Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Bloody Crossroads by Norman Podhoretz

The Bloody Crossroads
by Norman Podhoretz

Summary: Poderhoretz, the neo-conservative intellectual examines literature of the last century in which politics and culture cross. The best part of this book for me was the explanation of what neo-conservativism is. Throughout the book however, the author tries to claim various authors for "his team". Interesting connection in first chapter, "Why the God that failed failed", Gramsci, and Abram Tertz(On socialist realism).

p11. Poderhoretz notes the dialectical relationship exists between literature and politics.
p12. Author says it is not simply tyranny which makes art/politics collide bloodily, but rather "the twentieth century's distinctive contribution to tyranny," totalitarianism.
p12 Author wonders why authors have defended totalitarianist communism for taking authors freedoms but not done so for the Nazi's.
p13 Ex-communist writers not enthusiastic about the western world as represented by the USA.
p13 Poderhoretz notes that one purpose of this collection is to "explore literary roots" of these attitudes against the USA
Into "Why the God that failed failed"
p19 Echo's of 'War of position, War of movement' of Gramsci when author notes that major difference between communist and Naziest versions of totalitarianism is that the Nazi's didn't have the hegemonic power of communism and could therefore be fought against with force alone.

p21 Idea that a book "The God that failed" MADE anti-communism a respectable position in intellectual tradition.

p26 Idea that these ex-communists attacking communism, but still remaining on the left and criticizing capitalism similarly is what made the work powerful...Importance of who is pushing the message.

p44 More Gramsci...talking of coercion and consent...the French Left Artists in a way consented to Nazi occupation by producing art to make it past the censors.

p45 Problem with interpretation in writing

Into "If Orwell were alive today"

p50 Idea that Orwell's work has been misinterpreted, so much so that his legacy has been claimed by both extremes of left and right.

p53 Good discussion on idea of vagueness and political speech....passage giving thought to Language and Orwell’s 'new speak'

[ Planet art network ]

p54 Orwell as a declared socialist after the age of 30

p54 Orwell notes that more then socialism is connoted in the word....the word he says today brings to mind every 'quack' out there....

p55 Orwell may have been a socialist but his work never shows socialism working

p56 Idea that Orwell’s work was addressed to the intellectual left of Britain, of which his work criticized from within.

[ good information in this section about the birth of neo-conservativism]

p66 Neo-conservative idea that there is a fundamental right to initiate and engage in own economic activity. {If this is true and I believe that it may be, that right runs into other peoples abilities to do so likewise, which is not the rule of capitalism, if that is Poderhoretz's position...if this is a right then it must run into others....just like you cant yell fire in a crowded theatre..}

p68 Author in 1986 seems to think that if Orwell were alive he would be a ne0-conservative.

Into Part 2. "The Adversary Culture"

Into "F.R. Leavis: A reevaluation"

p78 Lewis wanted to find the "master current" running through literature of the era, and distinguished it from all of the "minor currents".

p84 Vague idea that works of literature can have the "wrong approach to emotion and this leads to viciousness and corruption.

p85 Leavis explored the "revolution of taste" of the 20th century.

Skip past "Henry Adams: the "Powerless" Intellectual in America" ....*yawn*

Into "The Adversary Culture"

p117 The group which sprang up to combat big business culture which existed between civil war and WW2 attacked this group by using its own symbols against them, free competition and equality.

p117 -118 There was a separate movement at that time "whose weapons were not political" but cultural....a non-materialistic critique

p119 This cultural critique was rooted in Christianity.

p119 This was a time (as echoed by John Sinclair at the debut of "20 to life") which just joining the intellectual class meant joining the opposition to business culture.

p122 Intellectual class enlarged in the post WW2 USA or those who were exposed to or indoctrinated in the adversary culture of intellectuals

p122 Author contends that so many of these young indoctrinated people went on to careers in the mass media, these ideas acquired a newfound ability to penetrate into previously inaccessible areas of American Culture.

p124 Idea that Avant Garde had become the "country's most powerful cultural force" or "the establishment"

p124 Second wave of modernism in America, Jack Kerouac as representative, was more mad about mundaneness of life in America then even the first wave of modernism

p125 Author compares the growth of the intellectual adversary cultures, even though their reason for being adversarial was declining, was similar to the bourgeoisie revolutions in France, that didn't happen due to a worsening of situation but one in which they had grown more sure of themselves.

p128 Edmund Wilson noted that for artistic community to drop out of world was complacent acquiescence to the rule of the bourgeoisie.....for Gramsci...a type of consent

p131 Although full political power had not come...the adversary culture of the 60's thought that much power had been gained in the world of ideas, the ideas of the business class were no longer dominant in America.

p135 The anti-adversary culture intellectuals, also known as neo-conservatives, were a major reason for loss of cultural power of adversary culture....example of war of position....Gramsci

Into Part 3 "East or West"

Into "Kissinger reconsidered".....again *YAWN*, why was this included in essay?!?

