Art as savior


#1

Remembering the thread on Eastern Christianity about the Orthodox Church devoted to John Coltrane because they thought “A Love Supreme” was divinely inspired, and also Nepenthe’s comment on my disparagement of Huysmans (I mostly disparaged Huysmans because I do most of the decadents - Kierkegaard in Either/Or said everything they said and tore it apart before the decadents even started saying it years later - if I do respect any of them it’s Huysmans, because he’s better at making evil shine than much of the rest of the lot)…

I keep hearing about people who believe that mankind’s salvation lies in art. In particular, I’m thinking of a man who believes that Mulholland Drive, The New World, and LOTR are the new holy trinity and that they will save mankind. Anyone who does understand this belief, what is the nature of this salvation?


#2

Have you read Les Chants de Maldoror? The protagonist makes des Esseintes look like an eccentric but harmless next-door neighbor, and does it with considerable panache :slight_smile:

And no, I don’t understand that particular form of salvation-through-art at all (yes, Mulholland Drive was brilliant, LOTR is a classic, and I hope you’re talking about Dvorak, but a holy trinity they ain’t). If I had to guess, it’s a different kind of salvation being talked about – not being caught up to God, but salvation from a strictly humanist outlook: self-transcendence.


#3

I have not read Maldoror. I probably should try it, but I don’t know how successful it’ll be. Had to stop reading about halfway through Au Rebours because it was making me ill… it was rather like rotting jasmine blossoms, or the infamous jeweled turtle dead in the middle of my floor. I wanted to get it out of there, and now. That’s part of why I think Huysmans is the crown of the movement: his writing does what he means it to do, whereas many of the symbolists, well, don’t disquiet me or lead me to anything other than “Ok… that’s… interesting… I’ll go do something else now”.

And he means the movie about the colonization of America. Yes, I know, I was all O_O too.
With the people I know of about art as salvation, I think they mean something other than “simple” transcendance. I’m not sure what it is, though.


#4

Hahaha, if A Rebours had that kind of effect on you, all I can say is watch out for Lautreamont. Maldoror isn’t a dead turtle in the living room, he’s an ugly but strangely sensual Lovecraftian monstrosity that just ate your house.

Symbolists are a different school from the Decadents, although they do have their similarities (and indeed shared heritage and members; Baudelaire can be read either way, and The Picture of Dorian Gray is decadent on one level and symbolist on another). The Symbolists were much less concerned with existentialism and moral turpitude, more about image and expression in general.

My favorite Symbolist prose is actually a book of fairy tales: Fedor Sologub’s The Sweet-Scented Name. And sure, some of those are disquieting: one is about a young woman being visited by the ghost of a child she aborted; another about a widow who, every year, picks a man to be possessed by the spirit of her abusive husband for an afternoon; and so on. Others wouldn’t be at all out of place in one of Andrew Lang’s fairy books. They don’t inspire the same sort of horrified wonderment that, for instance, chapter 6 of Maldoror (all about brephophagy) does – because they’re not meant to.

As for the salvation thing, got any quotes?


#5

Art does have a role in salvation. Pope Pius XII explains here:

The Function Of Art April 8, 1952 [Audience]

I highly recommend reading the whole thing–it is cery brief–but here are some good exerpts:

  1. The function of all art lies in fact in breaking through the narrow and tortuous enclosure of the finite, in which man is immerged while living here below, and in providing a window to the infinite for his hungry soul.

  2. Souls ennobled, elevated and prepared by art, are thus better disposed to receive the religious truths and the grace of Jesus Christ. This is one of the reasons why the Sovereign Pontiffs, and the Church in general, honored and continue to honor art and to offer its works as a tribute of human beings to God’s Majesty in His churches, which have always been abodes of art and religion at the same time.


#6

I don’t have quotes. I just remember a very bizarre conversation involving a fellow known as “Pace” who stated these things in a manner suggesting that Frodo was the new Jesus. In the way that Jesus is Jesus for Christians, I believe.

And it’s easy for me to mix up the movements, precisely because of that overlap. The Symbolist aspects of the fin-de-siecle, and on the decadence side, Flaubert’s later work (I have Salammbo and The Temptation of St. Anthony in mind) and Baudelaire (I read Baudelaire as a decadent), are meh. Besides Huysmans and some of Wilde (Dorian Gray, who is des Esseintes for kids, and some of the poety), I find none of it particularly successful.

