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Re: [biopoet] Re: Novel Professors

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  • Brad Sullivan
    Mike, I can t help but jump in here. When I hear stuff like this: Essentially, my point is this: only writers/artists understand works of art -
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 12, 2010
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      Mike,

      I can't help but jump in here. When I hear stuff like this:

      <snip>
      Essentially, my point is this: only writers/artists understand works of art - understand how the whole work fits together. Literary studies work entirely from the POV of the *reader* wh. is largely irrelevant. The reader's experience of Einstein's or Newton's theories, is not terribly important - the main thing is the theories themselves. Ditto the "play (or work of art) is the thing" (and the implicit theories that it presents)  not some literary academic's usually pointless analysis of it.
      </snip>

      I get frustrated in a hurry. You are assuming that the purposes and processes of art are all "conscious" or even "self-conscious" in the sense that the artist "knows" what everything he or she creates means and how it works. Without the readers experience of Einstein's or Newton's theories, there would be no theories remaining today. Your approach diminishes art to self-expression without any connection to reader response. As such, it continues the myth of the divide between science and art that biopoet intends to debunk.

      <snip> You shouldn't be in the least ashamed of this "traditional writer's toolkit" - this is pretty well the whole ballgame for drama - just about everything that literary studies has to say is irrelevant, not read by anyone else, and will be burnt in time.
      </snip>

      You need to read some recent literary studies before dismissing everything done under the name. Try Nancy Easterlin's "Making Knowledge: Bioepistemology and the Foundations of Literary Theory," which critiques theoretical approaches based on post-structuralism and Saussurean linguistics and attempts to build a more biologically and evolutionarily-grounded view. Or Alan Richardson's *British Romanticism and the Science of the Mind*. Or my *Wordsworth and the Composition of Knowledge."

      <snip>
      The writer's POV is the overwhelmingly important POV - but  -(another subject) - it needs to be intellectualised, theorised and formalised. And it will be, soon.  The "reader's" academy of the arts is not long for this world.
      </snip>

      Writers are notoriously shifty and unreliable as critics of their own work. And why does the writer's POV need to be "intellectualized, theorised, and formalised"? Isn't that the same game as literary theory at its worst? Or can we somehow prove empirically what an author's intentions were?
      Readers are central to the making of meaning. Without them, books are empty ciphers taking up library space.

      All best,

      Brad

      Brad Sullivan
      Professor of English
      Western New England College
      http://mars.wnec.edu/~dsulliva/





      From: Mike Tintner <tintner@...>
      To: biopoet@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Mon, July 12, 2010 8:28:58 AM
      Subject: [biopoet] Re: Novel Professors

       

      Hi Tim,
       
      IMO your article is going in a good direction, you just need to trust your instincts and take it a lot further.
       
      I'm putting below a couple of entries of mine to a Phil of Art forum, wh. should ideally be read back to front! - i.e. the big points are at the end, when they should be at the start.
       
      Essentially, my point is this: only writers/artists understand works of art - understand how the whole work fits together. Literary studies work entirely from the POV of the *reader* wh. is largely irrelevant. The reader's experience of Einstein's or Newton's theories, is not terribly important - the main thing is the theories themselves. Ditto the "play (or work of art) is the thing" (and the implicit theories that it presents)  not some literary academic's usually pointless analysis of it.
       
      Dramatic works are indeed, as you're more or less saying, representations of individuals' (characters' ) debates about how to take the significant, problematic and conflict-laden decisons and actions of their lives. Only the artist/dramatist understands how the whole work fits together to show these debates, and why every scene is there.
       
      You shouldn't be in the least ashamed of this "traditional writer's toolkit" - this is pretty well the whole ballgame for drama - just about everything that literary studies has to say is irrelevant, not read by anyone else, and will be burnt in time.
       
      The writer's POV is the overwhelmingly important POV - but  -(another subject) - it needs to be intellectualised, theorised and formalised. And it will be, soon.  The "reader's" academy of the arts is not long for this world.
       
      ************ *******
       
      1.
      Derek,

      Your question stimulates a fascinating idea for me -  I'll just put it down briefly, maybe develop it another time.

      It's as follows: you don't know how to *view* the play. I doubt that anyone in academe does. You're trying to read/analyse/ distill it into something else - something "deeper"  - into some verbal formula that you can make the subject of an essay.

      You/we/our culture doesn't know how to view images and Macbeth like most plays is a complex image.

      If you look at a visual image - let's take the Mona Lisa - in a sense, almost anything you can *say*/*verbalise* about that image is irrelevant. Because the image itself is the thing. Writing verbal essays about almost any image - and its supposedly "deeper" content -  is practically useless. The best thing you can do is something that has only become possible in the last few years. Take a visual program and outline/highlight any features of the image itself to make your point - outline say what makes the smile distinctive. As a good novelist-dramatist like Henry James would say, "don't tell me, show me." [I'm not saying, literally nothing useful can be said in words about images, just not much]. The same applies to music. Verbal philosophical/ literary analysis of music is usually pretty pointless. But now we have music programs, that enable you to analyse and highlight features of the music image itself.

