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TSE  August 2001

TSE August 2001

Subject:

Re: Definition of art

From:

[log in to unmask][log in to unmask]

Date:

Sun, 19 Aug 2001 02:17:39 EDT

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Thanks, Nancy, for two very well-chosen quotations. 

pat
=========================================
In a message dated 8/18/01 10:54:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
[log in to unmask] writes:


> Subj:Re: Definition of art
> Date:8/18/01 10:54:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time
> From:    [log in to unmask] (Nancy Gish)
> Sender:    [log in to unmask]
> Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A>
> To:    [log in to unmask]
> 
> 
> 
> 
> The nearest to an answer for all of this from Eliot might be the following 
> passage from "Notes towards the Definition of Culture":
> 
>     To our Christian heritage we owe many thing beside religious faith.  
> Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have our 
> conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western 
> World, through it we have our conceptions of private and public morality.  
> And through it we have our common standards of literature, in the 
> literatures of Greece and Rome.  The Western world has its unity in this 
> heritage, in Christianity and in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome 
> and Israel, from which, owing to two thousand years of Christianity, we 
> trace our descent.
> 
> (This also points toward his idea of "standards" for defining art.)
> 
> ELIOT'S words, by the way,--not mine--on the relation of Christian and 
> "Classical" writers for education are as follows:
> 
> There are two and only two finally tenable hypotheses about life:  the 
> Catholic and the materialistic.  The defence of the study of the classical 
> languages must ultimately rest upon their association with the former as 
> must the defence of the primacy of the comtemplative over the active life
> . . . .  It is high time that the defence of the classics should be 
> dissociated 
> from objects which, however excellent under certain conditions and in a 
> certain environment, are of only relative importance--a traditional public-
> school system, a traditional university system, a decaying social order--
> and permanently asociated where they belong, with something permanent:  
> the historical Catholic Faith.
> 
> Eliot saw these as a single tradition.  I need not note that Dante knew 
> Virgil.
> Nancy
> 
> 
> Date sent:          Sat, 18 Aug 2001 22:00:09 EDT
> Send reply to:      [log in to unmask]
> From:               [log in to unmask]
> To:                 [log in to unmask]
> Subject:            Re: Definition of art
> 
> In a message dated 8/18/01 7:01:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
> [log in to unmask] writes:
> 
> 
> > Well, Eliot wrote a great deal about his commitment to "Classicism," so
> > I should think it would be his idea that is at issue, not Steve's. 
> > "What is a Classic" is an extended definition of his notion of the
> > "classical" and the importance of it, ie., "maturity" as he understood
> > that term.  Both there and elsewhere, for example, "Modern Education and
> > the Classics," he identifies it with the Greek and Latin texts and
> > claims the only way to preserve a Christian society is to teach those
> > texts.  He is constant and pretty clear in who he means.  And he is very
> > clear that it is not ok to treat just anything as equally valuable.  He
> > has clear hierarchies.  So I don't know what the question is here unless
> > it is the particulars of his extensive discussions. 
> >  In 
> > "What is a Classic," for example, THE classic text of Western
> > civilization is Virgil. Nancy
> 
> My point is that he had a great many interests besides Greco-Roman
> writers, and this shows up in the broad range of both his poetry and his
> criticism. I believe what he said about Virgil is that he preferred Virgil
> to Homer. It was Dante he said had the greatest influence on his own work,
> and Dante is medieval, not Classical. On top of that, Dante has been a
> virtual fad with artists and writers from Boticelli to Henry Miller, so I
> think of him as a poet who lived in the medieval period but also
> influenced many artists whom we think of as modern. One can't 
