Narrative Suspicions

It is as a political force that the aesthetic still concerns us as one of the most powerful ideological drives to act upon the reality of history.
—Paul de Man, "Aesthetic Formalization: Kleist's Über das Marionettentheater," in The Rhetoric of Romanticism

I thought of this quote when I was reading Hoagland's essay. I've had the quote on my bulletin board for, well, I don't know how long. It's typed, probably on the 1950s Royal manual that got me through most of my course work and exams.

De Man is referring to the inevitable violence when people attempt to put an aesthetic form on reality. The obvious, and most egregious, example is the Nazi party whose realization of their narrative of national glory involved the death of an entire race.

This notion of bringing a narrative conclusion to reality persists, though on a smaller scale. It continues in the fundamentalist farmers who work to breed the right color cow to fulfill an interpretation of Revelations and hasten the Apocalypse. It continues in the talkshow host's fantasies of imprisoning all liberals and bringing about a true nation. It continues in launching an unprovoked war to bring about some glorious regional peace in the Middle East. It continues in the Fellowship and Sen. Brownback who work to bring government so completely under Jesus Christ that government, taxes, and regulations disappear. It continues in the story we tell ourselves about what a great nation we are while trailing the rest of the Western world in every measure of health, welfare, and culture.

And it will continue so long as a putatively adult human being can write such twaddle as: "I keep wondering if we can find a broader cultural explanation for the contemporary attraction to dissociation" (518). Stop wondering and just open your goddam eyes.


Blogger Peter said...

HAHAHA: Yes: dissociation! I felt it intensely this morning listening to all the clap-trap on the radio on the "anniversary" of the Iraq "war" and how we are "bringing freedom" to the Middle East. It's truly hard to remain "engaged."

19/3/06 08:16  

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