ENG 300 Journal

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

10/5: Formalism... ugh

Quote of the day: (Absurd quote of the century)

(from Tradition and the Individual Talent) "Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality." T.S. Eliot

What is formalism in a nutshell? "Formalist criticism is not interested in the feeling of poets, the individual responses of readers, or representations of "reality"; instead, it attends to artistic structure and form." -Noron Anthology

Only someone who wrote The Wasteland could have written the above quote about turning loose of emotion. I must argue that there is always emotion. Some may be able to hide it well, but the thought that we can completely voluntarily depart from emotion is absolutely false. Yes I am a raging Romantic, but hear me out.

First the formalist idea that emotion should be omitted from art: pure rubbish. Are you serious? If there is someone reading this who can defend this view by all means please leave a comment and explain yourself. I will never make sense of this on my own. I'm really struggling to even grasp this enough to tear it apart. If an artist nonchalantly creates something, putting absolutely no feeling into it what has he done? And if the reader or listener or viewer takes in the art without considering how it makes them feel, has he had a lobotomy?

The idea that feelig should be omitted is prepostorous, but I would more urgently argue that it is impossible. If one cares enough to write something down that is feeling in itself. I'm no visual artist, but even if I'm drawing a goofy stick man jumping off of a cliff I'm still attempting to convey his loss of sanity. Is that attempt in itself not emotion?

To cure what ails all formalists I suggest they read The Giver by Lois Lowery. It is a society who tries to eradicate all differences. Jobs are appointed, mates are randomly selected, history is locked away and there is an absence of weather, color, topography, and in effect, laughter. No good can come of squelching feeling, it is unnatrual. I have no more time to waste discussing such an absurdity!!!

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