Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the lost posts

As my "Humanities Core" (http://www.humcoretrapp.blogspot.com/) blog threatens to overtake "Zoo" in sheer number of posts, as November begins, as the pressure to finish chapter one increases, and as i get used to idea that the letters are still not about love... as all these things, I really hope that I am picking up again, on these postings. Even with this, there is the sense of loss and redemption, and perhaps this where to begin. I had come to the conclusion that redemption is what Brecht wanted to thwart through his development of anti-aristotelian theater.

In "Alienation Effects in Chinese Acting," Brecht's 1936 [1949] essay relating his observation of Mei Lan-fang's theater company in Moscow to his development of the estrangement-effect, Brecht's concerns seem primarily to involve what we have come to understand as consciousness-raising. It seems possible find in hte essay the repetition of a call for consciousness. From the beginning, he writes: "The efforts in question were directed to playing in such a way that the audience was hindered from simply identifying itself with the characters in the play. Acceptance or rejection of their actions and utterances was meant to take place on a conscious plane, instead of, as hitherto, in the audience's subconscious." It follows, therefore: all of the readings of his didacticism, his empiricism, his objective reality, his undeserved greatness... all of these things deal with and assert the primacy of the "conscious plane" to Brecht.

The interesting part of this process seems to be the way in which "identifying with" the actions subconsciously becomes Brecht's shorthand for the way that theater, and art in general, has functioned since Aristotle. It is what Leo Bersani has called "the culture of redemption," what Benjamin saw as the messianistic, what myths of "primitive accumulation" allow, and, as Savvy T and I discuss endlessly, it is the predominant justification and grounds for the production and study of literature. Or is it itself an uninvestigated, assumed uncritical blah blah blah ideology? But this percolating idea about Brecht's non-redemptiveness is that art, for Brecht, does something other than affirm (positively or negatively) the adequacy of the relationship between form and content (which, for Aristotle, is intricately related to the interdependency of the soul and the body), that before art conveys the coincidence of form and content (something accidental?), it does something else: this is the question that it seems even the very consideration of involves the willingness "to suspend belief."

Picture: Cozydan t-shirt design. thanks to Becky for buying.

Friday, October 12, 2007

identity threat

Craters of the Moon National Monument: where the "them" are spatter cones.
Talking with friends last night about irony (thanks to Alanis Morisette for providing the the procative lyrics that were inspiration for the conversation—something about rain and wedding day), we struggled to define irony itself. This arose from the observation that the incidents Morisette mentions do not qualify as irony because they do not involve the thwarting of intention and are instead just “bad things” that happen. It seemed that, in some way, the not knowing had to be related to intention--as if the incongruity between what was expected and what actually happened needed, nonetheless, an active agent. What is irony with this idea that in some way, without your knowing, you contribute to your downfall?

Monday, October 1, 2007

not making waves

If the "hard things do give way," as Brecht wrote, it is hardly a reassurance, although it is one that Benjamin holds onto, and esteems, when he speaks of Brecht. We might be inclined to want this--the passing away of tension, the eventual ease of transformation, the hopeful sense that change is endless--but with Brecht, one does not dwell with this too long. More than the sense that things can change (and counter to the obvious rendition of "change, not mere interpretation"), Brecht seems to find that the sense of "being otherwise" depends upon a tenuous perception of the difference between the rules that govern and the society that persists. The insight here is perhaps not so profound, but what I think Brecht offers is the idea that art is not there to change or even to reflect the possibility of change, but that art is there to maintain this tenuousness. What is the work of maintaining this disjunct, one that might be seen to correspond to the inadequacy of the relationship between content and form, or between reality and representation?