Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Modernism versus Tradition

 Modernism versus Tradition

            In his "Preface" to Ambassadors and Golden Bowl James, as Lubbock ardently parrots and supports, states taht he prefers to "see" his story through the opportunity and sensibility of some more/less detached, some not strictly, thoroughly involved and intelligent witness/reporter, one who contributes to the case mainly "a certain amount of criticism and interpretation of it." And Lubbock takes up the cudgel for him, declaring that "the thing must be seen" from our own point of view [P.O.V.] as in James' Ambassadors. "We seem touch the limits of the possibilities of drama in fiction with James" he says, "the novelist uses the look and behavior of thought as the vehicle by which the story is rendered." Thus, the "spectator" will make the right inference about "the pictorial subject", and since the novel is a kind of "drama", the author's part in the effect is no more than that of the "playwright", who vanishes and leaves his people to act the story.
            It is obvious that like modernists, e.g., Woolf, Pound and Eliot, James, through a new form-oriented poetics, wants to create a new technique, rejecting the then-in-tact norms, and argues for the necessity of a modern cultural and artistic sensibility adequate to the present age. He, like Eliot, wants to impersonalize the narrator, focuses on a new form of narration and artistic experience rather on the narrowest sense of their 'personal' or human significance, because disinheritance of modern culture is precisely the loss of belief in traditional schemes. Deviating from the 'norm', severing the subject from the object, holding the manner superior to the matter, with hyper-conscious approach to POV, James wants to give an air of objectivity to this work, isolating himself from it.
            Lubbock's systemization of James's observation, on the other hand, stems from his awarensess of the double role of the narrator. While he greatly admires James' obliteration of the narrator bhind his characters, he also reckons it to be a great gain that at times the narrator "edges away" from the character, delicately claiming a separate entity, as Pascal observes. Through changing the perspective, the narrator will separate himself from the character; thus, POV will serve to shift the reader's attention from the narrator to the character.
            In other words, "since art deal's with what we see" James, effacing the narrational vision behind one of the characters through whom the reader will 'see' the others characters and the events, claims to eradicate the narratorial existence, thus to provide an "objective" work of art. His disciple, Lubbock goes beyond even distancing the narrator: he abjures that the outcome of this POV is a drama.
            Clearly enough, they both consider POV as a highly realistic stylistic vehicle to convey the story. Of course, in this way the observing person in the work is the scapegoat, he will breast any objections from the reader as to whether his observations are objective or not, will wrestle with him on behalf of the narrator. Nonetheless, although this scenic transmission seems to be plausible at first glance, it is by no means to be taken for drama. Firstly, because even the very direction on which the objective is focused implies an implicit subjectivity on the part of the observer. Secondly, we can never make sure whether the observing person is limited, which usually is the case, and hence limits the reader's own perspective. Thirdly, although the author renounces his individuality and seems to dispense with his personality, we are not informed of the other characters' impression, observation, sensation of the observing person, who might be biased or a results, Lubbock's understanding of it is itself limited. He confesses, e.g., that behind the outer aspect of Strether's mind "we do not penetrate, whereas FID should throw open the characters' minds and let the reader see what is within.
            Utopian and nostalgic in "essence", metaphysical in treatment, Lukacs, unlike James and Lubbock, hankers to see the novel functioning like the epic. Favoring the traditional epic, he asserts that the essence of the novel is a quest for one's self or self-consciousness. Although he admits that, the novel has discourse and is a conglomeration of the other genres, he condemns the modernist novel as anti-realist, excessively concerned with formal criteria, especially in his "The ideology of Modernism",. According to him, "it is the view of the world, the ideology/weltanschauung underlining the writer's work, that counts." It is the writer's attempt to "reproduce" this principle. Therefore, the style ceases to be formalistic, it is rooted in content which determines the form.
            In favor of conventionality, different from the understanding of tradition of Eliot, who is a modernist as well, Lukacs regards FID, which he refers to as "interior monologue", as an unconventional stylisation, "although with joyce it is no mere stylistic device, however unconventional the presentation". Joyce's compositional principle is that of "the traditional epic"; in the way the pace is controlled and the transitions and climaxes are organized; "the ancient rules of the epic are faithfully observed". On the other hand, he rejects FID in the novel, which is "abandoned by God", on the grounds that the individual experience is not presented as "confined to momentary sense impression. Since an exclusive emphasis on formal matters can lead to "serious misunderstanding of the character of an artist's work, the literature of realism aiming at a truthful reflection of reality must demonstrate the total picture. The individual and the general are inseparably united. The general is "concrete and real" because it is based on a profound undurstanding of what is "typical".
            According to Lukacs,, to elaborate more, "the ontological view" governing the image of man in modernism is solitary, asocial, unable to interact with the society. Thus, the hero confined within the limits of his own experience. There is not for him "a pre-existent reality beyond his own self, acting upon or being called upon by him". The narrator examining the subject is in motion; the examined reality is "static". As a result, FID as materializing withing the individual, not the social, "the abstract", is a deviation from the norm, stylistic, personal, whereas a gifted writer will have to compromise with the demands of historicity and of social environment.
            Moreover, the potentiality seen abstractly and subjectiviy with is richer than actual life whereas concrete potentiality is concerned with the dialectic between "the individual's subjectivity and objective reality". The literary representation of the latter thus implies "a description of actual persons inhibiting a palpable, identifiable world. Lukacs, therefore, concludes that literature must be deprived of "perspective", because the direction in which characters develop is determined by perspective; man is thus reduced to a sequence of unrelated experimental fragments; he is inexplicable to others as to himself.