> necessarily,
> incidentally, skewer an artist by what he likes to read, as I thought
> Steve might have been setting himself up to do. Cezanne is rightly called
> the father of modern art, and is incredibly radical in his ideas about
> space in painting. Yet he apparently knew large sections of the Aeneid by
> heart, and would recite them to people who came to his studio.  
> 
> To me, what an artist uses for material is aesthetically irrelevant, and
> what we want to judge him on is what he does with whatever material he
> selects. Eliot might call Sweeney Agonistes fragments of an Aristophanic
> melodrama, and he's certainly drawn on the Oresteia. But what he's
> produced is a lot closer to the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than to Aeschylus,
> and to miss this I think is to miss the point. When people regard Eliot as
> an important  modernist poet--you may not see him in this way--they mean
> he does something modern with the material he uses, and he isn't just a
> tired producer of  pastiches of Aristophanes.
> 
> I wasn't sure whether Steve meant Classical literature or canonical 
> literature, and now I guess I'll never know if his answer would have been
> your answer. But I think it's important to be aware that "tradition"is
> neither a dirty word in the arts nor a word that's unique to Eliot.
> Painters talked about tradition all the way down to Willem de Kooning. I
> don't personally care if a person uses the word "tradition" or not. It
> just seems to me that one can't make snap judgments based on buzz
> words--that a painter or poet uses words like tradition, Classical, or
> whatever. To a lot of people today, a "traditional" society means a
> society that's closer to nature, where money isn't the measure of
> everything and the food isn't full of pesticides and chemicals.
> 
> I don't recall "Modern Education and the Classics." But doesn't it strike
> you as odd that he would claim, in your words, that  "the only way to
> preserve a Christian society is to teach [Classical]  texts"?  How would
> it particularly foster a Christian society to have students read
> non-Christian authors? What explanation did he give? Or what's your
> explanation? Pending any clarification you can provide, maybe we should be
> asking what he means by a Christian society. It sure doesn't sound like
> what Saint Augustine might have meant by a Christian society. And of
> course "Christian" is another buzz word. Eliot, and also Graham Greene,
> got an unusual amount of flak for their religious conversions--this in a
> society that supposedly believes in religious tolerance. I personally
> think the religious sniping has been overdone. It seems to me that Eliot
> saw two extremes. Either what he called a Christian society or what he
> regarded as neo-paganism or a lapse into paganism. And this latter I think
> he associated with occultism, seances, Tarot cards, maybe at some point
> "recreational drugs," etc. 
> 
> I don't totally agree with him about, say, Gurdjieff. But Eliot isn't 
> nearly as exclusionary as people make him sound, and as ideal societies
> go, his is not bad. As you say yourself, he finds it a must that students
> read non-Christian (Classical) authors. I also find him pretty sensitive
> to the Jewish foundations of Christianity, which to me is a plus.  After
> Strange Gods is a kind of polemic against neopaganism, and indeed not
> among his better works, at least as far as the literary criticism goes.
> But he includes 
> some really good remarks about environmentalism, and I could usually
> agree 
> with his conclusions even though his way of thinking things out wasn't
> mine. If I were asked, for example, why I object to industrial pollution
> or genetically altered foods, I might frame my answer in terms of public
> health issues. If he were to frame an answer in religious terms, that
> doesn't especially bother me, even though I don't share his religiosity. 
> And to tell you the truth, he might be right. Once in a while, I actually
> do find myself thinking that if there's a God, he'll punish us for the
> mess we've made of the earth and for our incredible cruelty to one
> another. I don't think we can blame the problems just on "industry," and
> I'm afraid that we're all complicit.
> 
> pat
> 
> 
> 
> 

