Readings for Week of January 22rd

Posted: January 17, 2018 in Readings
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  1. Uyen Hoang says:

    Every time I click on either readings it tells me the source has been removed or is unavailable. Anyone else having this problem?

    • Hi, thanks for the notification. I will refresh the files. Meanwhile, you might want to refresh your browser and empty your browsing history. That has worked in the past. Hope this helps!

  2. Natalie Van Orden says:

    My mind keeps going back to our discussion on Monday about “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” more specifically about the idea of generations building upon each other’s artistic ideas and discoveries.
    It reminds me of this heuristic I’ve heard about studying for art history tests: It’s not necessary to memorize 2,000 individual paintings; you only need to have an understanding of the styles and techniques of each period/movement, and you should be able to determine when the painting was created and possibly by whom.
    I’ve always been impressed that our periods of literature, visual art, and music share enough common themes and styles that we are able to determine when they were made without being told. To me, this seems so contrary to what I see in museums of art that is being created today (for example in the Springville Art Museum), where the art seems to be an amalgamation of impressionism, extreme realism, geometric styles, etc.
    I wonder if perhaps this is because our exposure to endless information online from all periods of human history is leading us to make art that is a mashup of everything that came before.
    I also wonder if when looking back on our current time period there will be obvious connecting themes and styles between the types of art we are producing that will make it characteristic of our generation to the eyes of future generations.
    I see that having an understanding of the themes and styles of previous artistic movements is necessary to understanding the “historical sense” T.S. Eliot is talking about. If we don’t understand the art of the people who came before us, we are unable to commune with the dead and build on their tradition and make it into our own.

    • Eliot’s idea is not even so much that we need to understand forms and styles from other times and places, at least not necessarily through diligent study. Because Eliot is not concerned with producing scholars, but rather poets. The point is not to develop exact knowledge of the canon, but rather to develop sufficient familiarity with a large number of works that the poet can draw upon them for materials with which to build. The poet needs raw materials, just as any ordinary speaker needs vocabulary. Fluent speakers need not have any conscious awareness of the grammatical rules they employ while speaking. Indeed, to much self-awareness which speaking often leads to a loss of fluency, even muteness. Any teacher knows something about this. For Eliot, poetry works along the same lines. A poet must have a ‘repertoire’ of images, phrases, and tropes from which to draw in a spontaneous manner. The linguists would call this combination and selection. Again, it should be done spontaneously, not deliberately. In a word, poets must learn to speak the canon fluently. Recall Eliot’s contention that inferior poets are conscious when they ought to be conscious (they pay to much attention to their subject matter and the deliberate fabrication of decorative tropes), and unconscious when they ought to be conscious (they pay too little attention to the aesthetic feeling which should guide the creative act).

  3. Natalie Van Orden says:

    Thank you for clarifying this for me. Is the difference between understanding and familiarity that you are describing just between how much scholarly effort you have put into studying past works? (And is this also the difference between the historical sense and tradition that Eliot is talking about?)
    I’m just trying to figure out exactly what makes the historical sense different from having an understanding of past works, especially bexause Eliot says if you want tradition, “you must obtain it by great labor.”

    • I’m glad that helped. I’ll try to help you along similar lines in the future.

      Understanding we might consider an ability to name and describe the function of every part of a given complex entity, often after diligent study. Familiarity, on the other hand, we might consider to be a comfortable habituation to an entity. We might be familiar with French, able to speak it in the street, and yet still fail at even a 101 exam on the language. Meanwhile, we know know all the pertinent words and rules to write an exam on French, and yet still be unable make a simple street transaction in that language. Eliot doesn’t disparage either. But when it comes to writing, not studying art, he privileges familiarity over understanding. That said, there’s always the possibility of total incompetence. But that enters into his essay merely as a snarky aside.

      • Natalie Van Orden says:

        Okay, I feel like I’m getting a better grasp on the difference (especially because of the language analogy.) Thank you!

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