Facts of Fiction

It struck me as strange the other day when I realised how much argument has to go in to defending certain modern works as specific genres, when in the past, much liberty was taken in applying Aristotle's work on dramatic theory, Poetics, to literary theory as a whole. After all, though, the work seems to privilege meaning, if we take 1451b into consideration, where Aristotle calls poetry more "scientific and serious than history" because it illustrates what could be, i.e. what is possible through types, rather than what merely was. Hadot, in "Physique et poésie dans le Timée de Platon", finds a connection between this later statement and the creation myth in Plato's Timaeus, which is also a could - of the Best - placed over the was - of Necessity. Vis-a-vis this problem of "genre", Gadamer writes in Truth and Method that the main distinction between poetic and scientific (i.e. scholarly) prose is "the distinctions between the claims to truth that each makes". He continues: "It is not mere chance that the concept of literature embraces not only works of literary art but everything passed down in writing."
To look at art in terms of truth claims makes genre merely one form of vessel chosen over another to reach another shore - providing they are popular enough to work, which I add because it seems to me myth, for example, is not particularly popular at this time (which is not to say they do not subscribe to them; also, the winds of culture have blown on different courses since David Strauss, once admired by Nietzsche, among others). John Herman Randall describes mythologies as the consideration that moral adventure, artistic activity, and participation in the class struggle are the most important things in the world. (It is noted, though, that he wrote this in connection with romantic idealism.) Myth, in this respect, is a serious genre, though playful for the make-believe, and so is perhaps too light for this heavily jaded age.

This evening, I watched the end of Three Faces of a Woman, starring the Persian Princess Soraya, which led me to watch the last interview with the Shah of Iran, briefly educated at a Swiss boarding school I once went to during summer, and remembered some things that suggested to me that a world can shrink, but never go away, entirely. As for me, these days I live in a relatively impoverished place, where some people would curiously spend their last money to dance the tango or merengue. And this latter point illustrates the penultimate point in this post: the wish, among some, to belong to something greater, maybe I could add, to something with flair, too. This sentiment is rather like what is suggested in the pop song, "Je veux pleurer comme Soraya". She had a rose named in her honour (a grimpant tea-rose, in 1955 or 1960). It seems the rose, grown for l'impératrice by Francois Meilland, is not trademarked. Could or was?
Ultimately, though, and moving on, whether a hero is written or lived, and whichever comes first if ever, it seems a lot of imagination or vision is required to dream up an alternative in the face of the harsh Necessity that is sometimes called reality. Hadot writes that one such vision is given to us, as a choice (between Best and Necessary) in the Timaeus. What I find fascinating about that dialogue compared with a generalisation of the work of romantic idealists (both serious about best possible visions) is that the former, while idealistic, is also critical.

Book in background: Boucher's 20,000 Years of Fashion;
brush: ewansim at DeviantART.

No comments:

Post a Comment