ForumsDialogue is Action
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I certainly have a lot of issues with modernism but I want to discuss a bit of what I think of modernism because I think we have a lot to unpack here so I really want to hear some of your thoughts on it.
The things which I agree with: I agree that we need to have standards in art and literature. I think in our world. We need to have this in our world because we see the effects of this in our society where we really recognize anything as art. So I really do agree with his theory that we need some objective authority on what is beauty and art
Issues: I have a lot of issues with modernism. a lot of this has to do with the chaos and the pessimism of the modernist authors. I find an issue with this because I mean if we do have an objective sense of beauty then why are we view the world with a nihilist outlook. I personally just don't get what the point is to work on to define a beauty if we are just going to spit on it by making the reader depressed and hate what created the beauty. So what are we going to do. I see that modernist authors are good at defining the problem but fail in coming up with a solution.
@jacksonvon I understand what you mean by standards being necessary for art, but I don't think that's unique to modernism. In fact, I would say a lack of standards for art is the exception. If we imagine the author, the text, and the reader (as well as the cultures both people are placed within), I'd bet we can place almost every theory based on which they value. If historicism values the author and their culture, then modernism values the text exclusively. My issue with the theories we've talked about so far is the disregard for the reader entirely. (Although I think romanticism values the reader? I don't have the greatest understanding of that, though.) Art does not exist in a vacuum, even if many artists act as if it does. I feel like modernism improves upon what we've seen so far by removing the artist for the right reasons, but stops at saying the meaning is within the text, rather than within the reader. I can't personally disagree with modernism since it's not blatantly offensive, but I do feel like it's very boring. Like Arnold said, it sucks the life out of art.
i agree with @jacksonvon about the nihilist outlook being a bit much. I think beauty is subjective and therefore we can't judge it too harshly because what is beautiful to someone else may be ugly to us. Your last sentence summed the problem up great; "I see that modernist authors are good at defining the problem but fail in coming up with a solution."
@salmon I feel very similarly to you in regards to the topic of modernism, however, I am more opposed to it than you (I think). Something we talked about in my hour was the idea of writing not as the author, but as a character themselves. Since the text only is so highly valued, I think this is something that could be an issue in modernism. If an author were to write something they personally disagreed with (which would be explored in historicism), but in the attitude that they agreed, how would that be interpreted in modernism? A modernist would say in the text they agree so therefore that is the purpose and the message they want to spread. Is that justifiable? In my opinion, no. If an author wrote a poem expressing trust and duty to God but was an atheist themselves doesn't that change the way the poem is meant to be viewed?
I also agree that modernism can be boring, although I appreciate the simplicity and straightforwardness that it values. I think that the lack of beauty is nice, and I also think the addition of beauty is great too! I think that there are times for each and that they can coexist.
@salmon I think we find agreement on some of the issues of the theories that we can agree that the theories that we have discussed are that there is no view for the reader. Which as a reader I find really important and it seems that you agree as well. I think the reader serves an important role. I think a reader's job is to decipher a lot of what the author is trying to say. I also think that readers can take different messages from a novel I'm sure that all of us take a different meaning for novels because we will all have different characters which we connect to. this is what both modernism and historicism miss is the role which the reader plays in determining a story. I think Death of the Author is important where work takes a life of its own and that sometimes the author is wrong and the reader's cannon is more correct I know that with the passing of Christopher Tolkien fans of the lord of the rings are afraid of the direction Amazon will take with the property and want to make sure that it is true to the series
I agree on the strong nihilist outlook. The point of art is different interpretations and outlooks so if the beauty has a standard then its hard to have a unique outlook on the beauty because its just what's seen by default.
@theboulder I find the contradiction of author opinion and subject is incredibly interesting, but I'm not so sure it raises an issue with modernism. Perhaps the only time a modernist would consider author intent relevant in this context is if it was a satire, but if it's undetectable without background knowledge, the modernist would consider it a bad work. Fundamentally, when you said:
If an author wrote a poem expressing trust and duty to God but was an atheist themselves doesn't that change the way the poem is meant to be viewed?
I believe that question doesn't even need to be asked. There is no "way to view" a poem, since the meaning within the work is inherent and objective. It doesn't matter if the author was an atheist, since they still wrote about god and the ideas still stand (should they be competently composed). Of course, this is from a modernist view and I feel rather differently, but it boils down to my feelings on objective truth, which is basically what literary theories are all about.
Also, upon thinking about it more, I actually agree with your appreciation of modernism's simplicity. I don't think it works in our modern and tumultuous world, but I enjoy it at times.