This all perhaps might be because much of the decadent work I’m familiar with seems to rely far too much on straight shock. Salammbo is a 300-page slasher nightmare that gives evil none of the glamour Dorian and Floressas do (St. Anthony is more successful), and Baudelaire is blandly repellent in a similar way as de Sade is (not that they’re particularly literarily related, I just get the same sense from them): like a teenager spray-painting obscenities on a wall in an attempt to subvert the dominant paradigm. As to Symbolism, I don’t know if it’s that I don’t appreciate it properly, though I do find Redon very technically skilled and Rimbaud good at painting word pictures, if I’m expecting from it something it’s not trying to give me, or, plainly, it’s just full of fail.

In a rush. Ought to be at someone’s party. If am unclear, query more. Also, note to self: look up “brefophagy”. Probably will have to wash eyes with acid afterwards, but knowledge is power.


#7

I remember that guy when I first joined this site! It seemed that all his posts were about Mulholland Drive being the Second Coming of Christ. :confused:


#8

:rotfl:

Somebody taking the ‘Frodo Lives’ movement a little too seriously, I suppose…

And it’s easy for me to mix up the movements, precisely because of that overlap. The Symbolist aspects of the fin-de-siecle, and on the decadence side, Flaubert’s later work (I have Salammbo and The Temptation of St. Anthony in mind) and Baudelaire (I read Baudelaire as a decadent), are meh. Besides Huysmans and some of Wilde (Dorian Gray, who is des Esseintes for kids, and some of the poety), I find none of it particularly successful.

I have not read Flaubert, yet. I wonder at your dismissal of Baudelaire, though – is it because you don’t like the style, or that he isn’t evil enough for your taste? Fleurs du Mal, in spite of the title, isn’t really a plunge to the depths of debauchery like A Rebours; instead, it’s simply very human, and sometimes even rather Christian (De Profundis Clamavi comes to mind, reminiscent of both the Psalms and John Donne). Translation might also matter, if like me you don’t read a lick of French. I have a copy of the Dillon/St Vincent Millay translation, and love it well – plus it has the original text too, even though it looks like so much beautiful gibberish to me. I’ve seen some real clunkers from other translators.

This all perhaps might be because much of the decadent work I’m familiar with seems to rely far too much on straight shock. Salammbo is a 300-page slasher nightmare that gives evil none of the glamour Dorian and Floressas do (St. Anthony is more successful), and Baudelaire is blandly repellent in a similar way as de Sade is (not that they’re particularly literarily related, I just get the same sense from them): like a teenager spray-painting obscenities on a wall in an attempt to subvert the dominant paradigm.

Having read the entire 120 Days of Sodom, I suspect de Sade never really grew up beyond the age of fourteen or so. It reads like bad fanfiction, and has none of the depth or character of the Decadent works I’m familiar with. Des Esseintes was motivated by boredom, Maldoror by hatred, Dorian Gray by fear, Clara by a twisted sense of beauty – all human emotions! Baudelaire too is thoroughly human: joyous, despairing, loving, loathing, passionate. The four protagonists of 120 Days are nothing more than animals, and instead of providing any involvement or examination of the characters of the four, de Sade leaves them about as interesting as a pile of gravel.

Oh yes, if you haven’t read it already, definitely check out Mirbeau’s The Torture Garden.

In a rush. Ought to be at someone’s party. If am unclear, query more. Also, note to self: look up “brefophagy”. Probably will have to wash eyes with acid afterwards, but knowledge is power.

Have fun at the party! :smiley: By the way, ‘brephophagy’ means ‘eating babies’.


#9

The party was boring, so I left after a few minutes. :o I looked up “brephophagy” before I left and dug around - for some reason, probably because of its pedigree in satire, I wasn’t disturbed. I was exposed to dead baby jokes at a very early age.

As to Baudelaire, it’s probably because I’m most familiar with his erotic poetry, which a nodding acquaintance of mine puts up every so often. I read French, but only enough for comprehension rather than appreciation. The translation I keep seeing is metrically interesting but in images overcolored and silly more than anything else, thus the comparisons to de Sade.

It might after all be that it’s not “evil enough”, lol, though I doubt it. Admittedly, I’ve spent so much time on 4chan and Encyclopedia Dramatica (switched to Uncyclopedia - funnier, less 4channy, and not all the furry porn - check out the Sandman article for lots’o’lulz) that there’s not all that much that freaks me out. Which is probably why I prefer Huysmans and Wilde - they’re disconcerting, not just straight shock.

I do find that if I don’t like what I’ve seen of something, I usually just dismiss it by what I know of it. There’s so much out there in the world that if you want to try everything, sometimes you gotta give something less than it would ideally be. Unless it’s Nabokov, whom I keep attempting and keep disliking but really feel I need to try to get somewhere with.


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