Ugliness, etc.

In his essay on Caldwell as a “Maker of Grotesques,” Burke writes:

He does not merely act to outrage an old perspective by throwing its orders of right and wrong into disarray: he subscribes to an alternative perspective, with positive rights and wrongs of its own, and with definite indications as to what form he wants our sympathies and antagonisms to take. Incidentally, this development suggests the ways in which a motivation essentially nonpolitical or noneconomic can be harnessed in the service of political or economic criticism. (Philosophy of Literary Form 352-353)

Incidentally? Isn't the co-optation of would-be innovators who hope not merely to counter an existing paradigm but to create an entirely new condition for possibilities—isn’t this THE issue? In this section, Burke recalls that “recently [he] heard one man complain that Caldwell ‘has yet to learn that the revolution begins above the belt’” (353). Burke’s somewhat reserved report of this reaction to the “grotesque” works of Caldwell poses some interesting questions of insiders, outsiders, and discourses that would go beyond criticism and be, additionally, generative. Question: is an alien injection into the commonplace automatically antagonistic? Or only so according to the prevailing paradigm that cannot tolerate difference? Second question: Are alien injections mythical?


johnjayjacobs's picture

My brain so goes to the gutter with that phrase... but then again, we were discussion that in order to conquer Oedipus one must rape one's father before this class (don't ask).

but I would have to say that the core of one's negative response is usually "below the belt", gutteral, pelvic, and essential... from a spiritual-alchemy point of view, things that threaten our paradigms always hit us here... not in our minds or hearts... for our cultural/economic/personal points of power are the first 3 chakras... so if you want to address the areas of response/threat, one must address the issue there first, THEN move up to the heart and mind.

mramler's picture

No answers, but good questions, all.