            The disintegration of personality or individual solitariness should not be matched by those of the outer world, which would further the "dissolution". To avoid this, literature must have "a concept of the normal" if it is to place "distortion" correctly, to see it as distortion. "Variations in  style reflect the change in the society", but the particular, as opposed to the general, for this principle of "arbitrariness", which this lack of hierarchic structure may take is not decisive. Consequently, the static apprehension of reality in literature is rooted in ideology itself; "we must go deeper into the ideological problem."
            Lukacs is in many ways like Plato in that he never shuns making binary oppositions, which are always on a par with each other: being/becoming, individual/social, conventional/modern, ideal/real, abstract/concrete, working class/bourgeois, etc. There seems to be no in-between for him. He is also biased in some ways as a result of his own "ideology", while he condemns the ideology of modernist tendencies; wrong in his thinking that the epic is the norm, the novel has "essence". I will start with the "norm".
            "At the beginning" were the trinity of literature; the lyric, the epic and the dramatic, written in verse or prose. However, prior to that beginning, before writing was invented, people were telling tales [T], recounting the autobiographical, biographical or mythological events to each other, transmitting them orally.
            This process of transmission naturally involved four basic constituents: firstly, there was a T, actual and/or real, or imaginative or mythological, which comprised of characters and events occurring to or realized by them, and structuring features of the T to convey it to the audio-visual audience [AVA]. Second came the language as discourse, and the AV effect of the narrator [N] as means to convey the T, because, while narrating the T, the N was telling as well as dramatizing it through his gestures and mimics, etc.
            Thirdly, the N's function was to orally and dramatically convey the T to the AVA, who, in turn, through the medium of its imaginative and intellectual powers, would react to him, by receiving and visualizing the T, and, when necessary, filling out the picture in mind as the narrator would intend it to. Fourthly, an consequently, although the AVA's function seems to be passive, because it was only a recipient, it comleted the process of transmission of the thematic content. The N might direct the AVA's attention to particular characters on points of the tale, but much depended on the AVA's point of view. Because, due to reciprocal interaction, the N could not tell too far-fetched "lies"; his visual and mimic expressions would betray him.
            When these Ts, after the invention and extension of writing, commenced to be recorded, the AV function of the AVN expired. Thus, e.g., when Homer composed his epic, orally transmitted until then, this written word was, in a sense, a more orderly "imitation" of the spoken word; he was verbalizing and textualizing the Ts being vocalized until then. Consequently, the T was deprived of the vis-a-vis AV effects of the AVN; and the AVA of the immediate experience; and the now verbal N had only to depict the T through verbal means, free from the immediate reaction of the AVA. As a matter of fact, this is why Socrates condemns writing in Phaedrus, the lact of immediate response and the ease with which the poet or the rhetoritican could tell 'lies'.
            Homer was not, of course, only composing the Ts but also adding something of himself, his perspective and imagination. For instance, in Iliad, he tells the T of the wrath of Achilles against Agamemnon, the warriors, who step out of the unrecorded history. Hence, he has the prerogative to manipulate the story, empathizing with a certain character, picturing to us the other in a lower status. Obviously, the latter cannot, then, pace out of the book and defend his rights, voice his thought.
            The point I am deriving at is that, since the original T/epic was oral, it is the origin, qua center, it must be considered to be constituting the "norm". Through verbalizing the vocal epic, divesting the AVN of his dramatic function in the face of the AVA, Homer himself was the first to deviate from the norm; because he, the verbal narrator [VN] became the center. Conequently, the reader has had to view things from his POV, whereas the AVN, who was both narrating and dramatizing his T, was under the pressure of the AVA and had to observe, especially, the characters, in a more down-to-earth manner. The "norm", whatever, it may be, was actually dramatic and Homer was the trailblazer to deviate from it [in Western literature].
            As a matter of fact, if we do not put much emphasis on the blurry ritual origins of tragedy and comedy, dramatic performances arose as a complement, though not as reactant to the epic, nurturing and being nurtured by it. Thesbis, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides availed themselves of segments of the Homeric epic, tailoring it to fit into their needs letting people "see" it for themselves, by themselves. In a sense, they tried to provide the A with the audial and visual in a more elaborate, elegant, realistic manner; "realistic", because, now that there was not any AVA nor AVN on the stage, being replaced by the dramatist who has distributed the AV functions of the AN to his characters, the A was restored the AV text as staged face-to-face.
            This time the AVA and AV text were rid of the narratorial intervention, too [though not in ideological sense]. The characters could vocalize and visualize themselves, their thoughts, act out themselves. As there remained no physical distance between them and the A, the latter could observe the former more clearly and for themselves.
            This postulate is meant to say that drama was a sort of "nostos", reverting to the AV literature, reforming and transmogrifying the "norm". As a matter of fact, the dramatic, while it has eventually evolved into the cinematic as well, has survived up to the present moment. Whereas the epic had to evolve into the novel to be able to survive, and has not settled yet, now trying to embrace the other "genres", now dispensing with plot and characterization.
            Unlike what Lukacs claims, thus, the epic is not the norm or "essence". The individual does not have to be sacrificed for the society and vice versa. The novel is not the pulpit of the ideological extremes. As long as there is to believe in an ever-controlling, monological omniscient author of Platonic type. Human beings are not simply "types", the general is radiating from, constituting and constituted by the particular. The naturally will be fragmentation of each mosaic tessellation, drastic or petty. To protest "Becoming" in favor "Being", whatever it is, is itself an evidence that the novel will have to change, so do human societies, and reflect, rather "refract" the here-and-now, the "I" and "we", tailor itself to present needs, psychologizing as well as depsychologizing itself. FID in the novel will be there to theatricalize the novel as much as it can, not in the Jamesian manner, with a single character's POV, nor should the novel regress to the epic, the secondary "norm". FID should furnish the reader with a polyphonic, polylogic perspective, with the characters acting themselves out, and the reader viewing them by and for himself.


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