[Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost - your invitation for papers or a speech

Yuko Nii wahcenter at earthlink.net
Tue Apr 14 14:17:25 EDT 2009


Reply: milton at wahcenter.net



 From Terrance Lindall:

Fall heralds a discussion of several top scholars in the arts in New  
York City on the topic of Revolution in the Arts. It concerns itself  
with those individuals of genius in art, literature, music and culture  
in general.

As Poe points out, very gifted persons are often misunderstood. One  
wonders how many of them, gifted far above ordinary genius, have  
fallen by the way, their discoveries or creations doomed to oblivion  
because they are not of a nature to be understood by even the wisest  
of us. In O’Henry’s “Valley of the Blind” we see another writer  
comment on some such idea – if a man with sight found himself in a  
country of blind people, could he not make himself king? No indeed, as  
is the point of his story. Sight was considered madness and they  
attempted to remove the tumors (his eyes) that caused it, because his  
description of sight was beyond their comprehension.

The very greatest among us, must sometimes guide ourselves by a kind  
of caution in order not to draw attention to our true opinions of the  
world around us. We would otherwise violate the principles and  
passions that guide the masses. There have been many throughout  
history who have been executed, imprisoned or tortured for their  
beliefs, so there is great incentive not to be too original in one’s  
expressed thoughts. If you want to be accepted, loved, make money, you  
should…be ordinary…be the lowest common denominator…be a rock star.

So let us look at the idea of “genius” and “revolution” from the point  
of view of the individual afloat in a sea of misunderstanding, how he  
copes, how he succeeds…the suffering as well as the drama, and even  
humor of the condition of genius as discussed in the spring weekend  
event entitled  “Revolution”

What is the Difference between a “revolutionary” and a “genius” in the  
arts?

What does it mean to be avante garde? For example, some galleries say  
they represent the avante garde, yet their artists are well regarded  
by the mainstream galleries, museums and art critics. Are they really  
avante garde? Isn’t the idea of the avante garde to be ahead of the  
mainstream and not quite accepted yet?

Are the people who run the galleries and museums just ordinary well  
educated men and women? How then can they really identify new genius?

Can genius only be recognized by genius? How then can the mainstream  
accept something they cannot themselves identify as “genius.” It seems  
that it is possible to convince the public that the emperor is wearing  
clothes when he isn’t! In other words, if the mainstream ordinary  
people cannot identify genius, are people simply following the  
leadership of someone who claims to recognize genius because most  
people need to create and follow a leader right or wrong?

Can one be a revolutionary or a genius and really be accepted by the  
mainstream? Does being a revolutionary mean merely to take the lead of  
the mainstream from someone else? Do the ideas of the revolutionary  
then become ordinary and not extraordinary? Perhaps the revolt was  
extraordinary and the resultant change ordinary? What is the  
difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary in culture? Are  
these nonsensical questions?

Why do artists and the public think that to be a great artist means to  
do something entirely original? Can something be not very original and  
still be great?


On Apr 14, 2009, at 2:08 PM, Tony Demarest wrote:

> How can one call Longinus and his "peri hupsos" as testament for a  
> 17th century work? Why not Aristotle? Plato, or perhaps e.g.'s from  
> Homer, Diogenes' On Style?- if memory serves me correctly, and my  
> Greek is at least 48 years ago- Longinus discussed rhetoric with  
> bird walks into literature; the sublime was a form of almost perfect  
> speech- as with the sophists, relegated to a specific aspect of  
> discourse. As one should be wary of applying Freud to Hamlet, the  
> obverse is equally true: one should be wary of applying Longinus to  
> Milton- and not widening the interpretation to accommodate 21st  
> century thought? Longinus is valuable in formulating a stand-alone  
> definition of the "sublime," but hardly the "good starting point"  
> you suggest. Rather a piece of the LEGO, rather than the directions,  
> no? I remember Longinus' receiving less time than Sainte Beuve-  
> perhaps this is my loss and I have spoken in ignorance. I would  
> always defer to Aristotle.
>
> Tony
>
> > Date: Tue, 14 Apr 2009 13:42:02 -0400
> > Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Is Paradise Lost
> > From: jamesrovira at gmail.com
> > To: milton-l at lists.richmond.edu
> >
> > Nancy -- why would you expect a definition of greatness from people
> > who think the question is inane?
> >
> > Longinus would be a good starting point here, wouldn't it? Emphasis
> > on the experience of reading for reader, seeking qualities within  
> the
> > text which provoke that experience, objectifying a subjective
> > experience, etc.
> >
> > Jim R
> >
> > On Tue, Apr 14, 2009 at 1:33 PM, Nancy Charlton
> > <ncharlton2009 at hotmail.com> wrote:
> >> I can't believe it! A community that includes most of the best  
> and brightest
> >> in Milton studies caviling over a non-issue we'd rap our  
> students' knuckles
> >> for! There has not been one scintilla of definition of  
> "greatness" or "poet"
> >> laid out in this whole discussion. The most that can be said is  
> that it at
> >> least makes us focus on this omission. And maybe not take it too  
> seriously.
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