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Title:      The Literary Art
Categories:      Philosophy
BookID:      30
Authors:      Kevin Wall, O.P.
ISBN-10(13):      0000000030
Publisher:      Western Dominican Province
Publication date:      July 10, 2018
Number of pages:      28
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Essay titled "The Literary Art." 

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Title: The Literary Art Author: Kevin Wall, O.P. Published online: July 2018 Previously unpublished Rights: Copyrighted 2018. Rights are owned by Western Dominican Province. Copyright Holder has given Institution permission to provide access to the digitized work online. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owner. In addition, the reproduction of some materials may be restricted by terms of gift or purchase agreements, donor restrictions, privacy and publicity rights, licensing and trademarks. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. Kevin A. Wall, O.P. THE LITERARY ART By studying the mental genesis of the problem of evil we are able to determine all of the levels which it can attain and thereby that level which any author presents to us. But this determination does not enable us to evaluate his expression of the problem, which is not at all the same. The thought comes from him as a myth-maker, a•scientist; or a philosopher, but the expression comes from him to an artist. It is with this Aesthetic from Practical latter that we shall now concern ourselves. The expesšLon.ofthought in aesthetic form springs from an originally practical aim. it tends always to manifest something of the Because of this utility of its beginnings. This is made evident to our con- temporary world through functional design, especially in architecture, by which the pleasing is made at the same time useful. Such design is neither purely utilitarian nor purely aesthetic but somewhere in between and by the fact indicative of the continuity between these two orders. This shows, in the concrete, that the two have a common meeting-point and therefore that it is possible for the one to pass into the other through this point--in particular for the practical to pass into the purely aesthetic. How this can happen is thus evident to the intellect. That it does happen in this way in fact is also_evident_to._the-senses, as it were, through the study of history. It must therefore be true that in fact the purely practical is the potentially aesthetic. The actually L3 2 aesthetic emerges then by the realization of this poten- tiality. As in Science The same situation holds for the emergence of so in Art science out of the myth, of philosophy out of science. For the myth is in potency both science and philos- ophy, as the roughly shaped marble is in potency the smoothly finished statue. And if we trace this to an earlier root we find it to be practical action. This is both knowledge and art in ultimate potency. And its realization is a movement toward just the opposite: the totally impractical and purely contemplative action, which is sought for itself and for nothing else. This is the ultimate goal for art and for knowledge. The Emergence It is first sought in the potency of practiof Art in this Way cal action, by which an individual pursues what is desirable for him. To do this is what first pleases his animal nature. He therefore seeks, at that time, to satisfy this nature by supplying it with food and drink, clothing and shelter. But he quickly perceives that to accomplish this two things are necessary for him: union with other men in society; and the use of tools. Let us neglect the first as irrelevant to our discussion and concern our- selves only with the second. By this he sees that the use of tools will enable him to obtain many things to satisfy his animal needs which would otherwise be denied him, or at least would not be so well supplied. This purely practical insight contains both in theory and in observed fact the L3 3 knowledge of aesthetic. That this is the case begins to manifest itself in the appearance of tools which are an admixture of both orders--in weapons, for example--whose symmetry is both useful and pleasing. The primitive man recognizes the symmetry at first only as a useful form and only as such incorporates it into his weapon. He knows that by doing this he makes the latter balance more easily in his hand and therefore function efficaciously. But once he has made use of it for this purpose, he then sees that it has another value which he did not anticipate. It pleases him. And recognizing this he discovers the aesthetic. This Emergence This discovery does not result in the desof Art not Destructive truction of the practical but in the reali- zation of its possibilities, which has greater importance in the parallel field of the growth of science. There the scien- tist often foolishly thinks himself the overthrower of the myths, ignoring the fact that if this were in essence the case, he then would thereby destroy his science too. For science is the completion and perfection of the myth. It depends upon the latter in the same way as a finished statue depends upon the rough marble from which it is hewn. Useful actions are the original marble of the aesthete. This he must understand so that he will not falsely judge his art to be in