’…) upon the ‘here’ (and the now) of contemporaneous experience, and upon ‘present things’, in order to present experience and the objects of experience in such a way as to communicate their ‘meaning’…

 

*—the ‘proper conditions’ of the (‘esthetic’) image. …

 

*… —‘Art is not an escape from life. It’s just the very opposite. Art, on the contrary, is the very central expression of life. An artist is not a fellow who dangles a mechanical heaven before the public. The priest does that. The artist affirms out of the fullness of his own life, he creates…’. *(SH,—90-91)

 

 

*And the terms of this—rejection of the ‘romantic’ (—of the ‘romantic temper’)—of its… ‘idealism’ and (thus concomitant) incapacity to find what it’s looking for in(-within) life, and its (subsequent) desire, then, to *escape from life (—into the supposéd: ‘infinite’…)—and championing (by direct contrast) of the ‘classical’, it seems clear to me (at least) anyway, provide the foundation for a direct and a mutually illuminating comparison between the terms of Stephen’s aesthetic theory and those in-of Nietzsche’s later writing on art. …

*(though, as I said in *‘a paean’,… —I’m aware that the terms themselves, and the debate between the differing and often opposed artistic schools or movements they inspired (—who may have rallied, so to, at one time or another, beneath their respective banners), goes back much further than Nietzsche. …

*—Hegel, for example, had used the terms in his ‘Aesthetics’ (which I want to write about elsewhere. eventually…), and they go back at least as far as Pope’s Augustan neo-classicism in the C18th (which Wordsworth later vociferously criticised and rejected in ‘The Preface to the Lyrical Ballads’), and to Goethe and Schiller…

—There is, in essence, far more to be said then about the (terms) ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’,… but I’m going to focus here on their use by-within, and thus the mutually illuminating parallel between, Nietzsche and neo-classical Modernism, and try to demonstrate the place of Stephen’s aesthetic theory and Joyce’s writing in relation to both… ).

 

 

*—The terms of Stephen’s rejection of the ‘romantic’ and championing of the ‘classical’ correspond *(—exactly) to those of Nietzsche’s much earlier opposition of ‘classical’ to ‘romantic’ art and aesthetics,—first formulated in Human, All Too Human… —

 

Classic and romantic. – Both those spirits of a classical and those of a romantic bent – these two species exist at all times – entertain a vision of the future: but the former do so out of a strength of their age, the latter out of its weakness.

*(—‘The Wanderer and His Shadow’ (hereafter HH IIb) in Human, All Too Human, §217, 366)

 

*For Nietzsche,… —the ‘classical’ and the ‘romantic’ aren’t intended, then, to denote the art of any given (—any specific) historical era, but, instead, represent (artistic-aesthetic) *tendencies,… —present, and coexisting, in(within) the artistic works of all ages,… —aimed toward the future, and marked: —by either all that which is affirmative and strong in a given age (as is the case in Nietzsche’s delineation of the ‘classical’), or by all that is reactive and weak (—the ‘romantic’. …).

 

 

*—In The Gay Science, Nietzsche develops this conception of the reactivity and weakness of ‘romantic’ art, and defines the romantic type as they—‘who suffer from the impoverishment of life and seek rest, stillness, calm seas, redemption from themselves through art and knowledge, or intoxication, convulsions, anaesthesia, and madness.’

*(—in The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann [New York: Vintage Books, 1974] (—hereafter GS),… —V, §370, 327-331 [328]. … —Nietzsche here names both Schopenhauer and Wagner as quintessential ‘romantic’ types…).

