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Meeting My Quotä - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Meeting My Quotä
In this exciting new feature of my already too cumbersome weblog/journal I will periodically, perhaps even daily, post a quote from the reading I'm presently doing for work or play. If I'm feeling chipper, I might append a commentary on the quote as well.

Today's comes from Jean-François Lyotard's piece "The Sublime and the Avant-Garde," initially presented in Germany in 1983, translated into English for Art Forum #22 in April, 1984 and included in the collection The Inhuman (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991):
When it comes to the sublime, major obstacles get in the way of a regular exposition of rhetorical or poetic principles. There is, for example, wrote Longinus, a sublimity of thought sometimes recognizable in speech by its extreme simplicity of turn of phrase, at the precise point where the high character of the speaker makes one expect greater solemnity. It sometimes even takes the form of outright silence. I don't mind if this simplicity, this silence, is taken to be yet another rhetorical figure. But it must be granted that it constitutes the most indeterminate of figures. What can remain of rhetoric (or of poetics) when the rhetorician in Boileau's translation announces that to attain the sublime effect "there is no better figure of speech than one which is completely hidden, that which we do not even recognize as a figure of speech?" Must we admit that there are techniques for hiding figures, that there are figures for the erasure of figures? How do we distinguish between a hidden figure and what is not a figure? And what is it, if it isn't a figure? And what about this, which seems to be a major blow to didactics: when it is sublime, discourse accommodates defects, lack of taste, and formal imperfections. Plato's style, for example, is full of bombast and bloated strained comparisons. Plato, in short, is a mannerist, or a baroque writer compared to a Lysias, and so is Sophocles compared to an Ion, or Pindar compared to a Bacchylides. The fact remains that, like those first named, he is sublime, whereas the second ones are merely perfect. Shortcomings in technique are therefore trifling matters if they are the price to be paid for 'true grandeur'. Grandeur in speech is true when it bears witness to the incommensurability between thought and the real world
I'm doing lots of reading in the history of aesthetics for my book project on punk and my subsequent and, with luck, more sublime project on taste in general. What interests me about Lyotard's parsing of the tradition here is that it clarifies one of the ways in which the do-it-yourself ethos of punk might be perceived as getting closer to sublimity than, say, prog rock. Imperfections in technique are just what the doctored order if you wish to show how Lily Briscoe can never really capture her vision on paper.

This train of thought brings me to the Hauptbahnhof, where I will transfer to another one concerning modern education. I don't think much has been written about what the punk attitude towards craft, or the lack thereof, might tell us about the viability of Rousseaudian pedagogical ideals in a postmodern world. But something certainly should be written on that subject. The idea that it is better to do something yourself instead of entrusting the task to those with the proper training converges in interesting ways with the sort of educational reform that gave us unstructured art and music exploration for pre-schoolers on up as a cornerstone of personal growth. The fact that the American educational system -- systems, really -- has swung so violently back towards tradition and standards in recent years at the K-12 level shouldn't blind us to the fact that a great many parents are still comfortable with the idea that pre-school is a great place to "be creative" without worrying about mastering a specific body of knowledge.

Mode: quick with quiche
Muse: Walk of a Gurl - Preston School of Industry - Monsoon

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Comments
masoo From: masoo Date: November 3rd, 2003 11:09 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Coupla things.

This is my lack of understanding here, not your lack of explanation. How much are aesthetics and, um, daily culture (can't think of a better way to put it) intertwined? I certainly understand the reason for contrasting the punk aesthetic with the prog-rock aesthetic. But how much of punk was an aesthetic comment on prog, and how much was punk a cultural response to their contemporary culture, a culture that included prog-rock, which would in that scenario be seen as completely co-opted by the oppressive culture? Does punk-as-art and punk-as-life mean the same thing? Or is punk responding on aesthetic and cultural levels that are somewhat distinct from each other?

The other thing has to do with child-rearing. This is entirely subjective ... I've done no studies on this ... but my personal sense is that as you sugggest, recent cycles of child-rearing techniques are more interested in art, music, and being creative over mastering specific bodies of knowledge (at least in certain middle-class communities ... I imagine some people just want good test scores and decent jobs for their kids). Where I'd differ is in your suggestion that this is "unstructured." "Unstructured" is kids being mostly left to their own devices, playing in the back yards of their friends, tormenting other kids different from them, doing whatever comes to mind without supervision. What I see these days, on the contrary, is an enormous increase in structured, supervised behavior. Little League over the sandlot, to use a romantic example. It seems to me that most kids whose parents are inclined to favor creativity over other matters for their children, most of those kids end up having their lives filled with structure. All of those kids end up in pre-school. All of those kids, when they get older, end up in after-school activities. None of those kids seem to get much time to be left to their own devices ... and I'm not counting when adult authority figures say "now it's time to do whatever you want," I'm talking about kids, alone or interacting, playing when there are no adults present.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: November 4th, 2003 06:52 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Structure Without Domination

You know, "unstructured" might not be the best word for what I was describing. What I'm thinking about are those structures where children are allowed to "do their own thing," so long as they don't break any of the major rules. It's a fine distinction, I realize, but there is a difference between being told what to draw and being allowed to draw what you want, within some broader framework. It seems to me that pre-schools still make a fair amount of room for that latter sort of activity, unlike schools further up the chain, where standardized testing seems to rule all. There are exceptions, of course. Laura has a description, towards the end of her current entry, of the alternative school where her junior-high-school-age son Elliot is going. Kino School seems to be following the post-60s curricular reform agenda still, with an overall set-up that comes closer to pre-school, as I'm describing it, than public K-12.

As for the first point, the purpose of my book is to look precisely at the way punk differs from a pop music genre like "prog rock" by crossing the line between culture narrowly defined and everyday life. I meant "prog rock" to be taken literally, of course, but also as a metaphor for technocracy a la Marcuse's analysis in One-Dimensional Man.
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