The Anxiety of Influence

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Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 07:12 pm
Do we not want to see ourselves as original? Are not most of our best thoughts taken from others? How has this affected philosophy? How does this effect the positions we take on this forum? I got this phrase from Harold Bloom, but I've experienced the anxiety of influence for a long long time. I think it pushes us toward innovation.

Bloom's central thesis is that poets are hindered in their creative process by the ambiguous relationship they necessarily maintained with precursor poets. While admitting the influence of extraliterary experience on every poet, he argues that "the poet in a poet" is inspired to write by reading another poet's poetry and will tend to produce work that is derivative of existing poetry, and, therefore, weak. Because a poet must forge an original poetic vision in order to guarantee his survival into posterity (i.e., to guarantee that future readers will not allow him to be forgotten), the influence of precursor poets inspires a sense of anxiety in living poets.
Thus Bloom attempts to work out the process by which the small minority of 'strong' poets manage to create original work in spite of the pressure of influence.
 
sometime sun
 
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 11:22 pm
@Reconstructo,
Quick reply,
Art imitates life, just as Life imitates art, it is an imitation, it is a wholely original and insitive of the reader as much as what is read, see as what is subject, sung as song.
Nothing insists anything, everything (including but not exclusive to truth) everything is wholely self insistence, self insisted.
All is plagiarised nothing is original, can this be? Nothing is plagiarised all is original, how about that? (There are other configurations)
Different take for each, different expression from both once actualised.
It can happen and does happen, all is original even if just the conceptualisation process of how one understands and then expresses first to the self and then to the other, each play different by its players and its audience.
It is original because your brain and mind and soul is a snow flake, similar but no one is the same.
Why be anxious when it is still only ever going to be your anxiety and what you refer to your own cheatings.
Can one cheat the self?
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 11:26 pm
@sometime sun,
sometime sun;112882 wrote:

It is original because your brain and mind and soul is a snow flake, similar but no one is the same.


I like this. I agree that no entire human is unoriginal. I suppose the anxiety is whether our work in a particular area is superfluous. Does Jim the Writer think his books are just a second-rate imitation? Maybe Jim doesn't care. And maybe it's silly to care too much. But a lot of writers hope for a certain false immortality. They want their books to survive forever, cherished by the human race as something original and important.

Thanks for replying! I was afraid this thread was going to be ignored...
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 11:30 pm
@Reconstructo,
It doesn't matter whether it's original or an imitation, just if it is good.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sat 19 Dec, 2009 11:32 pm
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;112888 wrote:
It doesn't matter whether it's original or an imitation, just if it is good.


I agree from a consumer point of view. I suppose it comes down the ambition of the writer. If he/she is happy just being a conduit, all is well.

I suppose that all the philosophers who are considered great are also considered to some degree original. Greatness and originality are closely linked. Of course originality isn't enough in itself....
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 12:28 am
@sometime sun,
sometime sun;112882 wrote:
Art imitates life, just as Life imitates art, it is an imitation, it is a wholely original and insitive of the reader as much as what is read, see as what is subject, sung as song.
So the person with this kind of anxiety should write a poem about a guy who keeps trying to be original, but his works are condemned because it's just War and Peace over and over. In despair, he joins the Foreign Legion, falls in love with a spy, and becomes a hermit, trading pipes he carves from soapstone with the native camel people.

25 years after his death, his works are discovered and he's eventually a fixture in high school english classes. The students carefully read the Cliff notes, high-lighting the main points on their digital book thingys. By the way does anybody have one of those?
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 12:35 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;112889 wrote:
I agree from a consumer point of view. I suppose it comes down the ambition of the writer. If he/she is happy just being a conduit, all is well.

I suppose that all the philosophers who are considered great are also considered to some degree original. Greatness and originality are closely linked. Of course originality isn't enough in itself....


Well, with art at least they say there are basically a few main stories. Man vs self, man vs nature, man vs man etc, unrequited love etc, coming of age etc. So a lot of art is going to be examining those, and maybe telling them in terms of modern culture. This is how it should be, and people are too quick to criticize sometimes. Although there is definitely room for originality, human nature hasn't changed that much, just our understanding of it.

I think philosophy, like science, would have the goal of building on past work rather than rephrasing it.
 
Quinn phil
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 12:59 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;112904 wrote:
Well, with art at least they say there are basically a few main stories. Man vs self, man vs nature, man vs man etc, unrequited love etc, coming of age etc. So a lot of art is going to be examining those, and maybe telling them in terms of modern culture. This is how it should be, and people are too quick to criticize sometimes. Although there is definitely room for originality, human nature hasn't changed that much, just our understanding of it.