 

… —For Nietzsche, ‘romantic’ art is distinguished by a psychological-physiological need to escape from, and to renounce life. …

 

*… —It names a need for a remedy from life—(—a need (felt)) to be anaesthetised,—seemingly paradoxically accomplished through the attainment of states of intoxication (or rapture), convulsion, and madness,… —all framed here as alleviations from life-existence. …

 

 

*… —And I want to argue here that the terms of Nietzsche’s critique of ‘romanticism’, as these are laid out in The Gay Science, corresponds to, and can be usefully read and understood through, those of his later critique, in On the Genealogy of Morality (—expanded upon, to some extent-degree, in Beyond Good and Evil), of what he calls… *—ressentiment (—OGM, 1, §10, 21-25, [esp. 23]), in a way which will help make clear what I feel to be at stake in Joyce’s writing and in neo-classical Modernist definitions of art and Manifestos (more generally). …

 

 

—As an important aspect of his broader critique of the origins, birth, and historical legacy of Christian morality, ol’ Fritz defines ressentiment (retaining the original French term) as belonging to ‘those beings who, being denied the proper response of action, compensate for it only with imaginary revenge.’ (21) …

 

*… —Ressentiment stems (-emerges), then, from an *incapacity to act in response to external stimuli, resulting in a further incapacity to fully discharge the emotional-psychological responses stimulated by them.

 

 

—Instead, such responses become… suppressed, and frustrated, and continue to be harboured, long after any opportunity to fully (meaningfully) purge them has passed. …

 

Nietzsche locates ressentiment at the root of what, in the Genealogy, he calls: ‘slave morality’. … —

 

[S]lave morality says “no” on principle to everything that is “outside”, “other”, “non-self”: and this “no” is its creative deed. This reversal of the evaluating glance – this inevitable orientation to the outside instead of back onto itself – is a feature of ressentiment: in order to come about, slave morality first has to have an opposing, external world. (Ibid.)

 

The ‘reversal’ pointed to here, is that of what Nietzsche calls ‘Master morality’, which, in opposition to modern liberal and humanist politics, he argues, derives its notion of the ‘good’ not from altruism—that is, (for Nietzsche) from those to whom good is done—but, instead, from its own superabundance of life and energy *(that is,… —from within its own capacity to do ‘good’, so to speak…), in contrast to that which it deems lowly and plebeian *(—that which/those who are unable to act…). (—Cf. 1, §2, 12-13).

 

 

—In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche defines the ‘noble’ type who creates values out of a ‘feeling of fullness, of power that seeks to overflow, the happiness of high tension, the consciousness of wealth that would give and bestow’ (BGE, IX, §260, 205), and in the ‘Attempt at Self-Criticism’ preface to Birth *(importantly, at least for my current, broader  purposes here,—written during the same year as BGE),—the ‘joy, strength, overflowing health, [and] overgreat fullness’ which underpin the birth of tragedy. *(—See BT, ‘ASC,’ §4, 21) …

 

 

—In (within) ‘slave morality’, the direction of this ‘evaluating gaze’, then (for ol’ Fritz), is *—inverted. …

 

 

—The ‘slave’ must rely on an opposing ‘external world,’ which it can judge as ‘evil,’ in order to establish itself, then,—*negatively—as ‘good’…

 

*—‘its action is basically a reaction’. (—OGM, 1, §10, 22. Cf. 21-24)

 

 

—Unable to act, ‘slave morality’ transforms impotence to retaliate (—to act) into ‘goodness’, … —‘timid baseness’ into ‘humility’, and its forced submission to those it despises into ‘obedience’… —especially obedience to God. (—§14, 29-31 [30])

 

—‘Slave morality’, and (by extension) *‘the man of ressentiment’, Nietzsche argues, yearn for revenge and seek ‘consolation for all the sufferings of the world’ in the *—‘phantasmagoria of anticipated future bliss’. (31) …

 

*—Nietzsche identifies this—‘phantasmagoria’ with the Christian conception of ‘“the last judgment”, the coming of their kingdom, the “kingdom of God”’,… and argues that ressentiment lies at the root of the need for, and creation of, all ‘other worlds’.  … (Ibid.—emphasis added here. … —and see Deleuze, Nietzsche and Philosophy, 104-138)

 

 

*—Stephen’s rejection of ‘romanticism’ (in Stephen Hero), refined and incorporated (even as it’s rendered far more compact, far less explicit, and far more allusive, perhaps) in the ‘esthetic image’ of Portrait, can thus be understood in terms of a rejection of the ressentiment implicitly at stake in (the example here) of a Yeatsian/Yeats-esque—‘Platonic’—transcendental Symbolism. …