Into "Open Letter to Milan Kundera"
*....Interesting personal side note> I checked this book out over a year ago(unbeknownst to me when I checked it out this time) after reading Milan Kunderas book of Laughter and Forgetting, as recommended by Mandy"

p180 The essence of totalitarianism is to politicize everything, including the arts...(similar to Abram Tertz's take on socialist realism)

p180 the Soviet Union somewhat completed a cultural annihilation of Western culture in Russia

p181 "The unity of the west was once based on religion, they are now based on culture"

p182 Poderhoretz contends that Kundera has shown us rather then the political, the cultural struggle...(Perhaps the idea of Purpose which Tertz notes was what made Kundera's novels seem political even though they were not intended so, the socialist realist idea of Purpose compelled him to write as he did...)

p182 "The Wisdom of the novel requires skepticism rather then dogmatic certainty, the raising of questions rather then the finding of answers."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hot of the Press Notes

Book: Hot Off the Press
Author: Lynda Tyler, Barry Walker (1994)

Brief Summary: A collection of articles devoted to printmaking and how it relates to politics. Some of the articles were dense and useless to my studies(ie the last two chapters were about technical procedure of a certain new style), but others like "Revolution and its Discontents: Prints Politics and the Emergence of Modernism in the Nineteenth-Century France" and "Prints, politics, polemics" was a great read also.

viii. Note that political print making is similar to 15th and 16th century "visual message" woodcuts.

Part 1.

Part 2. Revolution and its Discontents: Prints, Politics, and the Emergence of Modernism in Nineteenth-Century France.
By Stephen Pinson

8. The radical artistic change between 1789 and 1830's France has traditionally been attributed to the idea that the artists took it upon themselves to break old social forms
8. Author says "this transformation is (instead) a history of political and visual images"
12. Tocqueville himself though that he was a victim of political rhetoric
12. Tocqueville, as well as the caricature artists, first reaction was to deal in comic terms with their disillusionments.
12. The Semantic Trap, of using the adversary's language is a "common occurrence in virtually all cultural struggles".(Some Struggles use this intentionally, as I will note later after re-reading "Social Movement Reader")
12. What does Richard Terdiman mean when noting that "language itself became contested terrain"?
12. In French tradition writers and artists constantly sought to produce new modes and styles which would set their work apart from "officially sanctioned, historically accepted forms.
13. see notation 16 Robert Darntons essay "Intellectual and Cultural History" which he compares the rise of social theory with intellectual theory.
13/14. Some critics said art is always political, and meaningful only when serving a social purpose.
14. TJ Clark says that one problem was to find intersection between public and private life in order to attack one by depicting the other.
14. Anti politics of Avant Guard discussed.
16. Tocqueville's idea that abuses of language and ideas are possible when people are blinded to abstract principals.
Into the American League against War and Fascism 1936 calender -
by Peter Walch
19. notes that 1930's represent the most political art period in America based on the quantity and quality.
20. left leaning artists participated in democratic print projects(not limited editions)
20. Upton Sinclair a member of the group ALAWF
23. American artists on the left moved away from constructivst design and typography towards a wider spectrum of styles including socialist realism.

Into Harry Gottlieb Artist, Printmaker, Political Activist, Gentle Radical, Friend
by Ellen Sragow.

Note: This is the type of stuff in the book, the more personal stuff about artists that I was somewhat unfamiliar with that was difficult...the good stuff fell in the beginning and middle.

25. Sragow says that Gottlieb's art gave expression to the needs and aspirations of people who could not speak for themselves. (hip hop?)
27. Role of this artist was to become reporter in coal mines
29. Screen print as democratizing the art world
29. Gottlieb was influenced by the Russian Avant Guard and the Mexican Muralists
30. Talk of creation of CIO artists union
30. Municipal Arts centers discussed.

Into The Prints of Robert Gwathmey
by Reba White Williams

35. Artwork is misinterpreted
37. Question of why so many white artists of ~1949 America used black subjects
37. Again problem of misinterpretation mentioned
39. Gwathmey "spoke for social justice without mounting the soapbox.

Into Skin of the world, Leon Golub + Nancy Spero
by Lynne Allen

58. For both artists art is a means which the "I" comes to grips with the world
63. Psychology of victimizer more interesting then victim...idea of group?
64 Breif note about woman artists in 70's realizing art is genderized.