I think philosophy, like science, would have the goal of building on past work rather than rephrasing it.


Being original is what drives some people to do certain things. I've lost that drive, because every time I try to think of something "new", or "original", I find that it's been presented in some sort of book. I go and read it, and I'm amazed, yet, I'm disappointed that I hadn't thought it up first. I think our lack of determination to create new ideas is due to the fact that their are already so many out there; Whatever we think up, there's bound to be some sort of book or article about it.

Answer to your first question Reconstructo: Yes, I'd love to see myself as original. Not an outcast, but an original. It's why I joined this forum. it's why I debate. I want to be the original creator of some idea, in some topic, in one of the branches of philosophy, on this philosophy site. Even that, if not already blogged or written about, would be good enough for me to be satisfied for my lifetime.
 
Jebediah
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 01:07 am
@Quinn phil,
Quinn;112910 wrote:
Being original is what drives some people to do certain things. I've lost that drive, because every time I try to think of something "new", or "original", I find that it's been presented in some sort of book. I go and read it, and I'm amazed, yet, I'm disappointed that I hadn't thought it up first. I think our lack of determination to create new ideas is due to the fact that their are already so many out there; Whatever we think up, there's bound to be some sort of book or article about it.

Answer to your first question Reconstructo: Yes, I'd love to see myself as original. Not an outcast, but an original. It's why I joined this forum. it's why I debate. I want to be the original creator of some idea, in some topic, in one of the branches of philosophy, on this philosophy site. Even that, if not already blogged or written about, would be good enough for me to be satisfied for my lifetime.


I get a lot of satisfaction out of thinking of a certain idea on my own and then finding it already said by someone 400 years ago, not sure why. I guess I haven't really been looking for originality though.

At least in philosophy there are bunches of questions that are still disputed so it's not a simple matter of learning the "correct" view. I see the appeal of being the creator of something, but there is enough value in going over the old ideas that it isn't pressing.
 
Quinn phil
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 01:14 am
@Reconstructo,
Yeah, I can relate to that. But more-so, I'd like to think of something on my own, without someone else thinking that I took it from a book, or that the idea's out-dated.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 03:36 am
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;112902 wrote:
So the person with this kind of anxiety should write a poem about a guy who keeps trying to be original, but his works are condemned because it's just War and Peace over and over. In despair, he joins the Foreign Legion, falls in love with a spy, and becomes a hermit, trading pipes he carves from soapstone with the native camel people.

25 years after his death, his works are discovered and he's eventually a fixture in high school english classes. The students carefully read the Cliff notes, high-lighting the main points on their digital book thingys. By the way does anybody have one of those?



Very nice. Good like Charlie Kaufman is good. It's tragic-comic conceptual art. The above is narrative philosophy poetry or sumpin' good stuff. Nothing like a poem about a poet, eh?

---------- Post added 12-20-2009 at 04:39 AM ----------

Quinn;112913 wrote:
Yeah, I can relate to that. But more-so, I'd like to think of something on my own, without someone else thinking that I took it from a book, or that the idea's out-dated.



That's exactly the anxiety of influence! We dream of an unborn future. That's the magic nothingness that worms its way through being. That's an indulgent paraphrase of Kojeve. (See, I'm cheating if I don't confess my sources. I want to win the game fair and square. That's honor. That's the white light of spiritual ambition. The dream of greatness? Is Novelty God? Does the baby Jesus symbolize newborn novelty? Is Jesus next years miniskirt?
 
Arjuna
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:58 am
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;112954 wrote:
Very nice. Good like Charlie Kaufman is good. It's tragic-comic conceptual art. The above is narrative philosophy poetry or sumpin' good stuff. Nothing like a poem about a poet, eh?
Yea, right after I posted that, the thought hit me: Adaptation. One of my favorite movies. He's known for originality, but I saw an interview with him in which he said his main goal is to create movies that people can watch over and over, seeing something new each time. I'll say he suceeded in that.

Zen practices seek to provide a way to circumvent anxiety about getting it right. My take on it is: they use the situation which creates anxiety like a tool. Instead of trying to make it go away.. it becomes the framework.. like the two minute warning in a football game can become the ground out of which the quarterback goes into the zone.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Sun 20 Dec, 2009 08:09 pm
@Arjuna,
Arjuna;113022 wrote:
My take on it is: they use the situation which creates anxiety like a tool. Instead of trying to make it go away.. it becomes the framework..