fundamental opposition to the useful--his aesthetic activity to be the suppression of the practical. It is not this at all but a realization of the latter, as such, dis- tinct from but continuous with it too. By reason of this L3 4 the most purely aesthetic production is rooted in the most purely practical and, through this fact, in the unity of human experience. The Emergence If with this in mind, we look at the process of Art in More Detail by which art emerges a little more closely, we find that it develops in this way. At first there is the practical tool with its extrinsic relations through its shape, hardness and such like qualities, to an effect to be attained. If this is hard, for example, it will take a sharp edge and thus will cut well without wearing. Its hardness therefore takes its sense from this extrinsic purpose. As the knife is then perfected, this extrinsic end is always its norm. Eventually to achieve it best the knife is made symmetrically. This produces the first aesthetic object which is soon recog- nized as such when the intellect discovers that its symmetry is pleasing, independent of its practicality; that the sym- metrical thing, regardless of its utility, causes delight, which is to say, has meaning not by extrinsic but by intrinsic relations whose beginning and term are in it. Perceiving this, the intellect begins to contemplate these self-enclosed relations and thus comes to know their aesthetic beauty. This is how the aesthetic comes from the practical. The Stages: If the point at which this begins is the a. Beginning b. Middle making of a tool whose intelligibility is c. End the relation of its parts to the extrinsic effect which it is intended to produce, then the point of entrance into the field of the aesthetic is the making of L3 5 the symmetrical tool whose parts have intelligibility also by relation to themselves. And the terminal is a totally useless aesthetic thing having its sole intelligibility from the inner relation of its parts. The Specific Emergence of the Literary Art But in so tracing the evolution of this object from its beginning in the tool, we have not specifically traced the emergence of the literary art, although generically this is the same. Generically the literary art too emerges from the potentiality of the useful, and becomes progressively more useless. St too, in its form, is a self-contained intelligible thing. So in this generic aspect, it has the same form of emergence as the plastic. But it differs "specifically" from the latter in its own inner form and in the matter upon which_it works, this being not stone or metal, nor even, as we shall see, "ideas," as such, but words or language.' This special matter is, like the plastic, thoroughly useful in its first function since it is then employed for the practical purpose of communica- ting intentions, so that by this men may cooperate for com- mon social goals. But just as the initially practical tool evolves into the matter of the plastic art, so the initially practical word becomes the matter of the literary art. For men, in perfecting it with a view to better communication, grqdually give it measure and beat and repetition, which, once they are incorporated, are soon discovered to have, apart from their utility, the capacity to please in L3 6 themselves. The measured phrase, the balanced series of sounds, the repeating beat, delight the mind even if they communicate no ideas to it.2 This is the first insight into the aesthetic in language. The Specific The emergence of the dance as a different Emergence of the Dance form of art follows the same general pattern. It begins as an imitation of an action which, by its likeness to the latter, communicates it to the viewers. This is, in fact, its purely useful initial function. To fulfill this purpose better it is then modified and repetition and pattern are incorporated into it. But once they are, they are soon seen to have a capacity themselves to please whether they clarify meaning or not. From this perception emerges the consciousness of the dance in its most abstract aesthetic form, in which it is a purely self-enclosed intelligibility with no extrinsic relation at all.; in which its movements make sense by reference one to the other and not to an extrinsic action which they imitate. Contribution of It has been, I think, the peculiar con- Modern Art Awareness of tribution of modern aesthetic activity to Formality of Art make this fact lucidly clear, and thus to separate the formal from the material in art. It is true that great artists in all ages have implicitly done this, but it is the modern artist who has done so explicitly and thus made it the ex mrofesso object of his attention. This does not mean to say that he is greater than his predecessors but only that he has a more precise aesthetic consciousness L3 7 than they had. For they tended to confuse in varying degrees the formal and material factors in art, identifying the factual resemblance of a painting to a natural object with its aesthetic form; the depth of the thought expressed with what makes expression a work of art. It has been the merit of the artists of this contemporary age to resolve this confusion. In doing this they have not necessarily produced greater works of art, but they have produced a greater consciousness or awareness of what a work of