a cacophony of notes—fairy tales, irony, polyphony, & more

More half-baked thoughts/notes on poetics and life and such…

For some reason, the following 3 excerpts all seem to me to belong together – so I’m gonna hastily cobble and stick ’em to dry here:

That period of excitement and protest still carries a powerful charge: Angela Carter’s name, more than twenty years after her death, can still fill a hall like a rock star. But she was herself very skeptical about the difference she or anyone else could make, and acutely aware of the warnings sounded by philosophers, such as Herbert Marcuse and Theodor Adorno, that under the present arrangements of markets and media there can be no subversive act or work that will not end up absorbed, and de-fanged. Yet she did not give up the struggle. Just as love of fairy-tales drew her to them irresistibly while loathing of their values roused her to disfigure their sweetness, so romance and cynicism are entangled in her ferocious refashionings. She was a utopian and a satirist, and a fight between idealism and despair flourished, unresolved, inside her.

-Marina Warner, Once Upon A Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale; emphases mine.

Adrienne Rich on avante garde art:

“Avante-garde” may well be a declaration that “something is very wrong in society.” It may be a true “Howl” against a pervasively square, exclusive, dominant art allied with sexual, economic, racial repression. But, as [Paul] Goodman saw well, in an age of disinformation and co-optation, ‘avant-garde’ may become merely one dish on a buffet table of ‘entertainment’ so arranged that no one item can dominate. It may be drafted into the service of TV commercials, or videos for executives on retreat. Its attempts to shatter structures of meaning may very well be complicit with a system that depends on our viewing our lives as random and meaningless or, at best, unserious.

What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, 2003. (1st published in 1993.)

And Rilke in his 2nd letter to that young poet – on irony, and the great “deep things” of life:

Irony: Do not let yourself be governed by it, especially not in uncreative moments. In creative moments try to make use of it as one more means of grasping life. Cleanly used, it too is clean, and one need not be ashamed of it; and if you feel you are getting too familiar with it, if you fear this growing intimacy with it, then turn to great and serious objects, before which it becomes small and helpless. Seek the depth of things: thither irony never descends—and when you come thus close to the edge of greatness, test out at the same time whether this ironic attitude springs from a necessity of your nature. For under the influence of serious things either it will fall from you (if it is something fortuitous), or else it will (if it really innately belongs to you) strengthen into a stern instrument and take its place in the series of tools with which you will have to shape your art.

Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, Translation by M.D. Herter Norton

I find the above leading me further to a somewhat hazy remembrance – stemming from my very scant background knowledge – of Mikhail Bakhtin’s theory of the dialogic in literature (especially in reference to his work on Dostoevsky & his poetics/polyphonic novels) – a theoretical concept not to be confused, apparently, w/ dialectic or so that eminent source, Wikipedia, tells me:

Sociologist Richard Sennett has stated that the distinction between dialogic and dialectic is fundamental to understanding human communication. Sennett says that dialectic deals with the explicit meaning of statements, and tends to lead to closure and resolution. Whereas dialogic processes, especially those involved with regular spoken conversation, involve a type of listening that attends to the implicit intentions behind the speakers actual words. Unlike a dialectic process, dialogics often do not lead to closure and remain unresolved. Compared to dialectics, a dialogic exchange can be less competitive, and more suitable for facilitating cooperation.

All very interesting…though there is also another Wikipedia entry  on “Relational dialectics,” (! Connect to idea of “relational poetics” discussed by Adrienne Rich in final essay of new edition of her Notebooks on P&P, “Six Meditations in Place of a Lecture”…!) btw, which also references/credits Bakhtin and his idea of dialogics as the source of the idea of Relational Dialectics…so it all kinda ends up meshing together after all. Sort of.

I really don’t know enough about this stuff to be writing much on it; mostly just making notes on these things—and also noting that they have some sort relation to one another. This haphazard method of stringing such notes together is one way to learn, I guess.


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