 

 

*The ‘classical,’ by contrast, for Nietzsche, is marked by ‘[r]igorous reflection, terseness, coldness, simplicity, deliberately pursued even to their limit, self containment of the feelings and silence in general.’ (HH I, §195, 93-94.—Cf. HH I, §171, 90)

 

 

*—Nietzsche privileges (—champions) ‘classical’ over ‘romantic’ art. …

 

—In contrast to the ‘romantic’ poet’s frustrated, life-renouncing, other-worldly intoxication, Nietzsche argues that— (…)

 

[T]he good poet of the future will depict only reality and completely ignore all those fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects upon which earlier poets demonstrated their powers. Only reality, but by no means every reality! – he will depict a select reality! (HH IIa, §114, 239-240)

 

The ‘classical’, for Nietzsche, then, is founded on a metaphysical scepticism (or,—mistrust), and on a form of stoical pragmatism,… *—a refusal of the ‘spiritual’,—rejecting the ressentiment, other-worldly consolation, and anaesthetisation characteristic of the ‘romantic’. …

 

*—It focuses on the ‘reality’ surrounding the poet. …

 

*This ‘reality’ is then subject to a disciplined process of reflection, selection, and refinement.

(—Nietzsche lays emphasis, particularly, on the accuracy, and the simplicity in-of the depiction of the selected reality). …

 

 

 

 

*—completing my reading of The Birth of Tragedy, then.
(a sort of an—aside…). …

 

 

 

*—The terms of Nietzsche’s rejection of the metaphysics, the ressentiment of (at stake within) ‘romanticism’, and definition of the ‘classical’ in the ‘free-spirit trilogy’ of his ‘middle period’ are, I’d argue, already at stake in the—ostensibly—Schopenhauerian and late-Romantic The Birth of Tragedy. …

 

—To take the liberty, then, of recapitulating (at some length.—bear with me, if you would). …

 

 

—In my reading of Birth,… under the rubric of what I (somewhat hesitantly) dubbed Nietzsche’s nascent ‘naturalism’,… —I argued that in Birth the Apollinian—as a mode of the sublime—forms the artistic correlate to, or manifestation of, the (necessary, physiological-existential) drive for-to the *incorporation of lived experience. …

 

By contrast, I argued that the Dionysian forms the correlate-manifestation of the equal but opposite drive to-for the *purgation of lived experience (—a lethargic forgetting). …

 

—The Apollinian finds expression in (—gives rise-birth to) the plastic arts: … —discrete forms…

 

*—(‘heroic’) individuation.

 

 

—The Dionysian, in-by contrast, represents the—intensely undergone—experience of the laceration of individuation (…—of the *discretion of form. …): …

 

*—a form of access (so to) to the undivided continuity of flux (what Nietzsche calls—the ‘primal unity’) beneath the ‘individual’,… —directly captured in the immediate, physical and emotional expression of music and dance.

 

 

—In tragedy, these two drives,—these two modes, then,—of the sublime,… —are conjoined.

 

 

*(…)—In tragedy, the divestiture of (the quotidian) ‘self’, identity with the ‘primal unity’, and the Dionysian-musical ecstasy which embodies this experience, necessarily, spontaneously and organically (—that is, without, or, rather, independent of the volition of the poet) generate mythic or imagistic representations.

*—from within themselves. …

 

*—The individuated,…-discrete (—empirical) ‘self’ is divested in the Dionysian (—the Dionysian is the experience precipitated by its divestiture), only to return—as an image,—(re-)born in-of music, to embody that experience.  …

 

 

*—For Nietzsche, the ‘union’ (so to) of the Dionysian and the Apollinian is not a moment in which the two drives are… —‘synthesised’ to form a third, separate, single phenomenon. …

 

*Instead, it takes the form of a *process in which the two drives are conjoined, and yet remain distinct. …

 

 

*—A temporal hierarchy (priority) subsists, in which the purgative Dionysian mode of the sublime—as first moment,—necessarily engenders the Apollinian sublime mode of incorporation. …

 

