The Anxiety of Influence

Get Email Updates Email this Topic Print this Page

Reconstructo
 
Reply Mon 15 Feb, 2010 03:11 am
@MMP2506,
MMP2506;128114 wrote:

I think where we are disagreeing is whether that initial image is based off of self-initiated creativity or through the collection of outer perceptions. The answer depends on whether you see the human being as an individual existing entity or a manifestation of a bigger personality.

As much as I'd like to think of myself as operating under my own accord, I can't help but feel sometimes, especially during times of play and art, that my body is merely a vessel for something bigger than me to flow through. I'm sure you've had those situations where you were writing and words just flowed through your body onto the keyboard, as if it was somebody else writing through you. To me, that is the feeling of discovering something that was already there.


Well, I could even switch direction and say that the unique self is an illusion and we are all chunks of the same totality. All is one and one is all. But that's a poetic intuition, not really a belief.

To dis-cover is to take the cover off. To un-conceal. A person could say that the muse un-conceals but this seems like a stretch. Because I really don't think the new meaning is there until the brain fizzes and creates it.

But I know what you mean about the feeling of being a conductor. Yes, the creator is arguably just a medium. But perhaps the conscious creator is the medium of the creator's unconscious. This would be a Jungian sort of view. Assuming we have an unconscious, a hypothesis I find persuasive, this unconscious could easily be considered as a mysterious other. Where do dreams come from? I think that consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how "big" the psyche is?

But this still doesn't address the anxiety of influence as Bloom describes it. Good conversation though.
 
Pyrrho
 
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 11:36 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....


Yes, the great philosophers all had some originality to them, though they all borrowed ideas from the past as well. And you are also right, that being original is not enough to make one great. I personally would rather have old good ideas than original ones that were not good. In my opinion, the very worst would be to be the first twisted dumbass to come up with some piece of imbecility that no one has been stupid enough to think of before.

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. And sure, not all art needs to be beautiful, as it can serve more than one function, but it would be nice if more of it was directed toward being beautiful than merely attempts at originality (which, by the way, it typically fails at that as well, except in the superficial way in which every thing is different from every other thing).

In music, if we look at someone like J.S. Bach, he freely borrowed ideas in a manner that most moderns would never do, but in doing so he produced some of the greatest music of all time. I think that is a better model than being a slave to originality. You cannot be totally free of influences, and it is foolish to suppose that you can.

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.
 
Reconstructo
 
Reply Tue 16 Feb, 2010 02:20 pm
@Pyrrho,
Pyrrho;129039 wrote:

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 opinion.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:23 PM ----------

Pyrrho;129039 wrote:
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 an egotism.

---------- Post added 02-16-2010 at 03:26 PM ----------

Pyrrho;129039 wrote:

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 ----------

Pyrrho;129039 wrote:
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.
 
 

 
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 06/19/2019 at 04:13:50