I suspect that the anxiety of which you wrote in your opening post is a problem for people who want to be "great" and remembered, rather than people who are actually interested in doing things that may result in being so regarded. There is a difference between wanting to write and wanting to be a great writer, and it is wanting the former that is more likely to actually achieve the goal of the latter.
I understand your suspicion, and perhaps "poetry should come as esily as leaves to a tree." But then John Keats was ambitious to be remembered. So was Milton, who stated it bluntly. So did Hume, whose also wrote that his strongest desire was for literary fame. Nietzsche ranted
about his world-historical significance.
I think that the writers who end up great want both to write for the joy of writing and to be famous or respected among the elite for their accomplishments. Joyce spent 17 years on his last book, and was quoted joking about the centuries it would take for scholars to decode it.
Harold Bloom is about as erudite as a man can be. His theory of the anxiety of influence being a major factor is not the idle chatter of a sophomore. I'm not sure how exposed you are to literature, but in my experience there is more than enough evidence for the ego and ambition of writers in general.
Isn't it possible that this suspicion of ambition is itself influenced by the sentimental morality of equality that's shoved down our throats as children? The hippies on one side and the cynics on the other. The truth is a synthesis. That's my
---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:23 PM ----------
You cannot be totally free of influences, and it is foolish to suppose that you can.
That's just it.
The anxiety of influence is an anxiety for people who are especially
aware of how difficult it is to not be just a paraphrase. Those foolish enough to think they can do without influence are way too foolish to experience this anxiety of influence.
This anxiety is the co-pilot of an ambition to matter
to the tradition. It's also a desire to contribute. There's a generosity to it as well as
---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:26 PM ----------
I think the craving for originality has not helped art or modern "classical" music. Being original and being beautiful are not the same thing at all.
The first sentence I totally disagree with. The Anxiety pushes us toward novelty. I think Schoenberg is great. How many Bachs do we need? How many Rembrandts do we need? The Anxiety enriches us all, enlarging the possibilities of artistic creation and enjoyment.
I agree with the second sentence. Yes, there are those who manufacture vain trash, but this is subjective.
But there are no shortage of failed imitators also. Bad artists will always be more populous than good artists. (An opinion). But the anxious artist is the one who continually revolutionizes the medium. Joyce's vanity extended the possibility of the novel. (Read his biography if you doubt his vanity. He didn't participate in conversations that weren't about him. )
---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:29 PM ----------
Yes, the great philosophers all had some originality to them, though they all borrowed ideas from the past as well.
We all are forced to create in relation to the tradition. Or so it seems to me.
Criticism is itself creative. Plato and Aristotle were already philosophy critics. They probably felt themselves at the end
of a rich tradition.