Saturday, February 27, 2010

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Magic Realism in Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel HawthorneImage via Wikipedia

Although magic realism may seem to be a product of Eastern European and Latin American writers, the genre has been cultivated in the United State by writers of different generations.

If one considers magic realism to be a literary genre that combines fantastic or dreamlike elements with realism; that places fabulous narratives in a normal, quotidian contemporary world, then writers like Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ambrose Bierce, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, John Cheever, Toni Morrison and William Kennedy qualify for inclusion in the magic realism genre.

Drawing on native fables, folk tales, fairy tales, and puritan myths, American writers, as we shall see, have a body of work that display hallucinating trickery, dream sequences, and often plain distortion and bending of what we accept as the real natural world.

Given the abundance of material this article will deal with Nathaniel Hawthorne's works only.

Rather than novels Nathaniel Hawthorne cultivated 'romances' —which allow the writer a quicker suspension of disbelief and more latitude than novels — that border on fantasies and dreams, one can say that narratives such as The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables do contain elements of magic realism. In particular, I like the closing scene of The House of The Seven Gables in which Uncle Venner "seemed to hear a strain of music and fancied that Alice Pyncheon ... had given one farewell touch of a spirit's joy upon her harpsichord as she floated heavenward from the House of the Seven Gables." This scene is reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's fabulous scene in which Remedios the Beauty —a character in One Hundred Years of Solitude— ascends to heaven in the midst of flapping sheets.

But it is in Hawthorne's short stories where we find magic realism in full display; or as critic R. P. Blackmur put it, these stories are the "daydreams which edge toward nightmare." I want to focus on his short story "Young Goodman Brown" to highlight the features of magic realism.

In this short story, Young Goodman Brown, much like Dante, "had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through ... " In this dense forest Brown meets a traveler whom he suspects to be the devil himself, yet the stranger bears a strong family resemblance such as that of father and son. If this scene isn't terrifying in itself, at least is sinister enough to foreshadow what is to come. Delirious, bewildered, and right in the midst of a hellish nightmare brought to reality by the tangible proof of his wife's ribbons, Young Goodman Brown watches the full liturgy of a black mass:

"there is my wife, Faith." As he spoke, he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and Deacon Gookin."

And the entire town he sees there in that wicked witches worship—of the devil! After delighting readers with such hallucinating scenes, Hawthorne's narrator asks: "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch meeting?"

In an ironic twist, when Young Goodman Brown dies, the entire community —all the participants of the black mass— follow him in a long procession as he is "borne to his grave." Was this a second black mass?

While many read this story as a horror story, there is more to it, for all the elements of magic realism —including props such as a staff that resembles a snake, ribbons that materialize, clothing, and an animated forest— mentioned above are present.

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Read "Young Goodman Brown" in contemporary American English: available in KINDLE $1.99 - Or
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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Jose Ortega y Gasset, The Dehumanization of Art

My new translation of Ortega's The Dehumanization of Art is now available in amazon and Barnes and Noble: The Dehumanization of Art

If you don't own a Kindle or Nook at present, you may download the ebook to your computer--for only $0.99

Because I have admired the Spanish philosopher and art critic Jose Ortega y Gasset (1883 – 1955) for many years, I have been reluctant to review any of his books. His writing style offers a peculiar angle of vision about culture, philosophy, and art. As a result for years I’ve been a consumer, always taking from his work and never giving anything back.

But now it’s time to give something back. So, here are some very personal likes and dislikes.

Ortega’s title of the book —The Dehumanization of Art— is now a constant in music, literature, aesthetics, and philosophy, having come to mean that in post-modern times human-shaped mimesis (representation of the human) is irrelevant to art.
According to Ortega, the arts don't have to tell a human story; art should be concerned with its own forms—and not with the human form. The essay, divided into 13 subsections, was originally published in 1925; in these brief sections Ortega discussed the newness of nonrepresentational art and sought to make it more understandable to a public much benumbed with the traditional forms of art.

A search for the substance of traditional art
In the first section entitled, “Unpopularity of the New Art,” Ortega draws from his political credo which one can say it is elitist, aristocratic, and anti-popular. His analysis concludes with the belief that some people are better than others; that some are superior to others: “Behind all contemporary life lurks the provoking and profound injustice of the assumption that men are actually created equal.”