art is and why. This is perhaps most strikingly illustrated by their creation of abstractions in every aesthetic field. For an abstraction demands a conscious separation of art form from art matter. Result: This does not mean however that it is the Awareness of Synthesis in highest possible realization in art, but Great Art only that it is the purest form of the aes- thetic. The highest possible art_is.more. than this. It is also a thing significant of external truth. It thus perfec- tly combines the latter with its own inner truth, as is the case, for example, in a great painting of Rembrandt whose every line, shape, color, and texture is chosen as if its relations to the others were the sole concern and yet which, taken in the mass, represent well an identifiable external thing. This is the supreme synthesis which is found in "great" art, but not in purely abstract art. Nevertheless the abstraction has its place as revealing to us the formal element of the synthesis unconfused with the material. It L3 8 thereby teaches us to appreciate these two elements for what they are, This Awareness This is particularly useful in the liter- Useful above all in Literary Art ary art where the tendency to confuse them is greatest. There the formal element lies in the relation of word to word, expression to expression, abstracting from the signified thing in itself, which is the matter. When this utter controls the choice of expression--as is the case in a treatise on geometry, for example--then the aesthetic dis- appears. For the principle which then binds the words one to the other is their relation to an extrinsic thing--the signified geometrical content, apart from which they have no independent value in themselves. In this case the use of the words is purely practical. Their purely aesthetic use is found where their intrinsic relations, one to the other, is their sole intelligibility. This is not, however, the height of great literary art. For that is reached only in the synthesis of inner and outer meaning in which it truly "holds the mirror up to nature."3 The Ontological It does this because it brings the mind Value of "Great" Art to rest in a reflected image of the real. In this image, the intelligible relations are finite in num- ber and therefore exhaustively knowable. They are this because they have been made by the finite mind of man who must have insight into what he creates. This he must there- fore completely understand, as is not true of purely natural objects, whose intelligibility is infinite for him, and L3 9 therefore is never exhaustively grasped. Such things, for this reason, keep his mind in continual movement seeking something more of their infinite meaning; hut finite aesthetic products bring it to rest, and thus give it a unique feeling of peace and possession. This is most impressive and when its object is a great work of art--a synthesis of inner and outer relations. In this case the mind seems to penetrate deeply into life, and to understand it profoundly. Peace and This is why, when the mind views a beautiful Possession scene in nature, it feels restless, for it knows that its knowledge is incomplete. But when it views the same scene mirrored in a painting, its experience is just the opposite--that of quiet and possession. Fujiyama, seen through a Japanese print, is a reality exhaustively possessed. Such an experience is only possible through the medium of art, For art does not exceed the power of the mind to com- prehend, whereas nature does. And therefore in art alone does the mind find a partial sense of that rest which it will fully enjoy in its final beatitude. This rest is at the opposite pole to the dynamism of practical action in which it originates. And thus it closes off the upper range of possible experience. Whether in knowledge or in art this range is contained by the two extremes, movement and rest; the useful and the useless; the practical and the contempla- tive; that which is for another and that which is for itself. And in this higher extreme the artist and the thinker share in the beatitude of the intellectual spirit. L3 10 Because of this But they do not share in this in exactly Artist =-.Intel- lectual Spirit the same way. And it is therefore true, as we have already affirmed, that the artist and the thinker are not essentially the same. Because of this the specula- tive insights of the artist are rarely profound and generally do not extend beyond the common level of the myth or of ordinary Christian experience. But even in this he does not create thought content as such. And for this reason the understanding of the latter will not, in itself, give insight into him as an artist. If it could, the best way to under- stand art would be profoundly to understand the myth or, even better, philosophy. This is not the case. But if it were, again, it would then be possible to determine the greatness of art by the depth of the wisdom which it manifests, as is done in science. In science, if we find that a particular thinker is able not only to grasp the principles but to extend them and to draw multiple conclusions from them, then we say that he is profound, perhaps even a genius If he is capable only of applying principles to particular cases--of applying the equations to particular problems but not of expanding their theories--then we say that