Unreal Nature

August 6, 2017

The Boundaries Begin to Be Effaced

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 6:04 am

… The author begins to expect revelations from the hero.

Continuing through 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):

… Character is sharply and essentially differentiated from all forms of expression of the hero that we have examined up to now. Neither in confessional self-accounting, nor in biography, nor in lyric does the whole of the hero constitute the fundamental artistic task, the axiological center in artistic vision. (The hero is always the center of artistic vision, but not the whole that he is, not the fullness and completeness of his determinateness.)

Character is the name we give to that form of the author-hero interrelationship which actualizes the task of producing the whole of a hero as a determinate personality, where, moreover, this task constitutes the fundamental task: the hero is given us, from the very outset, as a determinate whole, and the author’s self-activity proceeds, from the very outset, along the essential boundaries of the hero. Everything is perceived here as a constituent in the characterization of the hero, i.e. fulfills a characterological function; everything reduces to and serves the answer to the question: who is he?

… Character construction may proceed in two basic directions. The first one we shall call “Classical character construction”; the second we shall call “Romantic character construction.” The foundation for the first type of character construction is provided by the artistic value of fate (we are using this term here in a very specific, restricted sense which should become clear from what follows).

Fate is the all-round determinateness of a person’s existence that necessarily predetermines all the events of that person’s life; hence, life is merely the actualization of (and fulfillment) of what was inherent from the very outset in the determinateness of the person’s existence.

… The very course of a person’s life, all of its events, and, ultimately, its termination are perceived as necessary and as predetermined by that person’s determinate individuality — by his fate. And, on this plane of character-as-fate, the death of the hero is not a termination, but a consummation; indeed, every constituent moment of his life assumes artistic significance, becomes artistically necessary.

It should be clear that our understanding of fate differs from the usual, very broad, understanding of it. Thus, fate, experienced from within as an external irrational force which determines our life regardless of its goals, meaning, and desires, is not the artistic value of fate in our sense, for this fate does not, after all, order our life, for ourselves, into a necessary and artistic whole. Rather, it has the purely negative function of disarranging our life, which is ordered or, rather, strives to be ordered by purposes and by various forms of that which has validity with respect to meaning and objects.

… In relation to the world view of the Classical hero, the author is dogmatic. His cognitive-ethical position must be indisputable or, to be exact, it is simply not brought up for discussion at all. For to do so would be to introduce the moment of guilt and responsibility, and the artistic unity and pervasiveness of fate would be destroyed. The hero would turn out to be free, he could be put on trial morally; there would be no necessity in him, he could be other than he is.

… In the question “who am I?” one can hear the question “who are my parents, from what kind am I descended?” I can be no more than what I am already in essentials; I cannot reject my essential already-being, for it is not mine, but belongs to my mother, father, kin, people, mankind.

… We turn now to the second type of character construction — the “Romantic character.” In distinction to Classical character, the Romantic type of character is arbitrarily self-active and full of initiative with respect to value. What is of the utmost importance, moreover, is that the hero responsibly initiates the sequence of his life as determined by meaning and values. It is precisely this solitary and utterly active position or attitude of the hero with respect to meaning and values, i.e. his cognitive-ethical position in the world, that the author must overcome and consummate aesthetically. The value of fate, which presupposes kin and tradition, is useless here for accomplishing artistic consummation.

… The hero’s individuality reveals itself here not as fate, but as idea, or rather, as an embodiment of the idea. Acting from within himself in accordance with various purposes, the hero actualizes that which has validity from the standpoint of meaning and objects, and in doing so, he actualizes, in reality, a certain idea, a certain necessary truth of his life.

… The author’s position outside the Romantic hero is undoubtedly less stable than it was in the case of the Classical type of hero. The weakening of this position leads to the disintegration of character; the boundaries begin to be effaced, the center of value is transposed from the boundaries into the very life of the hero (into his cognitive-ethical directedness from within himself).

… The author begins to expect revelations from the hero. There is an attempt to force an admission from within self-consciousness, which is possible only through the other; an attempt to do without God, without listeners, without an author.

The products of the disintegration of Classical character are the “Sentimental” and the “Realistic” character.

My most recent previous post from Bakhtin’s book is here.

-Julie

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