      So for the first time in history, proper analysis of the images of art can begin. Culturally, right now, we are at the changeover of an entire epoch. The book of writing or print has been replaced by the movie book, pace the tablet/ipad - and the image has been enfranchised and made extraordinarily cheap as text was enfranchised by the printed book. We can and will as a consequence become image-literate or mediate for the first time. At the moment, culturally, we are still image-illiterate or "immediate."

      I start with these more graphic images, because a play is a more subtle kind of image, (if we're thinking of it in manuscript vs. movie form). But it's still an image.

      And for Macbeth like every drama, "the play's the thing." Not your or any philosopher/ academic' s analysis, but the play itself.

      So  if you look at Macbeth - [let's just take up to the murder] - basically the play as a whole - the dialogue as a whole -  scene after scene - is the thing. And you'll find that the play [up to the murder]  *is* largely the debate about the dilemma - "Macbeth" is almost all Macbeth's debate about his dilemma of whether to kill his king -  Claudius' praise and recognition of him, his wife's urgings, the witches' predictions, his own inner debates - they're all part of his evolving debate pro and con killing, all factors pro and con.

      And note: all of these speeches of people and inner debates would or could in principle have been part of the real Macbeth's, or a real usurper's, actual total debates.

      So the big deal is the play-as-a-whole' s rendition of the protagonist' s whole debate, wh. typically includes both their own inner debates, and their debates with those around them, who are usually actually, or effectively, urging them pro and con deciding one way or other about the dilemma.

      That's the achievement of the dramatist - the whole total debate - all 1000 or however many lines of it -  remove parts, or distil it, and you lose the achievement - just as if you were to focus on only one part of Mona Lisa's face - the eyes or lips,say - you would lose the whole achievement of the total expression captured.

      You can certainly highlight parts -  I'd highlight how Macbeth is caught between being a "man" by killing, and being human and a loyal subject - but the key thing is the debate itself as a whole.

      And what we now have the ability to do through technology, is compare other comparable murderers' debates. Compare how they proceeded to the point of murder, and what thoughts moved or didn't move them. Compare the man who murders his king without a second thought, with Macbeth who is tortured about it, with Hamlet  who is tortured he can't do it. Compare actual dialogue in actual movies. You'll find there are loads of such collages on youtube - not systematic, serious stuff, yet, but pointing the way, to the radically new forms of image analysis and comparison that will be born in the academy of the arts.

      We will have to develop new faculties to understand all this - - to be able to think of plays as wholes. We will have to acquire the faculties of the artists themselves. After all, if you're writing Macbeth, the whole play is indeed the thing - all of those 1000 or however many lines are integral parts of the debate you're capturing - just as every line in an artist's portrait is part of the sitter's expression. If the dramatist/artist changes just one dialogue or visual line, they may screw, or severely impair the whole work. So to truly understand drama or visual art, we must all acquire that sensibility/ overall framework.

      No, you can't simply equate all plays with protagonist' s debates about their turning-point dilemmas. Certainly, there's more to them and some place more emphasis on the typical lifestyle of the protagonist. But my original concern remember, was merely to compare the central functions of games and drama.
       
      *******
       
      2)Yes, just to crystallise one part of what I was saying:

      you - or philosophy and the academy of the arts - are looking at drama and the arts principally from the POV of the *audience/reader* (with time to analyse). And you're asking: "what does the play mean to me, and what is its effect on me, and what should I take away from the play?" (Me,me, me, is that all you can think of? :)  )

      Wrong (or extremely secondary) POV.

      To understand a play or work of art, and how it functions, you have to look at it principally from the POV of the ARTIST.  And you have to ask how it all fits together, why it's all there? Why did the artist choose to include those events (or those lines on the face of a portrait - and that expression at that point in time rather than later) and not others?

      Why, for this drama, did the artist choose all  these events - these actions and thoughts - from all those in the total stream of life leading up to the focal decisions-and- actions of the play? (And did he miss anything out? Should he have incl. anything else that he/y ou might have considered?)

      Take Macbeth [first half] and I suggest how it all fits together is pretty obvious. Shaks. wanted to show you how Macbeth came to - decided to - kill Duncan, (er did I say Claudius before?!)  And the scenes he shows you are the key scenes in what both conflicted Macbeth and yet finally convinced  him to do the deed - the key back-and-forth' s in his ongoing debate.

      And when you see the drama as the artist/dramatist, you won't have much problem seeing the play as a totality - all the scenes, all the lines together -  the total debate of the protagonist. And you won't need, as you do when you look from the POV of the reader, to distil the play into some take-away reader's "message".