*However,… —this is neither a qualitative, nor is it an ontological hierarchy, but the resulting conjunction represents the highest manifestation-incarnations (for ol’ Fritz) of both modes of the sublime…

*—‘the Dionysian in the experience of identity with primordial pain and contradiction, and the primordial pleasure in appearance in the recreation of its effect in music,—the Apollinian in its symbolisation of the Dionysian itself.’ (Birth,—§5, 49)

 

 

*—The process at stake is that of a double transposition… —from the ecstatic divestiture of self and identity with the ‘primal unity’ in the Dionysian into its ‘reflection’ and re-creation in music, and the generation from this in turn of images in the Apollinian whose purpose is the incorporation of the experience of the Dionysian.

 

*—Laceration and self-destruction (—the laceration of individuated subjectivity) in the experience of the Dionysian sublime, constitute the ‘objectivity’ of the artist.

 

—They are the condition of the possibility of-for the revelation of the ‘primal unity’ and the condition of the possibility for the creation of art. …

 

*For Nietzsche, only through undergoing laceration in the experience of the Dionysian can the artist-poet attain to the purgation and the redemption of the drives, and the (subsequent) incorporation of this experience of redemption in the mythic-symbolism of the ‘passions’ and ‘feelings’…

 

*—This is the ironic self-(re-)creation of the ‘I’ of the artist. …

 

—The process of the Dionysian-Apollinian sublime transposition can be understood, then, as a whole, as the process—the *shape—of a *fold… —

*

 

the fold (ii)

 

 

 

 

*… —from the (apparent) empirical (—the quotidian) ‘self’… —this ‘self’ divested in(-by) the intensely undergone Dionysian-musical experience of purgation…

 

released into the flux of the undivided continuity of states in-of the ‘primal unity’ (—the Ur-Eine) behind-beneath the ‘self’ (as felt-as lived). …

 

—prompted (spurred.—sic-so to), then, by the Apollinian drive to individuation,—to the incorporation of experience,…

 

*… —a drive (driven), then, to ‘return’ (so to), to the empirical self—as a register from which to draw words and images that can embody and articulate the experience of purgation. *(—the image… —the ‘I’ of the artist. … ).

 

 

In my reading of Birth, I argued that what underpinned this fold in the ironic self-(re-)creation of the artist was a nascent philosophical naturalism: that ol’ Fritz is concerned to identify a play of natural drives at the heart of artistic inspiration and creation, carefully eschewing recourse to the metaphysical by way of explanation. …

 

—In the preceding fragment—‘toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’ —I cited Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy’s argument in The Literary Absolute that Romanticism (—the ‘Romantic’) present an account of artistic inspiration and creation (—an ‘aesthetic activity of production and formation’) ‘in which the absolute might be experienced and realized in an unmediated, immediate fashion […] a presentation of what in Kant remained unpresentable’, linking this to the attempted (or—staged)… over-leaping (so to) of Kant, and of the (Kantian) limits of the transcendental, in Schopenhauer’s conceptions of the ‘Will’ (—as thing in-itself/=X), and—more particularly—the (Platonic) Idea. (ix) …

 

*In *‘the fold in the self-creation of the artist’, I cited Nietzsche’s later account of ‘inspiration in Ecce Homo, in the context of Birth:

Has anyone at the end of the nineteenth century a clear idea of what poets of strong ages have called inspiration? […T]he idea that one is merely incarnation, merely mouthpiece, merely a medium of overpowering forces. The concept of revelation—in the sense that suddenly, with indescribable certainty and subtlety, something becomes visible, audible, something that shakes one to the last depths and throws one down—that merely describes the facts. One hears, one does not seek; one accepts, one does not ask who gives; like lightning, a thought flashes up, with necessity, without hesitation regarding its form—I never had any choice.

(Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, §3.,—300)

 

 

—Nietzsche describes ‘inspiration’ as the effect of forces that (seemingly) enter the subject from without—as an overpowering ravishment. …

 

Conscious volition, then, (for Nietzsche), can never engender a state of inspiration. …

 

*… —Inspiration is precipitated precisely by the overwhelming, and temporary suspension, of subjective willing.

