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Reality Bites
From Ernst Bloch, "Discussing Expressionism" in Theodor Adorno et. al., Aesthetics and Politics--
Lukács's thought takes for granted a closed and integrated reality that does indeed exclude the subjectivity of idealism, but not the seamless 'totality' which has always thriven best in idealist systems, including those of classical German philosophy. Whether such a totality in fact constitutes reality, is open to question. If it does, then Expressionist experiments with disruptive and interpolative techniques are but an empty jeu d'esprit, as are the more recent experiments with montage and other devices of discontinuity. But what if Lukács's reality -- a coherent, infinitely mediated totality -- is not so objective after all?

What if his conception of reality has failed to liberate itself completely from Classical systems? What if authentic reality is also discontinuity? Since Lukács operates with a closed, objectivistic conception of reality, when he comes to examine Expressionism he resolutely rejects any attempt on the part of artists to shatter any image of the world, even that of capitalism. Any art which strives to exploit the real fissures in surface inter-relations and to discover the new in their crevices, appears in his eyes merely as a wilful act of destruction. He thereby equates experiment in demolition with a condition of decadence (22)

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From: babyiwasshot Date: February 21st, 2009 05:33 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
In defense of Lukács, I wouldn't appeal to the works of writers such as Thomas Mann (as he does), but rather to works like Tadeusz Borowski's This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen. Read something like that and it's difficult to refute the power of realism. On the other hand, expressionistic works by authors like Kafka also have their virtues....hell, both sides of the debate are valid, and whichever side one takes is more a matter of taste than anything else.

I dunno, I'm presently taking a class devoted to the works of Poe, who I'd classify as an expressionist, and his seeming inability to transcend his subjectivity--to represent something besides mental states, usually his own--really pisses me off, in which case I revert to arguments proferred by dudes like Lukács and Auerbach......put it this way, I can deal with expressionsim when its done right, which is to say when its done in a way that doesn't insistently point back to the author. The way that Charlie Kaufman's Synechdoche New York made you feel is EXACTLY the way that the works of guys like Poe make me feel; they make me want to slap the creator and tell them to quit being so fucking self-absorbed. The works of guys like Kafka and Woody Allen, on the other hand, though equally expressionistic and equally self-involved, are just done better, I think, namely because they point in directions that lead to places OTHER than the author's biography and technique, and because they carry at least somedegree of exterior reference (mimesis?)......blah, this was long and unnecessary. Sorry.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: February 21st, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Oh, I'm with you. I go back and forth. I've been going back and forth since I first encountered the Expressionism Debate in 1990. I think I agree most with the Benjamin position, which doesn't get bogged down in making a value judgment, but connects Modernism with the Baroque and other previous movements and sensibilities.
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