It was addressed to things you said. I am interested in ideas, and I do not
have any interest in critiqueing persons. So if identity seems lost, that is
because the person is not what I address. In fact, I am fascinated by and
appreciative of your description since I never wish to focus on identity. I do
believe you have more than once made remarks about scholars or
scholarship that generalize. And the generalization usually is negative
about current work. Do I dislike that? Yes. Do I take it personally? No. I
think it is a false view. I have spent my life wanting and trying to be a
"scholar" because I think it one of the finest ways to commit one's life. I
can only hope to live up to it as an ideal now and then. There is a slice of
I think you are correct that the traditional notion of "disinterestedness" is no
longer an ideal for many scholars and writers because they do not believe
the definitions of what it meant and how it was used were true. That is a
serious intellectual position; you can disagree, as, in fact, many more
traditional scholars do, but treating it as self-evidently a decline in
intellectual work is just false and simplistic. A key point would be the view
that all critical and theoretical claims are advocating something; we have no
place outside the world to stand and see it whole and without any
engagement. That does not mean that the only alternative is that
increasingly meaningless term used to dismiss without thought, "politically
correct." It is, for example, VERY politically correct to say women can't
write if you have reactionary politics. Everything Eliot claims about writers
or poetry is in one sense "political" because he is advocating--always and
quite explicitly--a specific view of what should be accounted literature, and
it includes some people and excludes others. From his political position,
he is always being "politically correct." Does that make him wrong? Not
necessarily. I often think him wrong politically, but that is part of a different
political engagement. In any case, it would be difficult to find a single line
in all Eliot's prose that is not very overtly politically interested.
I have addressed you, Ken, because you asked if I referred to you. But I
am not really addressing you. I am addressing some ideas you espoused
that I think not only false but unjust. But I have no reason to focus on
anyone's identity on a listserve made up of people I have never met and to
whom I have no reason of any kind to be ungenerous as individuals. I am
interested in the ideas regardless of who wrote them.
Since you ask, I never said scholars had a special right to define art. I do
think that they have a different relation to it if they have studied aesthetics.
A scholar of, say, chemistry, may have no knowledge or opinion on it. I
also think study and knowledge make anyone more able to think seriously
or critically on any subject. What I objected to was the dismissal of
scholarship, especially current work.
There is no single "current scholarship" view of art, as I think I said. There
is a range of opinion.
Date sent: Thu, 16 Aug 2001 13:23:38 -0400
Send reply to: [log in to unmask]
From: Ken Armstrong <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: OT:Re: Definition of art
Is this (below) addressed to me, Nancy? I've noticed that when you don't
like a post, the person to whom you almost appear to be responding almost
appears to lose her or his identity. You've read things into my post (I
think) that aren't there, and you have not answered the question(s) posed.
I like scholarship, and even (some) scholars. I don't know that being
scholarly (loosely speaking) is the only or even a necessary criterion to
answer the question, "What is art?" Is this an offense? I hope that the
scholars'excuse for existing is not so paper thin that it falls apart at a
"Disinterestedness" was once an ideal. I don't believe it was assumed to
be the washed-and-shined reality, but it was assumed to be worth working
toward. But now it is not an ideal. Is it fair to say so? Personally, I am
wary of advocacy scholarship, then or now, ideologically or
self-interestedly motivated. I think it is the sort of knowledge that
creates ignorance (it may create other things, also). Sorry if my honest
belief offends you; I take notice, but I am not going to conclude that it
is not well founded solely on that account.
What do you think are the criteria for addressing the question, "What is
art?" Should "current scholarship" have anything to say about it? Does it
hurt to ask?
In the meantime, there seem to be no answers to the original question. Is
it because current scholarship is not interested in art per se? Everybody
already knows and if you have to ask you don't deserve a reply?
Heading for some langourous and incommunicado days laying about on the
shores of Lake Erie. At least, kids in tow, that's the ideal.
--On Wednesday, August 15, 2001 2:14 PM -0400 Nancy Gish
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The question about "scholar" is not whether it means "disinterested" but
> whether that was in fact true at the time--so long ago--that you learned