Saturday, October 30, 2010

Still more notes

The conflation of reason and emotion is exactly the kind of writing literature ought to be engaged in, whatever slippery pronoun you desire to append it with. Tension, anger, conflict, a war between impulses that are global in scope but local in context. The goal isn't resolution of conflict, as that would be mere preaching and the extension of convenient dogmas; what's more interesting and likely closer to the cold shiver of recognition is in how things end.Being neither philosophy, nor science of any stripe, fiction is perfectly suited for writers to mix and match their tones, their attitudes, their angles of attack on a narrative schema in order to pursue as broad, or as narrow, as maximal or minimal a story they think needs to be accomplished.

The attack on modernism's arrogance that it was the light to the "real" beneath the fabrications that compose our cosmology, is grossly over stated, it seems, vastly over regarded: Pound, Eliot, Joyce, and Stein, arguably literary modernism's Gang-Of-Four, did not, I think, tell us in any specified terms exactly what that true reality was, or what it was supposed to be, but only that the by dicing up, challenging, making it strange and making it new could we challenge ourselves, as artists, and as readers that new perceptions, and new ideas about the nature of the world could be had.

Individually , each writer had a different idea of heaven that they wanted the world to become--Pound was ultimately a befuddled, albeit fascist sympathizer, and Eliot became a conservative Royalist (and their anti-Semitism is problematic for anyone looking for real-time heroes)-- but so far as the principle thrust of their work, which was away from the straight jacket of accumulated literary history and toward something new and different that renewed the possibility of art to engage the times in an aesthetically relevant manner, is scarcely diminished in power merely because it came before.

I agree with Fred Jamieson on the point that Post Modernism , in effect, is a restating of the modernist project., although I suspect the critic was as much interested in preserving his own relevance as a critic as he was in establishing new distinctions to a topic that has, if nothing else, perfected the practice of topic drift. His implication is that post modernism is critical of the culture it  ironically reflects; this stance would keep Jamieson, a dutifully abstruse  Cultural Marxist variant, in things to writing about. Or write toward, as the good critic's style is to introduce things he intends to address and then to defer, endlessly it seems, until some clarity is brought, by him, to the terms and context of his impending discussion. He is, it may be said, the image of the lecturer who assumes the podium without his notes organized, assuming he has notes in the first place. Jamieson, in fact, is something of a ironic example of post modernism less as a stylish choice or determined practice than as result of trying to wear too many hats; it is more important to act as though you have a point than to actually have one to begin with. Jamieson has his insights and critical genius, of course, but too often it takes a good while for him to warm up to his actual set of talking points.

 Writing is an argument so far that the central impulse to write at all is to make a series of statements about oneself and one's experiences in the world , and reach a satisfying conclusion, some "meaning" at the end of the the chat.

Roland Barthes noted that the effort to achieve fixed meaning is doomed, as experience is not an static event, but a fluid movement through time that a writer's perception of changes moment to moment, text to text. The argument is thus not one sided, but multi-vocal and relentlessly complex,although that complexity is the layering of endless snippets of conversation, debates and discourses that challenge, contradict  or ignore the tropes of the chatter that coincide with them, simple ideas, cliches and tropes that are given an unintended complication and ironic juxtaposition by simply having all  the talk occur at   once, like a room full of radios blaring loudly, tuned to different stations with an infinite amount of clarity.These are interwoven within perceptions that argue amongst themselves on their pages, in the extension of characters, plot, instances, local, active bits of imagining where the goal, is finally to attempt to resolve contradiction, arrive at something absolute in a universe that seems to permanently with hold its Absolute Meanings during this lifetime, and to achieve, somehow, some peace, some satisfaction.

 But no: the argument persists, the imagination soars, the old certainties cannot contain either the unset of new perceptions, nor can sooth a writer's innate restlessness. In literature, the conflation continues, reason and emotion color each other, the eyes shut, hoping for vision, a clear path, but the writing continues, the sorting through of experience continues, the unease continues, the world changes radically and not at all.  The  post modernism's over all mission is to notify us of the limitations of our tropes, our schemes, and our rhetoricized absolutes seems redundant to what literature already does.