February 24, 2005

Dulce et Utile

The author of Dulce et Utile gave some very interesting ideas on literatary works.
The Roman Poet Horace said that Literature is 'sweet and beautiful' and that it entertains and educates. I suppose that literature can be sweet and beautiful, but I know that it is for entertainment and educational purposes. But for the reader to understand this I think that similar to understanding a work of art, one has to know some background information. I think that this applies especially if the reader wants to be a good critic.

I agree with the notion that "binding together of ideas with words and imagery appealing to the senses, as well as situations evoking an emotional response from the audience." I think that it is part of the writer's job to appeal to the reader's senses. It is through our senses that we learn, so if a writer can not appeal to these senses, what good is the writing?

However, I also agree with this note: 'Hermeneutics, exegesis: arts of textual interpretation; the search for meaning beyond the obvious and the literal.' It is hard sometimes to see the 'meat' of a story, especially if you are not atune to crtical reading. The art of textual interpretaion can be mastered, however, at very high level or that of a beginner. So I think that the key to understanding literature is having an author who writes symbolically and for the senses, as well as a reader who is willing to explore more than the surface.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2005

Preface to Dorian Gray

Once again, I am not happy with this Wilde guy. I have a feeling that I will not enjoy his book, as he has done nothing but bash art in what I have read to date.

The Preface to Dorian Gray is a set of statements about art. Please read. If you are an artist, or even appreciate the arts, you will understand the tirade that follows:

First, Wilde begins by saying that the artist is a creator of beautiful things. Alright, he had my attention, I will admit that. Nice opening line. He goes on to say that those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt and those who find beautiful meaning in ugly things are cultivated. So, he apparently prefers optimists. He goes on:

"The nineteenth-century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth-century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass."

Maybe I am cofused here, but I would think that from a Realists point of view, one would be ecstatic to find that Caliban saw his face...given that it was not distorted......aaa..I talked myself through that one. I assume then, that one's reflection would be distorted and ugly, not realistic, and this unwanted.

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

No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style."

I feel that artists are out to prove things daily. Even if they are widely known to be true, an artist still has the freedom to explore and present this truth in a new way, let alone reassure it's validity. And ethical sympathies....artists have them! How, I would like to know is this an unpardonable mannerism of style. I would hope that this sympathy would only make the artist's work more colorful and more apt to personal style.

"All art is at once surface and symbol.

Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril."

Is he saying here that if you dare to understand art that you will never surface from the evil depths of its emotional jungle ever again? Oh, how sad, that you too might enter a world of passion and beauty.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 08:26 PM | Comments (2)

Decay of the Lying

I am highly irritated and offended by the word's of Wilde in "The Decay of the Lying" He says that "Life imitates art far more than Art imitates life." He gives an example of a Greek woman giving a painful birth while admiring a statue of Apollo, hoping that she will give birth to a beautiful child.

Personally, if I were giving birth, the last thing that I would want to look at would be a statue of Apollo. I would be even less concerned with producing a baby worthy of the gods. Rather, I would be more apt to render a drawing depicting my child's innocence and beauty. I would capture the beauty of his/her life, not make an attempt to reflect the art around me.

Wilde goes on, "the true disciples of the great artist are not his studio imitators, but those who become like his works of art." I take serious offense in this statement. An artist's goal is neither to became like his master in character, nor to copy his work. Rather, the goal should be to learn the techniques and imagine original ways to convey what already exists to his viewer.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 08:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2005

praise and respect to those old guys

Taken from T.S. Eliot: "No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not onesided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them."

I couldn't have said this better myself. I can relate this to my family. I would be nothing without the Italian/Slovak heritage of my father and the Irish/German/English/Russian-Jew heritage of my mother. When I was born another branch on my family tree grew. The same happened when my four sister and my brother were born. The same when my thirty-one cousins were born. Each of us was like a new work of art, solidifying what my ancestors believed to be true and good. I know that when they look at my family and the way we have grown they smile at the beauty of what they began so many years ago.

"Rules derived from the practice of the ancient poets, 88-110. "
"Reverence due to the ancients, and praise of them, 181 ff. "
These two quotes are from Alexander Pope's outline of Essay on Criticism
I am no good at reading into poetry unless it is from a children's poetry book. Haha. No seriously. I do know that the Pope was outlining an essay on criticizing poetry and that he listed some causes that would hinder a critic's judgement, as well as a conduct code for critics, more or less. However, this is the extent of my knowledge.

The two quotes previously mentioned stuck out to me because I read this after the piece by T.S. Eliott. Referring to the story I told about my family, I feel the first quote is applicable in that rules of the family derived from the patriarch and matriarch of the family, adjusted as they were passed along. I know the quote is speaking of ancient poets' rules being acknowledged and used by present poets, but I think it applies to the situation of family life.

