Unreal Nature

January 22, 2017

They Do Not Experience the Process of Their Experiencing

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… An author creates, but he sees his own creating only in the object to which he is giving form …

This is from the essay ‘Author and Hero in Aesthetic Activity’ in Art and Answerability: Early Philosophical Essays by M.M. Bakhtin edited by Michael Holquist and Vadim Liapunov (1990):

… In life, we are interested not in the whole of a human being, but only in those particular actions on his part with which we are compelled to deal in living our life and which are, in one way or another of special interest to us. And, as we shall see below, least of all are we ourselves able or competent to perceive in ourselves the given whole of our own personality.

In the work of art, on the other hand, the author’s reactions to particular self-manifestations on the part of the hero are founded on his unitary reaction to the whole of the hero: all particular self-manifestations of the hero have significance for the characterization of this whole as moments or constituent features of it.

[line break added] What makes a reaction specifically aesthetic is precisely the fact that it is a reaction to the whole of the hero as a human being, a reaction that assembles all of the cognitive-ethical determinations and valuations of the hero and consummates them in the form of a unitary and unique whole that is a concrete, intuitable whole, but also a whole of meaning.

… What in life, in cognition, and in performed actions we call a determinate object acquires its determinateness, its own countenance, only through our relationship to it: it is our relationship that determines an object and its structure, not conversely. It is only where our relationship to an object ceases to be founded on a necessary principle (becomes a matter of whim, as it were), where, in other words, we depart from our principled relationship to things and to the world — only then are we confronted by the determinateness of an object as something foreign and independent.

[line break added] The object’s determinateness begins to disintegrate for us and we ourselves fall under the domination of the contingent, with the result that we lose ourselves and we lose the stable determinateness of the world as well.

An author, too, does not immediately find a noncontingent vision of the hero, a vision founded on a necessary principle of creation; his reaction to the hero does not immediately become a productive reaction founded on a necessary principle, nor does the whole of the hero immediately arise from the author’s unitary valuational relationship to the hero. Before the countenance of the hero finally takes shape as a stable and necessary whole, the hero is going to exhibit a great many grimaces, random masks, wrong gestures, and unexpected actions, depending on all those emotional-volitional reactions and personal whims of the author, through the chaos of which he is compelled to work his way in order to reach an authentic valuational attitude.

[line break added] In order to see the true and integral countenance of someone close to us, someone we apparently know very well — think how many masking layers must first be removed from his face, layers that were sedimented upon his face by our own fortuitous reactions and attitudes and by fortuitous life situations. The artist’s struggle to achieve a determinate and stable image of the hero is to a considerable extent a struggle with himself.

… An author reflects the hero’s emotional-volitional position, but not his own position in relation to the hero; his own position is something he actualizes — it is objective, that is, actualized in an object, but does not itself become an object of examination and reflective experience. An author creates, but he sees his own creating only in the object to which he is giving form, that is, he sees only the emerging product of creation and not the inner, psychologically determinate process of creation.

[line break added] And in fact, such is the nature of all active creative experiences: they experience their object and experience themselves in their object, but they do not experience the process of their experiencing. The actual work of creation is experienced, but this experiencing neither hears nor sees itself; it sees and hears only the product that is being created or the object to which it is directed.

[line break added] The technical aspects of creation, craftsmanship, may be a matter of conscious knowledge, but, once again, only in the object. As a result, the artist has nothing to say about the process of his creative activity: the process of creation is altogether in the product created, and the artist has nothing left to do but to refer us to the work he has produced. In our own analysis, we shall in fact look for it nowhere else.

My previous post from Bakhtin’s book is here.

-Julie

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