 

 

*The terms of Nietzsche’s definition of inspiration here echo those of Romanticism—the Romantics. …

 

*I cited Shelley’s account of artistic inspiration in A Defence of Poetry as my example: …

 

A man cannot say, “I will compose poetry”. The greatest poet even cannot say it: for the mind in creation is a fading coal which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness: this power arises from within, like the colour of a flower which fades and changes as it is developed, and the conscious portions of our nature are unprophetic either of its approach or its departure.

(Shelley, A Defence of Poetry, 696-697)

 

 

*—Whilst Nietzsche’s conception of inspiration shares (or,—retains —?) the notions of spontaneity and involuntariness crucial to Shelley’s account, in line with his ironic appropriation of the terms of Schopenhauer’s aesthetics in Birth, Nietzsche rejects the Platonism at stake within it, and, particularly, the claim, later in Shelley’s account, that inspiration affords the poet access to Platonic Forms or Ideas… —*‘to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, in a word the good’. (Shelley, 677.— See Clark, The Theory of Inspiration,—143-169)

 

 

*And so, …

 

—I want to conclude my reading of artistic inspiration and creation in Birth here by arguing that Nietzsche’s (nascent) philosophical naturalism, and the fold itself, reject the claims to the transcendental (—the ‘absolute’) within the Romantic, whilst appropriating its conception of the overwhelming of subjectivity in artistic inspiration to an anti-transcendental aesthetic.

 

*—In this sense, Birth can be seen to anticipate (if obliquely) the contrast and the opposition of the ‘classical’ of-to the ‘romantic’, staged explicitly in his later writing on art (and examined above).

 

*—That is,… —Birth represents the first, perhaps faltering articulation of a disruptive anti-transcendental classicism. …

 

*—In *‘on the “artists’ metaphysics”’,—using Henry Staten’s definition of ‘the classical reference-points of what is called Romanticism’ *(that is—‘Rousseauistic primitivism, recourse to a transcendental subject, doctrines of genius and inspiration, idealization of the Greeks, [and] antipathy to the rationalisation of nature’.—Nietzsche’s Voices, 187),… I opposed my reading to:

(i). Jürgen Habermas’s argument that Birth represents a dangerous ‘metaphysically transfigured irrationality’, to which, he suggests, Romanticism offers some sort of preferable alternative (Habermas, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity, 92-96 [94]);

(ii). —to Aaron Ridley’s argument that the text represents ‘an arresting example of German Romanticism at its headiest’ (Ridley, Nietzsche on Art, 9),

(iii). and to Adrian Del Caro and Judith Norman, both of whom argue that Nietzsche’s position represents a form of (straightforward) anti-Romanticism (—Del Caro, Nietzsche contra Nietzsche, Norman, ‘Nietzsche and Early Romanticism’).

 

 

—In contrast to those readings which would characterise Birth as either simply and straightforwardly Romantic, or anti-Romantic,… it seems clear to me that Nietzsche’s relationship to Romantic metaphysics, aesthetics and conception of artistic inspiration in Birth, represents the creation of an ironic *Romantic–anti-Romanticism,—one which reflects his ironic appropriation of Schopenhauerian metaphysical and aesthetic vocabulary (and, indeed, his attempt to redeem Schopenhauer’s aesthetics from his metaphysics…).

 

*… Thus (—so,). …

 

—Whilst, apparently, an ostensibly late-Romantic text (—under the obvious influence of both Schopenhauer and Wagner),… —the ‘naturalism’, anti-metaphysics, and ironic Romantic—anti-Romanticism in-of Birth serve to align the text far more closely to the explicit outlining-definition of ‘classical’ art *(—of the ‘classical’)—in a deliberately staged, and incredibly stark, contrast to the ‘romantic’—in both the early incarnations of Stephen’s aesthetic theory, and in Nietzsche’s own later writing on art. …

 

—Indeed, the text, I feel (—I’d argue), stages, in-through the shape of the fold (—in-through an awkward and (perhaps) an unready voice, to paraphrase Nietzsche’s own later assessment of Birth in the ‘Attempt at Self-Criticism’), precisely this contrast or opposition (—of a ‘classical’ aesthetic to the ‘romantic’/Romantic), though (as yet) without the resources, and(/or) the vocabulary, to clarify it. …