Into "An Interview with Eric Avery
by Barry Walker

72. Eric uses art history's images and gives them contemporary relevance.(symbols)
77. Discussion of art being political because it is the artists experience and all art is just experience.
81 Hard to do medicine and art at same time for an artist.
82. Eric notes his seeming conscious struggle with deciding whether or not to conform to Act UP (and activist groups like act up) strategy of using imagery to mobilize people...Interesting conceptual parallel to Soviet Realism.

Into "Prints, Politics, and Polemics"
by Mark Petr

Note: This was one of the better parts of the book

90/91. Author shows how communications change with technology
92. "Each increase in speed and accuracy of communication causes a change in the human environment"
92. Odd Statement: "for McLuhan, the only way for humans to communicate effectivly is through outdated mediums"
92. Art as "not necisarily concerned with the transmission of quantifiable knowledge"
Into Contextually Loaded A conversation with Patrick Nagatani
Note: This artist seems to do similar work to myself
96. Art as being a wnidow like or mirror like with relation to artist
100. Nagatami says that photographs "provide a tangable memory of a point in time"

Note this article had a decent discussion of method.

On Socialist Realism Notes

Book: On Socialist Realism
Author: Abram Tertz
Introduction by: Czeslaw Milosz
Year published: 1960


7. Milosz notes that "Abram Tertz" is a pseudonym for an unknown author. At the time of this books published it was still unknown who the author of this work was.
9. Editor notes the use of "we" by the author....connoting that he is part of the community he is critiquing.
10. Editor says socialist realism is responsible for untold deaths.
10. Description of socialist realism as an "effective antiseptic"
11. Archatype of "Bard, Teacher, Leader" does not have history in the west. (Accept, it is noted, in Ireland, I am not exactly sure what is being referred to here.)
12. Writers called "engineers of souls" in Russia
12. Authorities in America have never regarded literature as dangerous or important in the maintenance of power. Although I may have issues with this quote. Has the repression of sexual literature under indecency laws constituted a "regard of literature as dangerous?" yes, to the maintenance of power? Maybe.
12. Russia however does have a history of repression for the maintenance of power, Milosz notes Pushkin as being censored by czar Nicholas I.
17. In Eastern Europe literature and art have played an important role in attempts to do away with dogma.
18. [Echo's of conversation with Mikie Vance, see notes from "Literature and Revolution"] Readers and audiences in Russia are more intelligent then the product served to them.
21. How does this discussion of national pride relate to Gramsci's hegemony?

Part 1:
Summary: chapter one seems to lay the foundation for understanding socialist realism. It uses a comparison of Christianity to show the form as a regression rather then a progression in literature.

24. Further Reading suggestion: Khrushchev's "For a close link between literature and arts and the life of a people"
24. Definition of Socialist Realism: "Socialist realism is the basic method of Soviet literature and literary criticism. It demands of the artist the truthful, historically concrete representation of reality in its revolutionary development. Moreover, the truthfulness and historical concreteness of the artistic representation of reality must be linked with the task of ideological transformation an education of workers in the spirit of socialism."
26. Idea of era's having a "Purpose"(with capital P)...for instance Christian era, Individual Era, and in Russia the Communist Era....
33. Further Reading suggestion: Stalin's 4th chapter of "Short course of History of The Communist Party of the Soviet Union" for his view of ideas.
40. The all pervasive Communist Ideology as compared with God is important in understanding some Russian attitudes toward free speech.....What is free speech to a communist? What is the individual to communist doctrine of mid 40's?
42. Tertz sums up first chapter "These are the aesthetic and psychological concepts the knowledge of which is indispensable to anyone who would penetrate the secret of socialist realism."

Part 2:

Summary: This chapter deals with why Socialist Realism is a huge break from the Russian literary tradition.

44. Literary ideas like lost illusions, broken hopes, or unfullfilled dreams do not exist in socialist realism.
47. Gorki's "Mother" is considered to be the first socialist realist work(1906)
48. Idea of "positive hero's" discussed
50. Soviet writers seem to fully "accept" socialist realism in 1930's....Stalinization
65. It seems that the "superfluous man" was more dangerous to a positive hero then an openly negative enemy.
66. Superfluous man as neither advancing purpose or hindering it....shades of gray are not permitted.
67. "who is not for us is against us"

Part 3

71. Todays literature(1960) is closer to that of the 18th century then the 19th in its adherence to a type of purposefulness.

[Marcus as searching for truth, not answers. Isn't truth a answer? Qualia as taken by writer to pass down and categorize knowledge for the purpose of validation.]

75. No Irony in "Realism"
76. Socialist realism shows man as he should be
81. Romanticism as idealistic
84. Personified abstractions present in Socialist Realism.
91. Author notes that socialist realism due to its limitations can only produce novels of moderation.