February 22, 2005

Leave the artists alone already!

Some of these sentences in The Picture of Dorian Gray preface made me think. Some of them shocked me.

"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all."

This one was a shock to me. Seeing that no books could be moderate seems so close-minded. I have read books that are great until you get to the ending. What would that book be considered? A well written book or a badly written book? I would say that it would be in the middle. It would neither be my favorite or my worst.

"No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved."

I think Wilde is trying to say that artists do not try to do what they should. There is always something to prove, but artists seem not to care. Do I agree with this? Heck no!

When Wilde states that art has surface and symbol and those who go beneath it "do so at their own peril," I was confused. We are supposed to go beneath the surface of art to get the underlying meaning of it. I would not think that this would put you at risk or in danger (well, unless your brain hurts from thinking too much about art).

"All art is quite useless."

GOSH! LEAVE THESE ARTISTS ALONE! I feel so bad for them. Artists had to put up with all these horrible rules that people created. The spectators of art had to put up with rules to view it. Sometimes I wonder how artists ever made it this far. Their work was criticized and looked down upon by most everyone we have read in Media Aesthetics. I truly feel sorry for these artists and the artists spectators.

Posted by Anne Stadler at February 22, 2005 09:52 PM | TrackBack
Comments

Annie, remember the "Dulce et Utile" formula. I wouldn't say Wilde is bashing art -- he's rejecting the notion that art needs to be useful.

While we, as members of the academic community, do indeed go beneath the surface, Wilde is not so much threatening us, as saying that we might not be prepared for what we find. (The fact that he shocked you suggests he's right!)

As regards to the the well written/badly written dichotomy -- I think Wilde would probably admit that some books are better written and some are worse written, and some lie in between, but he is rejecting the notion that the artist has the obligation to be moral, that it should form the character and so forth. Becuase if it did, it would be useful!

While Aristotle did single out particular artists to criticize, he praises art in general (particularly Homer). And while Eliot comes across as a bit snobbish when he divides poets up into immature and mature, it's not art in general that he speaks against, he's speaking against certain criteria with which he disagrees.

If you're starting to feel that no author we've looked at so far has The Answer, then I feel like you're on the right track, and you're really primed to start investigating your own opinions in the informal presentation and research paper (which we'll talk about today).

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at February 24, 2005 12:39 AM

Like we were talking about earlier today, Chapter 11 was the one splotch on this novel. I think it really reinforces the influence of the yellow book on Dorian's life; it is a nasty spot in both the reading and in the consequences of its acceptance in Dorian's sensation dogma.

Posted by: Amanda at March 1, 2005 01:24 PM
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