 

 

*Hulme. … —the finite-finitude in (-of) the ‘classical’.
*—against the false, thwarted ‘infinities’ of the ‘romantic’. …

 

 

*The terms of the opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’, so crucial, then, to both iterations of Stephen’s aesthetic theory,—to Joyce’s own writing on art, and to that of Nietzsche… lie at the heart of, and are clarified and developed within, the theory and criticism of the self-styled neo-classicist ‘Modern’ writers. …

 

—In particular they lie at the heart of, and are (I would argue) expanded and clarified within, what T.E. Hulme was attempting in his writings on Modern Art and on Bergson’s Philosophy. …

 

—I’ve made (fleeting) contextual mention of Hulme’s centrality and importance to ‘Imagism’, to Ezra Pound’s theory and criticism, and to the neo-classical Modenrist nexus of the ‘image’ already here, and his name, and reading of Bergson, came up in connection with my reading of Nietzsche’s ‘On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense’, its links to Birth, the parallel between its key terms and those of Bergson’s philosophy, and its ties (so to) to Nietzsche’s later formulation of the will to power *(… —on all this, see: *[links]. …).

 

To read Hulme’s art criticism can help, then, I want to argue, in understanding what is at stake in the opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’ in both Joyce and Nietzsche, and to draw this parallel with (what I’ve dubbed here) Nietzsche’s *Romantic—anti-Romanticism, can help better understand the philosophical and art-historical stakes of neo-classical Modernist art-theory and criticism.

 

 

*In his writings on Bergson, and on Modern art, in particular, Hulme clearly lays out the ‘classical’ and the ‘romantic’, in terms which, frankly, look as though they could have been straightforwardly cut and paste from Nietzsche…

 

 

—In his essay of 1911, ‘Romanticism and Classicism,’ T.E. Hulme draws on Nietzsche’s earlier critique of the ‘romantic’ and privileging of the ‘classical’. (—Hulme, ‘Romanticism and Classicism’ in Speculations, 111-140)

 

—Hulme effectively qualifies Nietzsche’s conception of the ‘romantic’ by identifying it with what he argues constitutes the conception of the ‘human’ propagated during the French revolution.—This, in turn, he argues, derives from the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

*(Cf. ‘A Tory Philosophy’.—Hulme, Selected Writings, 61…)

 

—He summarises the ‘romantic’ conception of the ‘human’ as one which claims that ‘man was by nature good, that it was only bad laws and customs that had suppressed him. Remove all these and the infinite possibilities of man would have a chance.’ (‘Romanticism and Classicism’,—116)

 

Hulme argues that the ‘romantic’ conceives of culture as inherently corrupt and corrupting.

 

*… —In a ‘natural’ state, ‘man’ is innately ‘good’ and it is only the false finitude of legal and cultural constrictions which serve to corrupt ‘man’.

 

Remove these constrictions and ‘man’ would be capable of realising ‘his’ innate goodness and infinite possibilities.

(Hulme’s rejection of the ‘romantic’ then, if it doesn’t indeed borrow directly from it, at the very least shares a great deal in common with (to borrow Staten’s formulation) Nietzsche’s rejection of ‘Rousseauistic primitivism’: represents a forthright rejection of culture and a ‘return’ to a state of nature, such as is promoted in Rousseau’s Émile.

In *‘the fold in the self-creation of the artist’, I referenced Keith Ansell Pearson’s argument, (for example), that in his early writings, ‘Nietzsche criticizes Rousseau’s paean to nature, and his belief in man’s natural goodness, which have their basis in romanticism.’ Nietzsche is critical of the ‘modern’ conception of the artist in terms of Émile and its corresponding idealisation of nature…

Rousseau’s portrait of Émile’s realization of his fundamental human nature and the achievement of oneness with nature, achieved by withdrawing the child and adolescent from the degenerative effects of corrupt social institutions and allowing his natural goodness to flourish, fails to recognise the dark and terrible forces of nature which must be overcome.