he has the qual- ity of the good teacher (for the teacher is like to alle- gorist in that he applies universals to particulars with clarity and thereby leads those who listen to him through the particulars back to the universals). By such clear criteria we determine the depth of the creative thinker, the profundity of the mind and the capacity of the teacher. If L3 11 the understanding of the myth, in the parallel case, were the determinant of the aesthetic value of the work of the artist then these criteria would apply to it too. It is obvious that they do not and that works of art are not at all judged by them. Artist Maker Actually if we strip away the aesthetic not Thinker Proof embodiment of the myth-truth from its liter- ary context and consider it in itself, we generally find that it represents no original contribution to the treasury of the myth, much less to that of philosophy. And, indeed, in order to do so it would have to conform to totally dif- ferent conditions from those imposed upon writing. It would have to employ different tools and different methods. Since it is generally lacking in these the serious thinker will find it speculatively not worth his time. He will find that it has nothing to add to the logical possibilities of its subject, which it exploits with only the poorest of means. Its thought will seem to him trivial. And he would no more look to it for original insight than he would look to a novel about atomic scientists for a new light on the uni- fication of gravitational and electrical theory. I cannot vouch for the truth of what I now alledge to exemplify these statements, but perhaps you can do so for me. I understand that Shakespeare was looked upon as an intellectual "light- weight" by his contemporaries, a man of superficial culture and knowledge. Ben Jonson was thought to be much more pro- found. If profundity constitutes the formality of the L3 12 aesthetic, then its palm should be given to Jenson rather than to Shakespeare. Artist Maker: In general, then, the content of myth-thinking Conclusion which the artist expresses is only the matter of his aesthetic product. Its profundity or lack of it does not touch upon the form. Relative to this, it is like the material of a statue. One does not say that deep thought, as such, i.s more aesthetic. Objection. Words = Marble But the comparison itself used in this argument brings up an objection. The analogy between marble in the plastic art and words in the literary art seems decep- tive. For marble signifies nothing, but words of their very essence signify something. Objective reference can therefore be eliminated from the marble statue but not from words. I would like to deal with this objection in passing by running briefly through some essentials of the philosophy of language. Philosophy of According to this philosophy, words are sym- Language bols or signs of contents of the mind. Now the contents of the mind are distinguishable into three parts: 1. those of simple apprehension (the concept); 2. those of the judgment; 3. those of reasoning. The function of language is to signify each of these. Words First In the beginning it signifies the practical Practical judgment. These are judgments which posit an intention respecting something to be done. They are distinct L3 from speculative judgments which assert something as true. For example, this would .be.a practical judgment: God must be loved. And this would be a speculative one: God is love. Practical judgments precede the speculative in the order of time, and thus words, signify these first. Words Simple Thus the first mental content which words But Become Complex signify is that of practical judgments having reference to social cooperation. These they communicate as social intentions. At first they do this in a simple way, one group of sounds confusedly signifying an entire judgment. But gradually in the course of their development they begin to signify not whole judgments, but parts of whose existence the mind slowly takes cognizance. In this way language grows. Now the parts of the judgment are these 1. the subject; 2. the copula; 3. the predicate. Words Become These therefore are gradually distinguished in Speculative language as well as in thought and thus repre- sented by distinct words or parts of speech--by what we call the noun, the verb and so forth. These are initially prac- tical as parts of practical judgments. But when speculative judgments develop from the latter, these too become specula- tive until finally they reach that degree of perfection which makes them pliable matter in the hands of the writer. From this a Double Significance of Words In this way words are moved a consider- able distance from their original L3 14 practical end. At this point they are subject to two rela- tions: 1. the first is to the mental concepts and judgments which they symbolize; 2. the second is to one another. It is important to note, in distinguishing these two, that the first is the essential significance of the word, and the second a reference grafted on. Thus the word signifies and means the first relation. But it suffers the second. Definition of This secondary relationality may be of two Literary Art Through This sorts: Distinction 1. it may be of words qua sounds indepen- dently of their significance (thus, of the relationality of the