      In case it's not clear,I'm suggesting a v. radical new approach to the arts - for the whole academy. Increasingly popular creative writing courses are just one of the factors pushing us to that revolution. Ultimately there should/will be only writers/artists- readers/viewers. That's the inevitable logic of the internet - and a vastly truer and more productive logic.
       

    • Mike Tintner
      Brad: Without the readers experience of Einstein s or Newton s theories, there would be no theories remaining today. Your approach diminishes art to
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 13, 2010
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        Brad: Without the
        readers experience of Einstein's or Newton's theories, there would be no
        theories remaining today. Your approach diminishes art to self-expression
        without any connection to reader response. As such, it continues the myth of the
        divide between science and art that biopoet intends to debunk
         
        Brad,
         
        You need to think more carefully about what I'm saying - although it is admittedly stated v. briefly and starkly and needs considerable amplification and clarification..
         
        I am suggesting that literary studies are v. much (though not entirely) "self-expression" - centered on the analysis of the reader's response to literature and movies. Compare literary analysis of the techniques of writing (e.g. in terms of "unreliable narrators") with the analysis you find in scriptwriting/playwriting books - wh. will tell you vastly more that is useful about how dramas work and are constructed. Literary analysis is pathetic and ignorant by comparison.
         
        To adopt the writer's POV is to understand how dramas are created and function. Just as to adopt the scientist's POV when reading scientific works, is to understand how the theorist like Einstein or Newton arrives at his theories - and may be mistaken or could be improved.
         
        And you have totally misunderstood my overall intention - I am implicitly, now explicitly, suggesting that the arts ARE science - that they present theories about the world, which are more or less true, about for instance how people come to commit murders - and should be treated scientifically. You can't get any more consilient than my position.
         
        I have a while back presented that POV here - and y'all *rejected* that POV.
         
        The people who are currently treating the arts with the most appropriate respect and consideration (though still not remotely enough for me), are not arts academics but scientists. An increasing number of science courses - in social sciences, psychological sciences, psychiatry - are using movies as illustrations of their subject matter.
         
      • William Benzon
        For what it¹s worth: Scott McCloud (1993). Understanding Comics. New York: HarperPerennial. In some odd, but wonderful, ways this may be the best single
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 13, 2010
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          Re: [biopoet] Re: Novel Professors For what it’s worth:

          Scott McCloud (1993). Understanding Comics. New York: HarperPerennial.
           
          In some odd, but wonderful, ways this may be the best single introduction to the cognitive study of literature. It's not an academic book; there's no scholarly apparatus. But it yields a superb sense of what it is like to think about story-telling from a cognitive point of view. It takes the form of a comic book, words and images in panels cover every page - McCloud is a cartoonist. The pictorial form is what makes it so effective. So, McCloud has the reader thinking about visual objects and how they're constructed and how those constructions are organized into stories. It conveys a sense of design, engineering, and construction which is very important and which is missing in much of the current literary cognition literature. It gives the reader a whiff of mechanism without the pain involved in understanding the computational models of the cognitive sciences.

          Compared to McCloud, the well-known cognitive and bio critics are like the drunken man searching for his keys under light, where he can see, rather than on his doorstep, where he lost them, but it’s also dark.

          Bill B


          on 7/13/10 8:23 AM, Mike Tintner at tintner@... wrote:



          Brad: Without the
          readers experience of Einstein's or Newton's theories, there would be no
          theories remaining today. Your approach diminishes art to self-expression
          without any connection to reader response. As such, it continues the myth of the
          divide between science and art that biopoet intends to debunk
           
          Brad,
           
          You need to think more carefully about what I'm saying - although it is admittedly stated v. briefly and starkly and needs considerable amplification and clarification..
           
          I am suggesting that literary studies are v. much (though not entirely) "self-expression" - centered on the analysis of the reader's response to literature and movies. Compare literary analysis of the techniques of writing (e.g. in terms of "unreliable narrators") with the analysis you find in scriptwriting/playwriting books - wh. will tell you vastly more that is useful about how dramas work and are constructed. Literary analysis is pathetic and ignorant by comparison.
           
          To adopt the writer's POV is to understand how dramas are created and function. Just as to adopt the scientist's POV when reading scientific works, is to understand how the theorist like Einstein or Newton arrives at his theories - and may be mistaken or could be improved.
           
          And you have totally misunderstood my overall intention - I am implicitly, now explicitly, suggesting that the arts ARE science - that they present theories about the world, which are more or less true, about for instance how people come to commit murders - and should be treated scientifically. You can't get any more consilient than my position.
           
          I have a while back presented that POV here - and y'all *rejected* that POV.
           
          The people who are currently treating the arts with the most appropriate respect and consideration (though still not remotely enough for me), are not arts academics but scientists. An increasing number of science courses - in social sciences, psychological sciences, psychiatry - are using movies as illustrations of their subject matter.
           

             
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