--part1_a9.1a067697.28b0b403_boundary
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Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

<HTML><FONT FACE=arial,helvetica><FONT  SIZE=3 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial Narrow" LANG="0"><B>Thanks, Nancy, for two very well-chosen quotations. 
<BR>
<BR>pat
<BR>=========================================
<BR>In a message dated 8/18/01 10:54:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
<BR>[log in to unmask] writes:
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#000000" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0"></B>
<BR><BLOCKQUOTE TYPE=CITE style="BORDER-LEFT: #0000ff 2px solid; MARGIN-LEFT: 5px; MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px; PADDING-LEFT: 5px">Subj:<B>Re: Definition of art</B>
<BR>Date:8/18/01 10:54:51 PM Eastern Daylight Time
<BR>From: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask] (Nancy Gish)
<BR>Sender: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>Reply-to: <A HREF="mailto:[log in to unmask]">[log in to unmask]</A>
<BR>To: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>The nearest to an answer for all of this from Eliot might be the following 
<BR>passage from "Notes towards the Definition of Culture":
<BR>
<BR> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;To our Christian heritage we owe many thing beside religious faith. &nbsp;
<BR>Through it we trace the evolution of our arts, through it we have our 
<BR>conception of Roman Law which has done so much to shape the Western 
<BR>World, through it we have our conceptions of private and public morality. &nbsp;
<BR>And through it we have our common standards of literature, in the 
<BR>literatures of Greece and Rome. &nbsp;The Western world has its unity in this 
<BR>heritage, in Christianity and in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Rome 
<BR>and Israel, from which, owing to two thousand years of Christianity, we 
<BR>trace our descent.
<BR>
<BR>(This also points toward his idea of "standards" for defining art.)
<BR>
<BR>ELIOT'S words, by the way,--not mine--on the relation of Christian and 
<BR>"Classical" writers for education are as follows:
<BR>
<BR>There are two and only two finally tenable hypotheses about life: &nbsp;the 
<BR>Catholic and the materialistic. &nbsp;The defence of the study of the classical 
<BR>languages must ultimately rest upon their association with the former as 
<BR>must the defence of the primacy of the comtemplative over the active life
<BR>. . . . &nbsp;It is high time that the defence of the classics should be 
<BR>dissociated 
<BR>from objects which, however excellent under certain conditions and in a 
<BR>certain environment, are of only relative importance--a traditional public-
<BR>school system, a traditional university system, a decaying social order--
<BR>and permanently asociated where they belong, with something permanent: &nbsp;
<BR>the historical Catholic Faith.
<BR>
<BR>Eliot saw these as a single tradition. &nbsp;I need not note that Dante knew 
<BR>Virgil.
<BR>Nancy
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>Date sent: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Sat, 18 Aug 2001 22:00:09 EDT
<BR>Send reply to: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>From: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>To: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;[log in to unmask]
<BR>Subject: &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;Re: Definition of art
<BR>
<BR>In a message dated 8/18/01 7:01:31 PM Eastern Daylight Time, 
<BR>[log in to unmask] writes:
<BR>
<BR>
<BR>&gt; Well, Eliot wrote a great deal about his commitment to "Classicism," so
<BR>&gt; I should think it would be his idea that is at issue, not Steve's. 
<BR>&gt; "What is a Classic" is an extended definition of his notion of the
<BR>&gt; "classical" and the importance of it, ie., "maturity" as he understood
<BR>&gt; that term. &nbsp;Both there and elsewhere, for example, "Modern Education and
<BR>&gt; the Classics," he identifies it with the Greek and Latin texts and
<BR>&gt; claims the only way to preserve a Christian society is to teach those
<BR>&gt; texts. &nbsp;He is constant and pretty clear in who he means. &nbsp;And he is very
<BR>&gt; clear that it is not ok to treat just anything as equally valuable. &nbsp;He
<BR>&gt; has clear hierarchies. &nbsp;So I don't know what the question is here unless
<BR>&gt; it is the particulars of his extensive discussions. 
<BR>&gt; &nbsp;In 
<BR>&gt; "What is a Classic," for example, THE classic text of Western
<BR>&gt; civilization is Virgil. Nancy
<BR>
<BR>My point is that he had a great many interests besides Greco-Roman
<BR>writers, and this shows up in the broad range of both his poetry and his
<BR>criticism. I believe what he said about Virgil is that he preferred Virgil
<BR>to Homer. It was Dante he said had the greatest influence on his own work,