sounds as in a musical composition or in a nonsense poem); 2, or it may be of words qua signifying, and therefore of signified things in so far as they are such (thus, of the relationality which holds between objective contents qua signified). It is my contention that the aesthetic formality of literary art is to be found in both of these secondary relations, but particularly in the latter one. It is this, particularly, that the literary critique must discover, not the signified content of the first relation. Meaning of This is also the "meaning" of a work of art. Art Its meaning, in the formal sense, is not any- thing outside of itself to which it refers, but its own intrinsic intelligibility relating one part to another. In L3 15 this formal sense the work of art has no meaning as far as reference to the outside is concerned. It is true that its material element, the ideas which are signified by its words, do have this relationship. but this is outside of the formal- ity of art. Thus in the formal sense the artist "means" nothing other than thework.of art itself. And the work is not a symbol of anything outside, formally. It is an intelligible thing in itself. An interesting confirmation of this fact is had through the experience that we cannot actually tell what a work of art means in other words. We have to point to it in itself. There are no other words which give its "meaning." Thus, in Williams' Descent into Hell, Stanhope asserts that a play cannot be explained (i.e., its meaning cannot be given) but only intuited. Stanhope shook his head. There was a story, invented by himself;' that the Times had once sent a representative to ask for _explanations about.a new play,.and that Stanhope, im his efforts to explain it, had found after four hours that he had'only succeeded in reading it completely through aloud: "Which," he maintained., "Teas the only way .'of _explaining Complete Definition The literary art, like every other, is of the Literary Art then a making and it involves a sensible matter upon which it works. What is this matter? It is words in so far as they are sensible sounds. These can be worked with to give them relations of quality and sequence, compar- able to the shape which is given the marble by the sculptor. How then do ideas enter into the picture? Only in so far as L3-, 16 ideas are signified or represented by these sounds. In them- selves ideas do not have sensible qualities and cannot be worked as can a sensible matter. But mediating the words through which they are symbolized this can be done. Indirec- tly, therefore, and materially, they enter the picture and become that upon which the literary artist works. Let us condider for a moment the implications of this fact. It means that ideas, as expressed, have properties which they do not in themselves possess and thus are, for example, quantified and united by quantitative relations. Determined ideas have definite lengths of sounds by being signified by sounds of that particular quantity. And if these sounds are given a pattern--which is to say, are rela- ted one to the other in virtue of their quantity--this latter is also attributed to the ideas. Through this pat- tern they become a quantitative intelligibility. Theoretical Now, it is obvious that if we consider Genesis of the Literary Art nothing more than the quantitative aspect of such sounds we can establish this pattern for them with-- out worrying about their coherence qua signifying. This is what is done in a so-called nonsense verse. But we may decide against the latter and limit our choice by imposing the condition upon it that not only must the sounds balance quantitatively but that they must make coherent sense. This establishes something new. For whereas in the previous situ- ation the quantitative and accidental relations of the words abstract from their logical coherence, in this new one they L3 17 demand it. As a result, the logical meaning itself now takes on quantitative intelligibility in a quantitative pattern. In itself a logical proposition or series of them does not have this--the propositions have no sensible length or con- sequent temporal relations--but they do have it in so far as they are expressed by words. Let us impose one further condition upon the operation. Let us stipulate that not only words signify a logically coherent content, but they must also conform to reality, whether this be the subjective reality of the states of the soul or the external reality of material circumstances. If we can realize this condition, too, then we may say that by this fact quantitative relations are thereby established through words for the real as well as for the logical, rela- tions which do not belong to the real in itself but only in so far as it is expressed. In this way we have built up genetically the series of presuppositions which underlie actual literary work. It is clear that in this picture the idea of the working upon the sensible sound of the word as upon a matter is fundamen- tal, and that all other senses of "working" upon another matter, are derived from this. In particular, the sense of manipulating the ideas expressed is so derived. It is imposed upon the former as a limiting but not essentially mortifying condition. Paul Claudel is supposed to have supported this by the associated idea that it is the