The second quote talks about having reverence for the ancient poets and respecting them for their accomplishments. I feel that this to holds true to the idea of the family tree. Had it not been for founding fathers or great(x100's) grandparents, we would not exist. I think that a great amount of respect should be paid to those ancient peoples. Their courage and love for what they were doing is highly respectable and should be commended.

After all, where would we be today without our ancient poets?

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 10:33 PM | Comments (2)

February 16, 2005


Aristotle said there are three differences in art when it comes to imitation: medium, objects, and manner. He says that men are generally the objects of imitation. They are the medium. Their medium is seen good or bad. This holds true in both the form of painting and that of poetry. Of course tragedy is more appealing than real life. The manner in which they are presented can be through narration, use of language.

Aristotle goes on to say that poetry came from two causes: the need for harmony and the instinct to imitate. He asks whether Tragedy and Comedy came from imitation. Comedy starting with songs that were still in use when Aristotle wrote The Republic, and Tragedy just developed on its own and halted at a certain point in time.

He says, "Now, according to our definition Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is complete, and whole, and of a certain magnitude; for there may be a whole that is wanting in magnitude. A whole is that which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. A beginning is that which does not itself follow anything by causal necessity, but after which something naturally is or comes to be. An end, on the contrary, is that which itself naturally follows some other thing, either by necessity, or as a rule, but has nothing following it. A middle is that which follows something as some other thing follows it. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles. "

Aristotle says that the goal of life is to reach happiness. The end is happiness.

And continues...."a beautiful object, whether it be a living organism or any whole composed of parts, must not only have an orderly arrangement of parts, but must also be of a certain magnitude; for beauty depends on magnitude and order."

I agree with Aristotle that a beautiful thing must have order and some amount of magnitude. If I walk into a museum and encounter a painting that covers the length of an entire wall I can not possibly find the beauty in it. I could not take it in all at once. I would be overwhelmed and confused.

At the same time, if I encountered a painting the size of my hand, it would have no impact on me.

"Poetry, therefore, is a more philosophical and a higher thing than history: for poetry tends to express the universal, history the particular." I think that this also applies to painting. I feel that an artist's job is to educate the public and do so in a credible manner, not to simply record the history of his country. The artist is constantly being criticized for his work and criticizing it himself. I feel this gives the artist a more open state of mind and the insight to explore deeper issues.

"Of all plots and actions the episodic are the worst. I call a plot 'episodic' in which the episodes or acts succeed one another without probable or necessary sequence. Bad poets compose such pieces by their own fault, good poets, to please the players; for, as they write show pieces for competition, they stretch the plot beyond its capacity, and are often forced to break the natural continuity." Again, this relates to the artist. It is foolish to create a painting and add ornamental details that do not help the content of the painting. The painting would be recognizable and meaningful without the extra.

"A perfect tragedy should, as we have seen, be arranged not on the simple but on the complex plan. It should, moreover, imitate actions which excite pity and fear, this being the distinctive mark of tragic imitation. " The poet and the artist try to evoke a feeling from the audience in attempting to create a 'perfect tragedy' or a 'perfect painting.' What use is it to write or paint with no purpose in mind. Aristotle has a good point here.

A good poem is one that focuses on one issue, rather than two. I assume that this is so as not to confuse the audience and to create a more meaningful Tragedy.

Aristotle gives us four requirements of a character in a Tragedy: the first is that the person must be good. The second is propriety. The third, the character must be true to life, and fourth there must be consistency.

To sum up, Aristotle said so eloquently, "the plot manifestly ought, as in a tragedy, to be constructed on dramatic principles. It should have for its subject a single action, whole and complete, with a beginning, a middle, and an end. It will thus resemble a living organism in all its unity, and produce the pleasure proper to it. It will differ in structure from historical compositions, which of necessity present not a single action, but a single period, and all that happened within that period to one person or to many, little connected together as the events may be."

For further understanding of Aristotle's 'Poetics', click here

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 10:44 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2005

Allegory of the Cave by Plato

The Allegory of the Cave is a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon about mankind finding the Truth.

In Plato's dialogue, Socrates paints Glaucon an image of a cave. At the bottom of the cave are people. These people have been chained to the cave floor for their entire lives. There is a fire in the cave, but the people can not see the fire, only its shadows dancing on the walls.

A man gets free at one point and goes to leave the cave. He is blinded by the sunlight. It takes a while for his eyes to adjust to the sunlight. After experiencing this wonderful light, he reenters the cave. The man tries to tell the other people about what is outside the cave. He is driven to do this.

