The Utopian Function of Art and Literature: Selected Essays
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These essays in aesthetics by the philosopher Ernst Bloch belong to the tradition of cultural criticism represented by Georg Lukács, Theodor Adorno, and Walter Benjamin. Bloch's fascination with art as a reflection of both social realities and human dreams is evident in them. Whether he is discussing architecture or detective novels, the theme that drives the work is always the same - the striving for "something better," for a "homeland" that is more socially aware, more humane, more just.The book opens with an illuminating discussion between Bloch and Adorno on the meaning of utopia; then follow 12 essays written between 1930 and 1973, on topics as diverse as aesthetic theory, genres such as music, painting, theater, film, opera, poetry, and the novel, and perhaps most important, popular culture in the form of fairy tales, detective stories, and dime novels.Ernst Bloch (1885-1977) was a profoundly original and unorthodox philosopher, social theorist, and cultural critic. The MIT Press has previously published his Natural Law and Human Dignity and his magnum opus, The Principle of Hope. The Utopian Function of Art and Literature is included in the series Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought, edited by Thomas McCarthy.
culture. This adds a new kind of iconoclasm to the term cultural heritage and amounts to eliminating the luxury of the victors in it. Here Benjamin hit the mark in his comments about this in his Theses on the Philosophy page_45 of History even though he tended to be too derisive in his generalizations. “Accordingly, empathy with the victor always benefits the rulers. The historical materialist has addressed this point sufficiently. Up to the present whoever has triumphed has marched in the
ideologies would have only managed to achieve an ephemeral delusion and not the models of art, science, and philosophy. And it is precisely this surplus that forms and maintains the substratum of the cultural heritage, the morning that is present not only in the early period but more so during the full day of a society, even partly in the twilight of its decline. All hitherto existing great culture was the anticipatory illumination of something accomplished insofar as the anticipatory
that which is typical and brings about completion is recalled in Engels’ statement that realistic art is the depiction of typical characters in typical situations. The typical in Engels’ definition does not mean, of course, the average but that which is significantly characteristic, in brief, the essential image of an object that is decisively developed in exemplary stages. Thus, the solution to the question of aesthetic truth lies in this direction: art is a laboratory and also a feast of
only remains within aesthetic anticipatory illumination is not for poetry to decide but for society. Only a mastered history with an intervening countermove against inhibitions, with a decisive promotion of the tendency can help the essential, within the distance of art, become more ora phenomenon in dealing with life. Of course, this is the same as properly developed iconoclasm, which does not mean the destruction of art works but the intrusion into them, in order to fructify what has been, not
not an open parable. It was a sphere and not a process fragment. Therefore, there is a reason why art is very often pantheistically based on those far too rounding (rundenden) figures, and conversely there is a reason why a system that fits together completely has a pleasing effect even outside art. The pleasure in the sensual appearance, in the living attire of the god, certainly contributes to that pantheistic aspect, but the harmonic undisrupted nexus, the “cosmos” even without “universe,”