November 14, 2007 |
A great medievalist once remarked that, in the end, Byzantine civilization failed because it was merely ingenious rather than original. Thanks to what we now call modernism, that can't be said of the Euro-American culture that has dominated the world for the last two centuries. Peter Gay is perhaps our leading historian of culture and ideas, and in "Modernism: The Lure of Heresy: From Baudelaire to Beckett and Beyond," he sets himself an interesting -- personally felt -- task.
July 1, 2001 |
It is an odd fact that poets tend to be either larger-than-life figures of rebellion, as Lord Byron and Allen Ginsberg were, or that they happen to lead lives of (at least outward) banal conformity: Mallarme the schoolmaster, Philip Larkin the librarian, Wallace Stevens the insurance man. Constantine P. Cavafy belonged firmly to the latter group.
April 26, 1998 |
Twenty centuries ago, Horace in his brief and celebrated lines in "The Art of Poetry" suggested that art at its best fulfills a double purpose: to instruct and to delight. These two factors lived and worked together for centuries. Today, however, a third factor--art for art's sake--complicates the picture. We now have to deal with three positions that, taken together, have presented us with a most peculiar and difficult moral predicament.
January 15, 1995 |
The notorious career of one of France's most iconoclastic poets began, not with the controversial appearance in 1857 of "Les Fleurs du Mal"--which unleashed a fire storm of criticism and nearly a century of acrimonious litigation--but with an altogether less significant incident.
November 27, 1988 |
A man undergoes pain sitting at a piano knowing thousands will die while he is playing He has two thoughts about this If he should stop they would be free of pain If he could get the notes right he would be free of pain In the second case the first thought would be erased causing pain It is this instance of playing he would say to himself my eyes have grown hollow like yours my head is enlarged though empty of thought Such thoughts destroy music and this at least is good From "Sun"
December 8, 1987 |
Image and Word, the Interaction of 20th-Century Photography and Text by Jefferson Hunter (Harvard University Press: $25; 233 pages, illustrated) Photography has never been fully accepted as an art. People who wait in line to see a celebrated show of paintings, a dance concert or a visiting orchestra will more likely show you their slides of Europe than spend time in front of carefully printed and framed photographs.