<BR>and Dante is medieval, not Classical. On top of that, Dante has been a
<BR>virtual fad with artists and writers from Boticelli to Henry Miller, so I
<BR>think of him as a poet who lived in the medieval period but also
<BR>influenced many artists whom we think of as modern. One can't 
<BR>necessarily,
<BR>incidentally, skewer an artist by what he likes to read, as I thought
<BR>Steve might have been setting himself up to do. Cezanne is rightly called
<BR>the father of modern art, and is incredibly radical in his ideas about
<BR>space in painting. Yet he apparently knew large sections of the Aeneid by
<BR>heart, and would recite them to people who came to his studio. &nbsp;
<BR>
<BR>To me, what an artist uses for material is aesthetically irrelevant, and
<BR>what we want to judge him on is what he does with whatever material he
<BR>selects. Eliot might call Sweeney Agonistes fragments of an Aristophanic
<BR>melodrama, and he's certainly drawn on the Oresteia. But what he's
<BR>produced is a lot closer to the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari than to Aeschylus,
<BR>and to miss this I think is to miss the point. When people regard Eliot as
<BR>an important &nbsp;modernist poet--you may not see him in this way--they mean
<BR>he does something modern with the material he uses, and he isn't just a
<BR>tired producer of &nbsp;pastiches of Aristophanes.
<BR>
<BR>I wasn't sure whether Steve meant Classical literature or canonical 
<BR>literature, and now I guess I'll never know if his answer would have been
<BR>your answer. But I think it's important to be aware that "tradition"is
<BR>neither a dirty word in the arts nor a word that's unique to Eliot.
<BR>Painters talked about tradition all the way down to Willem de Kooning. I
<BR>don't personally care if a person uses the word "tradition" or not. It
<BR>just seems to me that one can't make snap judgments based on buzz
<BR>words--that a painter or poet uses words like tradition, Classical, or
<BR>whatever. To a lot of people today, a "traditional" society means a
<BR>society that's closer to nature, where money isn't the measure of
<BR>everything and the food isn't full of pesticides and chemicals.
<BR>
<BR>I don't recall "Modern Education and the Classics." But doesn't it strike
<BR>you as odd that he would claim, in your words, that &nbsp;"the only way to
<BR>preserve a Christian society is to teach [Classical] &nbsp;texts"? &nbsp;How would
<BR>it particularly foster a Christian society to have students read
<BR>non-Christian authors? What explanation did he give? Or what's your
<BR>explanation? Pending any clarification you can provide, maybe we should be
<BR>asking what he means by a Christian society. It sure doesn't sound like
<BR>what Saint Augustine might have meant by a Christian society. And of
<BR>course "Christian" is another buzz word. Eliot, and also Graham Greene,
<BR>got an unusual amount of flak for their religious conversions--this in a
<BR>society that supposedly believes in religious tolerance. I personally
<BR>think the religious sniping has been overdone. It seems to me that Eliot
<BR>saw two extremes. Either what he called a Christian society or what he
<BR>regarded as neo-paganism or a lapse into paganism. And this latter I think
<BR>he associated with occultism, seances, Tarot cards, maybe at some point
<BR>"recreational drugs," etc. 
<BR>
<BR>I don't totally agree with him about, say, Gurdjieff. But Eliot isn't 
<BR>nearly as exclusionary as people make him sound, and as ideal societies
<BR>go, his is not bad. As you say yourself, he finds it a must that students
<BR>read non-Christian (Classical) authors. I also find him pretty sensitive
<BR>to the Jewish foundations of Christianity, which to me is a plus. &nbsp;After
<BR>Strange Gods is a kind of polemic against neopaganism, and indeed not
<BR>among his better works, at least as far as the literary criticism goes.
<BR>But he includes 
<BR>some really good remarks about environmentalism, and I could usually
<BR>agree 
<BR>with his conclusions even though his way of thinking things out wasn't
<BR>mine. If I were asked, for example, why I object to industrial pollution
<BR>or genetically altered foods, I might frame my answer in terms of public
<BR>health issues. If he were to frame an answer in religious terms, that
<BR>doesn't especially bother me, even though I don't share his religiosity. 
<BR>And to tell you the truth, he might be right. Once in a while, I actually
<BR>do find myself thinking that if there's a God, he'll punish us for the
<BR>mess we've made of the earth and for our incredible cruelty to one
<BR>another. I don't think we can blame the problems just on "industry," and
<BR>I'm afraid that we're all complicit.
<BR>
<BR>pat
<BR>
<BR></FONT><FONT  COLOR="#0f0f0f" SIZE=2 FAMILY="SANSSERIF" FACE="Arial" LANG="0">
<BR>
<BR></FONT></HTML>

--part1_a9.1a067697.28b0b403_boundary--

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