I think Harold Bloom sees it as a whip that drives the horses of creation. Anxiety is the friend of evolution. Joyce was like Kaufman, I bet. Joyce wanted scholars to spend centuries talking about Finnegans Wake. The artist builds a fascination-trap?
 
Khethil
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 04:22 pm
@Reconstructo,
There aren't any original thoughts left, I fear, nor has there likely been for a long, long time. It's only our inspiration that prompts us, in and through pride, to hope or believe that such is the case. That being said, it doesn't diminish the value or worth of individual discoveries - those epiphanies we experience help us grow intellectually or expand our perspective.

... that something isn't truly original (which probably isn't the case anyway) has no bearing on its worth to the individual. Or so methinks

Thanks
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 04:38 pm
@Khethil,
Khethil;113331 wrote:
There aren't any original thoughts left, I fear, nor has there likely been for a long, long time. It's only our inspiration that prompts us, in and through pride, to hope or believe that such is the case. That being said, it doesn't diminish the value or worth of individual discoveries - those epiphanies we experience help us grow intellectually or expand our perspective.

... that something isn't truly original (which probably isn't the case anyway) has no bearing on its worth to the individual. Or so methinks

Thanks



I see much truth in what you say. Still, I think a little drop here or there is original. Even if it's a partial echo. The same thought in a new language is not exactly the same thought. For sound is a part of sense, and so is cultural context.
I agree its rare indeed, this originality, and it's not really important. But Harold Bloom was looking at writers on the top shelf. If they have a fantasy of being remembered, they've got to build something with enough flavor that it's not written off as a version of something. It's like a scientist who gets a law named after him. Shakespeare was intimidated by Marlowe. It's easy to see why. But Shakespeare managed to surpass him in many ways.
Also, is there not something in us that doesn't want to be just another member of a club? We want to be like snowflakes, yes? Or fingerprints? And perhaps as total human beings it is impossible not to be.
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:22 pm
@Quinn phil,
Art gets pissed off when I imitate him
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:33 pm
@GoshisDead,
GoshisDead;113375 wrote:
Art gets pissed off when I imitate him


He gets even more angry when he discovers he's imitating you. He doesn't get to keep his signature on it. (The "magic" power of the signature...the bluff of claiming something...)
 
GoshisDead
 
Reply Mon 21 Dec, 2009 08:40 pm
@Reconstructo,
Reconstructo;113380 wrote:
He gets even more angry when he discovers he's imitating you. He doesn't get to keep his signature on it. (The "magic" power of the signature...the bluff of claiming something...)


Oh when I imitate him I always preface it with

(Art 2004:167-169)
and end the convesation with

Art. 2009. The Anxiety of Influence. http://www.philosophyforum.com/philosophy-forums/branches-philosophy/aesthetics/7021-anxiety-influence-2.html. accessed 12/-21-2009.
 
Deckard
 
Reply Fri 25 Dec, 2009 03:41 am
@Jebediah,
Jebediah;112888 wrote:
It doesn't matter whether it's original or an imitation, just if it is good.


I agree. The obsession with originality is a relatively recent development.

Quote:
You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone else, and we are all part of the same compost pile. ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club, Chapter 17
That said, I have a severe anxiety of influence. I can't tell which comes first envy or anxiety of influence. But sometimes I overcome it.

Reconstructo;113099 wrote:
I think Harold Bloom sees it as a whip that drives the horses of creation. Anxiety is the friend of evolution. Joyce was like Kaufman, I bet. Joyce wanted scholars to spend centuries talking about Finnegans Wake. The artist builds a fascination-trap?


There are riddles and there are poems. These two are mutually exclusive.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Fri 25 Dec, 2009 04:10 am
@Deckard,
Deckard;114161 wrote:
I agree. The obsession with originality is a relatively recent development.

That said, I have a severe anxiety of influence. I can't tell which comes first envy or anxiety of influence. But sometimes I overcome it.

There are riddles and there are poems. These two are mutually exclusive.


Is it recent? What if it's an old thing for artist but has become much more common because of the way we live now, ultra-consumers on the prowl, taught to accentuate?

I, too, suffer this anxiety of influence, and envy seems related. It's easy to envy what Bloom calls the "strong poet," the one who's carved his signature (idiosyncratic!?) on the tree.

Most good poems are indeed not riddles. Are there perhaps exceptions? Or cases in between?
 
 

 
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