[Ansell Pearson Nietzsche contra Rousseau, 25]

In a series instalments first published in The New Age, December 1915—February 1916, and reprinted, in an abridged version, by Read as: ‘Humanism and the Religious Attitude’ (— Speculations, 1-71.—See Patricia Rae, The Practical Muse: Pragmatist Poetics in Hulme, Pound, and Stevens [London: Associated University Presses, Inc., 1997], 49, Hulme expands on his conception of the illusory infinitude of Romanticism, and ties it particularly to the politics of Humanism and to the artistic portrayal of sexual relations:

*—‘Romanticism […] confuses both human and divine things, by not clearly separating them. The main thing with which it can be reproached is that it blurs the clear outlines of human relations – whether in political thought or in the literary treatment of sex, by introducing in them, the Perfection that properly belongs to the non-human.’

[—‘A Notebook’, Selected Writings, 180-222 (189)].

*—Hulme’s rejection of ‘romanticism’s’ confusion of the human and the divine, treating of the human as if it were itself the divine, for me, establishes a clear parallel with Stephen’s rejection of  the Platonic projection of a false, and—‘otherworldly’ ideal in Yeats’s formulation of transcendental Symbolism.

*[—on Hulme’s own rejection of Plato, Yeats and the ‘“mystical” account of the creative process, see ‘Notes on Language and Style’ (c. 1907), Selected Writings, 57, and Rae, Practical Muse, 33 … ]. ).

 

 

In essence, Hulme defines the contrast between the ‘romantic’ and ‘classical’ as stemming from the contrast between opposing conceptions of the ‘infinite’ (—?), and of the finite (—finitude). …

 

 

—Echoing Nietzsche (in a sense),—he identifies a fundamental resentment against life in romanticism, emerging from the perspective of the false politics of the infinite capabilities of ‘man’… —

 

The romantic, because he thinks man infinite, must always be talking about the infinite; and as there is always the bitter contrast between what you think you ought to be able to do and what man actually can, it always tends, in its later stages at any rate, to be gloomy. (‘Romanticism and Classicism’, Speculations, 119)

 

 

*—For Hulme, because the romantic attitude emerges from this perspective of the false politics of the infinite capabilities of ‘man’ (—‘what you think you ought to be able to do’), it must (—inevitably-ineluctably) run up against the limitations of ‘man’s’ undeniable and inescapable finitude. …

 

—As such, it becomes motivated by the resentment that its inevitable frustration engenders…

 

*—In terms which again echo those of Nietzsche and those of Stephen, Hulme contrasts the attitude of the classical artist-poet to the gloom of this thwarted idealism of the ‘romantic’… —

 

[E]ven in the most imaginative flights there is always a holding back, a reservation. The classical poet never forgets this finiteness, this limit of man. He remembers always that he is mixed up with the earth. He may jump, but he always returns back; he never flies away into the circumambient gas. (119-120. Cf. 126-127)

 

 

—In contrast to the imaginative ‘flights’ of romanticism,… —away from life and into the rarefied atmosphere-aether of—‘circumambient gas’. … —Hulme defines the ‘flights’ of the classical artist as *leaps, which ineluctably return the artist to their finiteness-finitude,—their ‘limit’,… and to the earth, with which they are (inextricably)… ‘mixed up’ (—read: bound to…), and which forms their proper subject matter.

 

 

*—In contrast to what he characterises as the quasi-mystical, life-abnegating flights of romanticism, then, Hulme posits the—‘dry hardness’ of classicism (and the ‘classical),— ‘strictly confined to the earthly and the definite […] always the light of ordinary day’. (126-127). …

 

*—In opposition to what he sarcastically dubs the ‘abysses’ and ‘eternal gases’ of the ‘romantic’,… ‘classical’ art is concerned with the transposition of quotidian experience.

 

 

*—To the ‘romantic’s’ false politics of ‘man’s’—‘infinitude’,… Hulme opposes what he defines as ‘classicism’s’ conception of *‘original sin’…

Man is by his very nature essentially limited and incapable of attaining any kind of perfection, because either by nature, as the result of original sin, or the result of evolution, he encloses within him certain antinomies. There is a war of instincts inside him.