This story is symbolic of Plato's believe that after we are placed into the human body, after we are born, our senses prevent us from seeing the Truth. We have to work very hard at getting past our senses and not allowing them to take over. We have to come to an intellectual understanding of the abstract, of the Truth, of Goodness, and of Beauty. Then, we will be seeing the real world.

If one person has attained this enlightenment, then Plato says he is required to show this way to the rest of society.

In a way, I see this as relating to Buddha. Buddha took his followers and helped them to see how to attain enlightenment, before actually leaving them.

Like other things, we have to dig deep to see what is real and what is important in life.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 10:10 PM | Comments (0)

Feeling 3 x's removed.

Know someone who just can't seem to grasp the concept of Reality? Yeah, me too. His name is Ion.

I read two selections from Greek philosophy. The first by Socrates, is called Ion and the other Phaedrus by Plato. Both dialogues were fairly difficult to follow, simply because of the language. What I did pick up on was that Socrates was basically calling Ion, the rhapsode a fool.

Maybe I can make myself clear on this point by reviewing some Plato. Then again, I'm learning it right now in Philosophy of Art, so if you're confused, sorry.

Plato says that an artist is three times removed from Reality. He is an imitator of an imitator. The artist becomes inspired to create a painting, much like the rhapsodist becomes inspired to recite poetry.

A painting of a chair is an imitation of a chair which you can sit on. The chair, or the person who built the chair is only twice removed from Reality. Therefore, the poet is twice removed from Reality.

What is real in these two examples are the Forms. A chair is a form of the form of 'chairness'. The poet is a form of 'Godness'.

At any rate, Plato says that artists blind us. They do not allow us to see Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. They have no knowledge of a good chair or a bad chair. They are simply inspired and play to our emotions. We are sucked in and believe.

In the same light, rhapsodites have no knowledge of the good and the bad of what they are telling people about. Yet, they are inspired by the poets and become convincing of what they are saying. These rhapsodites, thrice removed from the Forms, blind us. Our emotions take over because they are so aesthetically pleasing that we automatically believe.

So, this character Ion is a rhapsodite. He and Socrates had a conversation about Homer. Ion thought that he was the best speaker of Homer. However, when Socrates asked him about Hesiod, Ion could not speak of him. In fact he fell asleep. Socrates credits this to the fact that Ion was ignorant of 'the art.' He could speak highly of the man he adored, but he had nothing to ground him so that he could say whether Hesiod was worse than Homer, or defend Homer as being correct.

I hope that I have helped to clear some of this up. But, truthfully, I could use a little explaining myself.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 09:55 PM | Comments (1)

February 02, 2005

seeing isn't everything

Guardian Unlimited | The Guardian | Mike May regains his sight after 43 years of blindness was very inspiring for me. I have a new found appreciation for the gift of sight. I now realize just how much one can take for granted in a single day. Personally, I do not walk around campus admiring the distant hills, the trees, and check out the color of people's eyes. I know they are there, have always known what they look like, and do not give these things a second thought. I have been humbled by the simplicity of May's words. It's not everyday that a blind man regains his sight, if only partial. In essence he is a miracle and I think that his experience with blindness and with that of sight is one that should be taken into consideration. Do we, all 'seeing' people, fully grasp how blessed we are? Probably not.
Robert's experience with blindness in Cathedral was also a touching story. I enjoyed the experience that the main character had with Robert of drawing a cathedral together. Even more so, when Robert told the main character to close his eyes so that Robert could show him how to draw and feel the cathedral and experience Robert would have. This story explores the widely known stereotype of a blind person wearing dark sunglasses and carrying a cane, as if a handicapped person. Robert shows this man that they can dine together, drink together, hold a conversation like old buddies, and even draw together. Robert brings this standoffish man into his world and allows him to experience it. Coincidentally, Robert's world wasn't all that bad.
Both stories shed new light for me on the competency and abilities of blind people. I also had my doubts and notions as to the mannerisms of a blind person...however I have come to appreciate those who are blind. As to what I have gathered from my readings; people who are blind bring to the table feelings and emotions, true heartedness...for them, seeing isn't everything...and sometimes, it means nothing. Robert could not see the beauty of the cathedral that he and his new friend drew, but he knew it was there.
'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.'
Or did he?

Amanda, I don't think that the story was necessarily a case study, however, I do feel that there is a certain beauty in having the gift of sight and what we experience from it. Also, there is an intangible beauty that comes with being blind. It is amazing what the seeing and the unseeing can learn from one another.

Posted by MelissaTrecaso at 11:31 PM | Comments (2)