That unbending political point of view colors his aestheticism.

The masses, he holds, will never understand the “new art” that was emerging with Debussy and Stravinsky (music), Pirandello (theater), and Mallarme (poetry). A lack of understanding will mobilize the masses —a term that Ortega uses frequently to refer to the common people— to dislike and reject the new art. Therefore, the new art will be the art for the illustrious, the educated, and the few.

To bring that kind of divisive tool —the few versus the many, aristocrats versus democrats— into the arts seems not only narrow minded, but also disingenuous. Yet my main objection to Ortega’s analysis and conclusions is more fundamental. In my estimation, ‘understanding’ in the arts is of secondary importance. The arts are created by humans to reach out and touch other humans by means of appeals to their passions and emotions—through their senses.

When I was 14 years old, by accident, I heard a musical composition that was so different and strange to my young ears that prompted me to call the radio station to find out about that piece. It was Appalachian Spring, a ballet composition by Aaron Copland. What 14-year old boy from the Andes (Peru) can be familiar with ballet or Aaron Copland to even begin to understand the composition? Yet, I liked it. And that is all that mattered to me.

Understanding that piece of music, or even knowing the name of the composer, was as far away from my mind as was Einstein’s theory of relativity, since I had no idea who Einstein was either. Delight, enjoyment, and rapture one feels without expressed understanding.
By extolling the new forms and promoting the vanguard artists and their efforts to produce non-traditional art, Ortega’s book had a significant influence in the rejection of realism and romanticism. So seductive and convincing was Ortega’s prose that many artists and critics began to equate both realism and romanticism with vulgarity.

To allow a brilliant writer to exert so much authority should be a sin. For years Ortega’s authority has bothered me. Yet, despite that inner annoyance, my respect for the man’s writings inhibited me from protesting. So, by stripping Ortega’s dazzling prose of its seduction —by “bracketing” and performing a phenomenologist reduction— we can see it in its own nakedness for what it is: an elitist and harmful point of view.

People should never be made ashamed of their taste, likes, and dislikes in art. We should enjoy that touch of aesthetic delight whether it comes from primitive, Greek, Gothic, Romanesque, Baroque, realism, or romanticism, surrealism, or any period or movement.

Ortega advocates the ‘objective purity’ of observed reality
Following Plato’s division of reality into the forms (universals) and their simulacra, Ortega invents his own corresponding terms: ‘observed reality’ and ‘lived reality.’

The representation of real things (lived reality) — man, house, mountain— Ortega calls “aesthetic frauds.” Ortega totally dislikes objects be they man-made or natural: “A good deal of what I have called dehumanization and disgust for living forms is inspired by just such an aversion against the traditional interpretation of realities.”

In contrast, the representation of ideas (observed reality) is what he views as the true art. Therefore, he praises the new art as the destroyer of semblance, resemblance, likeness, or mimesis. In that destruction of the old human forms of art lies Ortega’s “dehumanization.”

Yet one must recall that more that more than 2500 years ago, the pre-Socratic philosopher Protagoras said, "Man is the measure of all things: of things which are, that they are, and of things which are not, that they are not.” Ortega’s will to “dehumanize” art will always run head on against Protagoras’ wall. Art by definition — anything that is man-made— is profoundly human and cannot be otherwise, Ortega notwithstanding.

Even in the stark canvases of painters such as Mark Rothko one feels the artist’s humanity in search of the human soul through color and luminosity. Even in the random drippings of Jackson Pollock’s works one can sense man’s struggle for freedom. And what is freedom but a human aspiration?

Whenever I look at the shapes of primitive African art, the Paleolithic images of animals in the caves of Lascaux, or even the colorful and balanced grids of Mondrian—I’m in awe of the human spirit. And at such times I feel that labels, signs, markings, and explanations and descriptions (theories) are totally unnecessary.

What we need are theories of art that can unite people rather than divide them. Ortega’s “dehumanization” is a toxic theory not because it advocates a detestable elitism, but because it attempts to deny the pleasures of art to the common people.