(—‘A Tory Philosophy’, Selected Writings, 160).

 

—In the later ‘Humanism and the Religious Attitude’, Hulme defines this position as the ‘religious attitude’, in contrast to the politics of ‘humanism’, from which, he argues, the ‘romantic’ itself originally emerged. (Speculations, 1-71 [esp. 47].—Cf. ‘A Notebook’, Selected Writings, 180-222 [208-209]) …

 

He argues that the ‘classical’ attitude begins from a conception of the political and artistic expediency of the concept of ‘original sin’. …

 

*(That is,…) —‘Man’ is essentially a chaotic flux of warring instincts, and the only way in which to extract anything of value(-worth) from ‘man’ is through the imposition of an artificial order… —‘The best results can only be got out of man as the result of a certain discipline which introduces order into this internal anarchy’. (‘A Tory Philosophy’, Selected Writings, 160)

*(… —Elsewhere in ‘A Tory Philosophy’, Hulme alludes to the terms of Nietzsche’s conception of the ‘classical’ (which clearly exercised an influence on his own), but rejects Nietzsche as a closet ‘romantic’, and seeks to distance himself from him… —

Most people have been in the habit of associating these kinds of views with Nietzsche. It is true that they do occur in him, but he made them so frightfully vulgar that no classic would acknowledge them. In him you have the spectacle of a romantic seizing on the classic point of view because it attracted him purely as a theory, and who, being a romantic, in taking up this theory, passed his slimy fingers over every detail of it. (—Hulme, Selected Writings, 61)

Although his own definition so closely echoes Nietzsche’s rejection of the ressentiment at stake in ‘romanticism’, Hulme goes on in particular to reject the terms of On the Genealogy of Morality. (Ibid.)

—Hulme’s ostensible rejection of Nietzsche (perhaps wilfully here) elides the importance and centrality of the ‘classical’ in Nietzsche’s definition of his own philosophical and aesthetic project.

—Hulme’s refutation, I’d suggest, should be taken then, perhaps, as a desire to lay claim to intellectual independence, rather than as a legitimate or thoroughgoing critique of Nietzsche. *(—?)… ). …

 

*—For both Nietzsche and for Hulme, then, just as in Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘idealism’ on the grounds of the artificiality of the ‘Platonic’ (hmm) ‘light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but a shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol’,… *—the ‘romantic’ attitude is distinguished by its incapacity to reconcile itself with its own finitude and limitations. …

 

 

*Insofar as his interpretation of claritas is conditioned by its implicit satirical caricature and critique of the Platonic aesthetical metaphysics at stake (for example) in Yeats’s ‘transcendental’ Symbolism, Stephen’s definition of ‘artistic apprehension’ and the ‘esthetic image’ in Portrait are therefore firmly located in the philosophical and aesthetic rejection of the ‘romantic’ and championing of the ‘classical’,—stretching from Nietzsche’s writings of the late eighteen seventies to Hulme’s writing on aesthetics. …

 

*And, as such,… *—a strong parallel thus also exists, I’d argue, between the terms of Stephen’s exposition of claritas, the ‘esthetic image’, and of the ‘classical’, and the principles of the later Imagist movement, of which Hulme is regarded to be both one of the original founders/inspiration, and the ‘philosopher’ *(—See Patricia M. Rae, ‘T.E. Hulme’s French Sources: A Reconsideration’, Comparative Literature, 41 (1989), 69-99 *[69]),… and so it’s worth pausing to (briefly) outline the key terms and artistic principles/conditions of Pound and the Imagists on the way to clarifying Dedalus’s conception of the image. …

 

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2 thoughts on “*on the ‘classical’ vs. the ‘romantic’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, and T.E. Hulme

  1. […] Platonic ressentiment’, *‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’, and *‘—the “classical”.—vs. the “romantic” (in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme.)’ […]

  2. […] Platonic ressentiment’, ‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’, *‘the “classical”.—vs. the “romantic” (in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme.)’, and *‘“image”. “complex”. “VORTEX” (i): the exact word.’ […]

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