brutal, significance L3 18 lacking relations of the sounds in the poem (the meaning in the fundamental sense), which is first apprehended by the mind. And in a similar confirmation, Valery is supposed to have said to a fellow poet, who complained that he had worked all day on a sonnet and had not brought it off, and yet was full of ideas upon it: "You don't make sonnets with ideas, Degas, you make them with words."5 This is also the reason for the difficulty in transla- tion of famous works of art. For although we can convey the meaning of the words pretty well from language to language, we cannot convey the inner intelligibility coming from the peculiar arrangement of the peculiar words in any one lang- uage. So, in the speech of Hamlet to the players: "Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounce it to you, trippingly on the tongue ō "6 we can easily carry the ideas signified by these words over into any other language, but we cannot carry over the intelligibility of this sequence of English words in it -self. And we feel this painfully when we call any translation inadequate. Not inadequate to the ideas, but inadequate to their concrete embodiment in concrete words. Thus the fundamental matter of the literary art, like that of the plastic, is a sensible thing. But in this case that sensible thing has the added quality of significance. It is symbolic of mental contents. But that it should be is simply taken as an extra-added condition upon the basic sen- sible matter in itself. Thus the literary art, accepting this condition, comes to work not only upon the sensible L3 19 qualities of words, but also upon their signifying power-- and this indirectly. In this way it comes therefore to work upon signified contents, or ideas. Therefore ideas are the matter of this art only in a deceived and secondary way. It does not primarily work with them, but with their symbols, with which it is capable of "making" something--a sequence of sounds, a poem, etc. These it does not make with ideas as such, but with words. And that is why we say that the literary artist is primarily a "maker" and a "doer," not a thinker. Nevertheless, since thought content is introduced into the literary art as a sort of indirect matter, it does create a confusion, and lead to the fallacy of trying to criticize the artist in virtue of purely conceptual norms. This leads the literary critic to confine himself to a des- cription of the ideas of the author in a particular work, and`to think that by this he has evaluated the writing as such. It leads the student for honors in a field of letters to write about the philosophical or economic or political notions of the author, or the historical background, and to think that in doing this he has made a contribution to the understanding of his art. In fact he has made no more con- tribution to this than a study of the chemical and physical properties of marble contributes to our aesthetic apprecia- tion of the "David" of Michelangelo. In general, then, ideas, judgments and reasonings, whatever may be their specific forms, do not have the L3 20 properties of sensible things, and cannot, for this reason, be seen nor located in time and place, nor heard nor touched, nor "worked" by the artist. All of this is excluded by the fact that they are immaterial. But they can be expressed in sensible symbols which do have these material qualities--in words, that is, which are audible per se and have quantity and sequence in time per se and, as such, can be "worked." For this reason ideas, qua expressed, have shape and figure and length and position in space and time. And all of the comparisons which follow upon such properties then belong to them too. Since this is so, we must consider them in two ways: 1. in so far as they are entities in their own right (immaterial contents of the mind); 2. in so far as they are expressed. If we consider them in the first way, then we will judge them by their conceptual relations one to the other arising from the sole fact that they are thought. If we consider them in the second way, then we will judge them in so far as they are signified by symbols, whose properties they possess. And since the qualities which belong to mental contents as thought are quite distinct from those which belong to them in so far as they are expressed, these two judgments will not be the same. This fact is of utmost importance in deal- ing with the aesthetic. But to understand this distinction it is helpful first of all to situate it in its broader con- text. This has four members, representing distinct ways in L3 21 which we may consider mental contents: 1. in so far as they represent reality; 2. in so far as they exist in all minds as objects of contemplation; 3. in so far as they exist in particular minds in particular psychological sequences; 4. in so far as they are expressed in words. These ways are distinct. For the first establishes truth; the second, logical relations which hold between the parts of scientific discourse; the third, psychological relations in the experiences of individuals; the fourth, relations in verbalization. According to the first, mental contents have a rela- tionship of correspondence to reality. If they represent this as it is then they express a truth; they are adequate to the real and therefore represent its senuence of