I also have an issue with the idea that a text should only be analyzed as a standalone piece of writing. I do think it can be beneficial to view the meaning of a work of writing objectively, however simply because of the fact that very very few authors live in complete isolation, there will always be some influence from the author's surroundings. This means that some of the author's surroundings will inevitably influence the author which will then influence the writing of the author, making the surroundings of the author a potential source of information which can be used to help analyze the writing. For example, in Flatland if you didn't look at the Victorian society surrounding the writing of the book, you might lose the satire that came along with the descriptions of the female line segments. It seems silly to me to completely discount a source of information that could help give a reader a better analysis of a piece of writing.
We brought up a question in class that seemed very important to this concept "How can we be truly unbiased to a piece?" We went over this but it didn't seem to be directly answered. The term indirectly personal was brought up in light of poetry, but we seemed to focus on the term personal. Is poetry personal? When we compare a piece we could say that if we were surface thinking. If we look closer into it we see that poetry expresses emotion, sure it can be personal to an individual but the overall concept is not directly personal. Textbooks do not portray emotion but express their facts or words in a monotone sort of way. To some, poetry is easier to understand then maybe a textbook would be. Why is that? Anyhow the main question was how can we be truly unbiased to a piece? With our knowledge and previous experiences is an unbiased mindset something we can achieve?
@leinweber I agree and think that looking at the historical context of a piece is super important when considering a piece's meaning. I liked you example of Flatland, because a deeper understanding and meaning would have been taken away had we not considered the allegory to the Victorian era. However, I still don't completely discount the ideas of modernism. Modernism argues that good literature should stand alone and shouldn't need historical context to be understood. This makes sense to me, because if a piece is able to stand alone and doesn't require historical knowledge, that makes it accessible for all readers to understand its meaning.
@carlatortelli I agree, I never really thought of it that way. I find it so much easier to understand poetry rather than a textbook. Textbooks are so straight to the fact that it leaves no room for your mind to wander, making it such a boring read. Poetry in a way reaches out to you and can connect to your life and feelings whereas a textbook cannot go there.
@carlatortelli Too be quite frank, I really don't think there is a true way to examine literature in an unbiased way. This is where both historicism and modernism fall flat on their faces. They both try to somehow "measure" art which in itself is a fruitless endeavor. Sure, you can analyze the literary techniques but much like what Prof. Arnold says, "you are draining the art" right out of it. Since literature is based on our humanity and soul, it is literally impossible to measure it. Why should literature be held to different standards?
@a2m0n2 Exactly! I love how we can go further in-depth with this theory on the topic of that question. Poetry for me is a lot easier to understand at times, rather then lets say my chemistry textbook. Textbooks don't have a play on our emotions that keep us wondering, just as you said. Poetry keep some of us intrigued, while others may find a textbook more alluring. Poetry may seem personal at first glance because of our experiences and lifestyle, but in a way that is just coincidence. Poetry expresses emotion giving it that little spice it needs to get to us in a more emotional sense. Where as a text book doesn't even glance or yet care about what you feel as you skim over the boring words. Then again it does depend on the person and their opinion on a poem vs a page in a textbook.
@aaparrot I really like your thought! I agree in the sense that I don't quite think we are able to be unbias when it comes to literature. That is the one weakness I would say both theories have. Just because the theory creator can do what is described does not mean others can. They really do have to start taking in account how the public and others might react to their methods. Chasing after a line that might measure the essence of these theories are a bit repetitive or how you said its a "fruitless endeavor". These standards are a bit overwhelming, if we cant put a price on our humanity and or soul how will we find that of a piece of literature. We read in a way that holds accountable our experiences and our humanities, that can alter each individuals interpretation and or standards of literature.
@salmon Haha you make a good point about the question not needing to be asked. I realize now by saying "the way the poem is meant to be viewed" is inherently flawed by modernist thinking. I guess you are right, the subject and author opinion are not an issue in modernism itself. Perhaps that was my personal bias poking into this theory.
@aaparoot I agree entirely with your point. As a human being with emotions and thoughts it isn't possible to fully remove our personal bias when reading literature. My personal taste will always fiddle with my "unbiased opinion" whether or not I want it to. I love making analogies and this is a perfect opportunity for me to bring up cooking. I think that judging restaurant's cuisine is one of the hardest things to do. Food is very personal yet also has fundamental qualities that can be judged, very similar to literature. However, at the end of the day the judge, not matter how qualified at their responsibility, has a personal preference. No matter how hard I try I cannot appreciate zucchini. I am very into the culinary world but no matter how much I attempt to separate my hatred from the cook's work I fail. I will never be able to tell you if your zucchini is cooked well. Never. I think that each work is different and some may trigger our personal beliefs stronger than others, and that I would be able to view some pieces without a strong bias, but I know there are certain subjects I will never be able to separate my bias from.
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