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Clement Greenberg This is Greenberg's breakthrough essay fromwritten for the Partisan Review when he was twenty-nine years of age and at the time more involved with literature than with painting.
He came, later, to reject much of the essay -- notably the definition of kitsch which he later believed to be ill thought out as, indeed, it is. Later he came to identify the threat to high art as coming from middlebrow taste, which in any event aligns much more closely with the academic than kitsch ever did or could.
The essay has an air and assurance of '30s Marxism, with peculiar assumptions such as that only under socialism could the taste of the masses be raised. But for all that, the essay stakes out new territory. Although the avant-garde was an accepted fact in the '30s.
Greenberg was the first to define its social and historical context and cultural import. The essay also carried within it the seeds of his notion of modernism. Despite its faults and sometimes heady prose, it stands as one of the important theoretical documents of 20th century culture.
All four are on the order of culture, and ostensibly, parts of the same culture and products of the same society. Here, however, their connection seems to end.
A poem by Eliot and a poem by Eddie Guest -- what perspective of culture is large enough to enable us to situate them in an enlightening relation to each other? Does the fact that a disparity Self reflection essay about english class as this within the frame of a single cultural tradition, which is and has been taken for granted -- does this fact indicate that the disparity is a part of the natural order of things?
Or is it something entirely new, and particular to our age? The answer involves more than an investigation in aesthetics. It appears to me that it is necessary to examine more closely and with more originality than hitherto the relationship between aesthetic experience as met by the specific -- not the generalized -- individual, and the social and historical contexts in which that experience takes place.
What is brought to light will answer, in addition to the question posed above, other and perhaps more important questions.
A society, as it becomes less and less able, in the course of its development, to justify the inevitability of its particular forms, breaks up the accepted notions upon which artists and writers must depend in large part for communication with their audiences.
It becomes difficult to assume anything. All the verities involved by religion, authority, tradition, style, are thrown into question, and the writer or artist is no longer able to estimate the response of his audience to the symbols and references with which he works.
In the past such a state of affairs has usually resolved itself into a motionless Alexandrianism, an academicism in which the really important issues are left untouched because they involve controversy, and in which creative activity dwindles to virtuosity in the small details of form, all larger questions being decided by the precedent of the old masters.
The same themes are mechanically varied in a hundred different works, and yet nothing new is produced: Statius, mandarin verse, Roman sculpture, Beaux-Arts painting, neo-republican architecture. It is among the hopeful signs in the midst of the decay of our present society that we -- some of us -- have been unwilling to accept this last phase for our own culture.
In seeking to go beyond Alexandrianism, a part of Western bourgeois society has produced something unheard of heretofore: A superior consciousness of history -- more precisely, the appearance of a new kind of criticism of society, an historical criticism -- made this possible.
This criticism has not confronted our present society with timeless utopias, but has soberly examined in the terms of history and of cause and effect the antecedents, justifications and functions of the forms that lie at the heart of every society.
Thus our present bourgeois social order was shown to be, not an eternal, "natural" condition of life, but simply the latest term in a succession of social orders. New perspectives of this kind, becoming a part of the advanced intellectual conscience of the fifth and sixth decades of the nineteenth century, soon were absorbed by artists and poets, even if unconsciously for the most part.
It was no accident, therefore, that the birth of the avant-garde coincided chronologically -- and geographically, too -- with the first bold development of scientific revolutionary thought in Europe.
True, the first settlers of bohemia -- which was then identical with the avant-garde -- turned out soon to be demonstratively uninterested in politics. Nevertheless, without the circulation of revolutionary ideas in the air about them, they would never have been able to isolate their concept of the "bourgeois" in order to define what they were not.
Nor, without the moral aid of revolutionary political attitudes would they have had the courage to assert themselves as aggressively as they did against the prevailing standards of society.
Courage indeed was needed for this, because the avant-garde's emigration from bourgeois society to bohemia meant also an emigration from the markets of capitalism, upon which artists and writers had been thrown by the falling away of aristocratic patronage.
Ostensibly, at least, it meant this -- meant starving in a garret -- although, as we will be shown later, the avant-garde remained attached to bourgeois society precisely because it needed its money.A Spiritual Perspective. By Wade Frazier.
Revised February How I Developed my Spiritual Perspective. My Early Paranormal Experiences. Research and Activities – Notes from My Journey.
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In his essay “Self-Reliance,” how does Ralph Waldo Emerson define individualism, and how, in his view, can it affect society?
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