rela- tions. For the relations of the real have a proper sequence in time and space, are interconnected causally, and are mutually comparable. And if mental contents adequately reflect this then they attain the real or are true. But mental contents have other properties quite dis- tinct from that of truth. They are also related one to the other simply by reason of being in the mind. Because of this they fall into classes--into genera-and species. Because of this they are causes and caused--premises and conclusions; observation contents and induced laws and evolved theories in dialectical science. These are all 22 relations which are not found in reality. Reality is not divided into genus and species. Reality is not separated into premise and conclusion. Relative to these, reality is simple and it does not give rise to the divisions upon which they rest. They exist, therefore, only in the mind, and we say of them that they belong to mental contents purely by reason of their being in the mind and not by reason of their relations to the reality. Besides these general logical relations which hold for the concepts of any mind, there are also others which hold only for those of particular minds. They arise in these latter due to particular circumstances, differing experiences in life which cause different mental associations. Some arise from a basic anxiety; others through anger or hope or any number of motives not at all so simple as those we indicate here, but basically of this nature. Such associa- tions are not logical ones following upon the very nature of the objectcve contents of the ideas, but rather psychological ones peculiar to the individual. They are the object of study of the psychiatrist, the psychoanalyst, or the psy- chologist. Quite different from them are those relations which exist between mental contents in so far as they are expressed in verbal signs. These follow not upon what is intrinsic to the ideas in themselves but upon something extrinsic to them--the quantity and quality of the sounds which express them. By reason of these they participate in properties L3 23 quite foreign to the immaterial realm in which they exist-- those of extension, of temporal sequence, of spatial loca- tion, of color and sensibility. The essence of the literary art is to work with such properties which are participated by ideas in so far as they are signified by words. This is its end and aim. Confirmation by St. Thomas confirms this point by a con- St. Thomas ception of the aesthetic which I will not try to develop here but which I will only mention in passing. It is this that the intelligibility of the aesthetic is that of the infra-rational, that is to say, of that which is below the level of reason. On this level it attains pecu- liar truths but in the mode of the level, that is to say, irrationally and incommunicably. Illustration and The work of art, for this reason, is like Comparison a joke, whose rational explanation is its destruction. This is true at least in a formal sense, although in a material sense it need not be. For sometimes the material analysis of the joke causes its elements to jell in the mind and thereby to rise to the proper level of intuition. This also happens in the analysis of a work of art. In the course of this it may suddenly manifest itself formally and thereby give aesthetic insight. Relative to this insight, however, the analysis is not the adequate for- mal or efficient cause but only the dispositive.. Such a theory of the nature of the literary art creates a problem, as I am well aware, for the literary L3 24 critic. He would like to base his judgment upon universal a priori rules and this theory will not permit him to do so. It seems, in fact, to give him no basis for judgment at all. Judgment is based upon principles and in this theory there seem to be no principles in art but simply an infra-rational intuition. This is not the case. The theory does not exclude principles nor criticism. The intuited infra-rational whole is in fact the source of both of these. It is the intelli- gible whole intended by the artist, and thus it functions as a goal by which his achievement can be measured. If he falls short of it, he may be censured as defective. If he ade- quately reaches it, he may be praised as successful. But it is only in terms of it that he may be criticized. And there- fore in order that he be judged at all, it is presupposed that it is known. How unreasonable it would be to judge his work in terms of its failure to achieve a goal which he did not set for it. This is what the critic does in applying a priori rules to it. He violates the right of the artist to make a free choice of what he will produce, and imposes on him arbitrarily what he does not want to produce. Criticism is therefore not excluded by this theory of art but it is supposed rooted in the factual intuition of the critic of the purpose of the artist, an intuition which is accessible to the sensitive observer before a lucid work of art. Having it, he is capable of saying how much or how L3 25 little the work achieves it. This is his essential criti- cism. To discuss the thought value of the writing, on the other hand, is to go outside of the field of criticism, understood as genuinely aesthetic. Explanation by St. Thomas repeats an ancient axiom when he Opposition to Moralist