Thursday, December 09, 2004

After putting the lights around the window

Oh Maggie! Kantian after my own heart! I never did read the Critique of Judgment (“The Third Critique” seems to me to elide the controversial word, while evaluative criticism remains unfashionable...). But I do get it secondhand through my favorite critic Susan Stewart, whose Poetry and the Fate of the Senses you have had ample time to finish since I gave it to you for your birthday last July, yes? You probably finished it on the flight home. You probably read it all the way through after the barbecue, burning the midnight oil to get to this poignant passage near the end:

I have emphasized that the face-to-face encounter we have
with an artwork is deeply embedded in the meanings and
conventions we bring to face-to-face encounters with persons.
All art is a kind of figuration in this sense, yet specifically
this meeting with an artwork that is in itself and for itself is
analogous to the free ethical stance in which persons are
encountered in themselves and for themselves—without prior
determination of outcome or goal. (PATFOTS, p. 328).

That’s how I get my Kant. It’s also relevant to your reading of Bernini, especially at the point where you’re moved by the hand on the stomach; the point of contact between persons, their inescapable flesh; and yet we do escape it at the moment of ceasing to be ourselves. The other necessary component, the point of transformation, the doubleness of being both Daphne and tree—I think this would fall into the category of a new “sense” as when Stewart cites Marx on the history of human senses; normally we don’t think of senses as being a product of history, but there it is. Great art makes or reflects breakthroughs in apprehension. Like Ashbery: “Perhaps we should feel with more imagination.”

And now I must find my battered photocopy of 22 Light Poems and read it in memorium. Do you know that in ten years of looking I have never come across the original Black Sparrow edition? I suppose I could get it on the Internet, but it doesn’t have the same feeling of ... well, chance, which I think Jackson would appreciate.

1 comment: