Unreal Nature

August 13, 2017

The Possible Hero

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:51 am

… The author cannot think up a 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 in the past, type is in the present; the environment of character is somewhat symbolized, whereas the object-world surrounding the type has the nature of an inventory, or stock of goods. Type is the passive position of a collective personality.

… It should be evident that the intuitive generalization, which produces the typicality of a human being’s image, presupposes a firm, calm, confident, and authoritative position of being outside with respect to the hero. How is this firmness and authoritativeness of the type-creating author’s position achieved? It is achieved through his profound inward nonparticipation in or aloofness from the world he is imaging: axiologically, this world is, as it were, dead for him.

… What is least of all possible is rendering oneself typical; typicality that is referred to oneself is perceived axiologically as an affront. In this respect, typicality is even more transgredient than fate. I am not only unable to perceive my own typicality as value, but even more: I cannot allow that my deeds, actions, words (directed upon that which has the validity of goals and objects, even if only upon the most proximate ones, namely, “goods”) should actualize nothing more than a certain type, that they should necessarily be predetermined by this typicality of mine.

[line break added] The almost insulting character or typal transgredience makes the form of the type quite acceptable for accomplishing the task of satire, which generally looks for trenchant and offensive transgredient deposits in the existence of a goal-directed and internally meaningful human life that lays claim to objective validity.

… All of the problem-related elements are transposed from the context of the hero into the context of the author; they develop with reference to the hero and in connection with the hero, but not in the hero, and their unity is provided by the author, and not by the hero, who is the bearer of the cognitive-ethical unity of a lived life — a unity which is reduced to the utmost in the type. It is, of course, completely impossible to introduce any lyrical elements into the type.


… The author is compelled to contend with old or with more recent literary forms, compelled to overcome their resistance or to find support in them, yet what underlies this movement is the most essential, the determining, the primary artistic contention — the contention with the cognitive-ethical directedness of a life and its valid persistence as a distinct life.

[line break added] This is where the act of creation (for which everything else is but a means) attains the point of highest tension in his creative activity, if he is significantly and seriously a primary artist, that is, if he is an artist who collides and contends immediately with the raw cognitive-ethical element of a lived life, with the chaos of a lived life (element and chaos from the aesthetic standpoint), and it is only this collision that ignites the purely artistic spark.

… The work of art is regulated by two systems of laws: the hero’s and the author’s, i.e. the laws of content and the laws of form. Where the artist deals from the very outset with nothing but aesthetic quantities, the result is a contrived and empty work that does not overcome anything and, in effect, does not produce anything that has axiological weight. A hero cannot be created from start to finish out of nothing but purely aesthetic elements, a hero cannot be “made”: he would not be alive, and one would not “feel” his purely aesthetic validity.

[line break added] The author cannot think up a hero, devoid of any independent status in relation to the author’s creative act that affirms him and gives him a form. The author-artist finds the hero as already given prior to and apart from his own purely artistic act: he cannot engender the hero out of himself — such a hero would be unconvincing.

Of course, the hero we mean is the possible hero, that is, the one that has not yet become a hero, has not yet been shaped aesthetically, for the hero of a work is already invested in an artistically valid form, that is, we mean the givenness of a human being as another. It is this givenness of the other that the author-artist finds prior to his own artistic act and it is only in relation to this givenness that his act of aesthetic consummation acquires axiological weight. The author’s artistic act encounters a certain persistent (resilient, impermeable) reality which it cannot ignore and which it cannot totally absorb into itself.

[line break added] It is this extra-aesthetic reality of the hero that will enter as a shaped reality into the work produced. And it is this reality of the hero — the reality of another consciousness — that constitutes the object of aesthetic vision which imparts aesthetic objectivity to that vision. This reality of the hero is not the reality (the actuality and possibility, regardless of whether physical or psychic) of natural science, the reality confronted by the author’s free creative imagination, but rather the inward reality of a life’s own directedness to values and meaning.

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




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