compares the artist and the moralist. The moralist who knowingly breaks the rules of morality is worse than the moralist who unknowingly breaks them; but the artist who knowingly breaks the rules of art is better than the one who unwittingly does so. Such rules therefore do not bind him.7 Criticism: Ts If you says "How, therefore, can we judge it Possible? him"? I will turn the question ba^k upon you and ask whether we should judge him, at least as the question implies, by a priori principles. If judgment is possible at all, it must be by principles which arise from the freely chosen end of the artist. From Purpose of This end is not the solving of a problem Artist--No "Scientific" or even its stating, but the working out Criticism of intrinsic relations between words. Any other intention besides this lies outside of his primary aesthetic purpose. This is so from the point of view of form; from that of matter, there is no question but what the content of the thought is an essential intention. Now in the preceding considerations we have discovered what the literary art is in terms of its origin, just as we L3 26 have already done for the plastic art. Let us finish our discussion with a determination of what this same art is in terms of its final end. We have already done this for the plastic art. For it, as we have seen, the final end is a total possession of the matter upon which it works, so that it is both creatively made in its entirety and therefore exhaustively known in the same way. This too is the end of the literary art. It too seeks to know its matter exhaus- tively and to possess it entirely. The matter of the sculptor is the marble upon which he works. Therefore the end of his working it is to know it entirely and to possess it creatively. The matter of the literary artist is words. And therefore his end is to know them entirely, and to possess them entirely. But words have a double aspect: they have the aspect of being sensible sounds; they have the aspect of being symbols of immaterial ideas. Therefore the literary artist seeks to make and pos- sess them completely in these two ways. This is the same as saying that he seeks to possess and know entirely ideas qua symbolized. In the last analysis, this means that he seeks to know and possess himself completely. In this final term, the work of the sculptor, and of the literary artist, and of the virtuous man, and of the philosopher all fuse into one. It is the term which all desire in so many different ways. In fact this term is the complete self-consciousness which is possessed by the angelic spirits and which will be possessed by man in the life to come when he will acquire L3 27 their mode of knowing.8 Even in this life he possesses it imperfectly--reflexly. But in the life to come he will pos- sess it perfectly. Then art and science and virtue will all fuse into one experience. Now they are not one, but different. They are, in the present state, as if parts of a complete mosaic, which is perfect self-consciousness. It is as if the purity of this high knowledge--its supreme simplicity--were shattered into many parts, and those parts were the fragments of the rational life. This life then consists of a movement toward recon- struction along the paths of art, science and virtue. In order, in our present state, to have any adequate conception of this final goal, we cannot develop only one of • these lines to the neglect of the others. We must develop all three. When we have done so, then only will we have the highest possible rational consciousness of what is the true experience of the ultimate goal. Thus to know sin as a theologian; to know it as the virtuous man does; and to possess it aesthetically through literature is to round off one small portion of the large mosaic, but that portion as perfectly as possible for us. And to do this is to have the highest rational consciousness possible of what the final knowledge of sin will be in the beatific vision which will unite in one rich and simple experience, art, and science and virtue. For this highest rational consciousness--which pleases us so much because it is so much closer than any other to this goal--it does not L3 28 suffice to develop one or other of these avenues exclusively. We must develop all three. Therefore the literary possession of the problem of:. sin makes a peculiar contribution to our full knowledge of it. And what this contribution is we shall see in more detail in our next lecture. 1Wallace Fowlie, A Guide to Contemporary French Literature, Meridian Books, M48, 1957, p. 46. Thomas Mann, Essays,,Vintage Books, K55, 1957, p. 303. 20tto Jesperson, Language, Henry Holt and Company, 19 2 3, p. 434 ff. 3Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene II. 4 Charles Williams, Descent into Hell, New York Pellegrini_ and Cudahy, 1949. 5Wallace Fowlie, op. cit., p. 46. 6Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 3, Scene II. ?Just as we cannot "criticize" moral work in the concrete unless we know the intention of the moral agent, so in the case of a concrete work of art. But there is this differenceg the artist essentially reveals his intention in his work, but not the moralist. 8St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentiles, Book III, Chapter 48.

 

 

 

 


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