My new translation of Ortega's The Dehumanization of Art is now available in amazon and Barnes and Noble: The Dehumanization of Art

If you don't own a Kindle or Nook at present, you may download the ebook to your computer--for only $0.99

Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse

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My new translation of Ortega's The Dehumanization of Art is now available in amazon and Barnes and Noble: The Dehumanization of Art

If you don't own a Kindle or Nook at present, you may download the ebook to your computer--for only $0.99

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Positivity, you are created for greatness!

ArticleCoop | Positivity, you are created for greatness!

By: Anthony K Wilson Sr

When you think of the word "greatness," who are the people that first come to mind? The word probably brings up thoughts of United States presidents and other patriotic Americans, your favorite sports stars, perhaps kings and queens of other countries, and a host of others who could be thought of as heroes. The positivity of these famous people helped them to achieve their status of greatness and you can do it, too.

You might be surprised to hear the word greatness connected to yourself. However, the fact is that everyone who became great started somewhere. The characteristic which they all had in common was positivity. The good news is that you, also, can develop this trait.

Positivity first means that you must believe in yourself. The person who believes in himself can achieve nearly anything. Whether you have clear goals in mind for your future, or thoughts of how exciting your life can be, positivity is the trait that will get you there. When you know that you can do it, you can!

Believing in yourself is only the first step. The second part of positivity is putting it into action. While goals and dreams are wonderful, they will only happen if you make them happen. Positivity is the drive to turning your dreams into reality. You will need to take the steps of determination, motivation, and hard work. All of these factors together will help you to build the life of your dreams.

You were destined for greatness. To become all that you can be is not something that is available to only a select few. As your life is a wonderful gift, what you decide to do with it can point you in the direction of success. You were created as a special, unique individual and your uniqueness is the key to transforming your life into something very great.

There is another point about greatness which you may not have thought of yet. While you may attribute the word to people who were famous throughout history and in today's world, you have as much potential for greatness as you are at this moment. You may be wonderfully successful and even famous in the future, but you are also great today.

If this surprises you, think about it for a second. When you are giving life your very best, and giving your very best to the people in your life, this shows that you are already great. You do not need fame and fortune to make a very positive difference in your daily life today. Your community, your school, and even your family, can all easily recognize the attribute of greatness in you. You can think of the great person that you are today as being the starting point for the life and future of your dreams.

As long as you continue to believe in yourself, and put this strength into action, you will see that you were indeed created for greatness. Everything you desire can come true.

Author Resource: Anthony is a motivational speaker and he knows first hand how powerful positive affirmations can be in everyone's life.=>

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sarah Palin and Rahm Emanuel

By Sam Stein
Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin is calling on President Barack Obama to fire White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel over Emanuel's penchant for using profanity and a statement he made that was derogatory of the handicapped. Really.

The 2008 vice presidential candidate put up a Facebook post on Monday evening arguing that Emanuel's offending slur (in which he said that liberal groups thinking of running health care-related ads against Democratic lawmakers were "F---ing retarded") was no less the equivalent of using the "N-word."

I would ask the president to show decency in this process by eliminating one member of that inner circle, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, and not allow Rahm's continued indecent tactics to cloud efforts. Yes, Rahm is known for his caustic, crude references about those with whom he disagrees, but his recent tirade against participants in a strategy session was such a strong slap in many American faces that our president is doing himself a disservice by seeming to condone Rahm's recent sick and offensive tactic.

The Obama Administration's Chief of Staff scolded participants, calling them, "F---ing retarded," according to several participants, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Just as we'd be appalled if any public figure of Rahm's stature ever used the "N-word" or other such inappropriate language, Rahm's slur on all God's children with cognitive and developmental disabilities - and the people who love them - is unacceptable, and it's heartbreaking.

The Emanuel remark was reported recently by The Wall Street Journal but dates back to the heat of the health care wars in August. And it certainly wasn't the first time the chief of staff (known for an acid tongue) has leveled an odious broadside at one group or another from his perch in the West Wing.

Palin presumably seized on this one because of her own experience with the issue -- her youngest child, of course, suffers from Down syndrome. But it's hard to ignore the fact that making hay out of "controversies" like these is her political trademark, regardless of whether there is a personal tie to the matter.