27 mai 2009

techne does what it must

Below I've included 2 linguistic and historical digressions that I cut from my piece on Philippe Garrel at The Auteurs. They likely need more fleshing out to stand on their own, but for now:

Our difficulty in separating the 'true story' for the 'true' story has its roots in the earliest Western traditions of abstracted thought (themselves products of the historical moment at which leisure combines with urban life). Take the mythoi of the ancient Greeks: in Homeric Greek, mythos (μῦθος) refers to a thing said, a story being told, without reference to its truth value. The word gains a sense of unbelievability that we can trace along with the rise of "logos"-centic rationalism in the Greek world from the physiologoi of the Ionian school through Herodotus' approach to historia.

and, speaking of the myths propagated by the Romantic artists vis-à-vis artistic creation and inspiration:

* myths propagated, but also revealed: the position of the artist, "freed" from systems of patronage, is reduced to an independent contractor, a speculator in the value of their own work. In this system of proto-neoliberal liberation, one needs a certain degree of madness to undertake art as a career. One can also see in this the decline of the craft of art -- the end of techne -- as art (that is, "art," the mythical process of its creation) moves from the realm of work to the realm of 'inspiration.' The disappearance of artists' schools might be said to be the beginning of the end of the idea of art as a process independent from a metaphysical spirit. [Interesting that we can so easily parallel the rise of individualism in the political and philosophical spheres with the rise of similar myths in the arts, in all cases replacing collectivity and higher virtues to which one answers...]

To those who might source this Romantic myth in some classical ideal of inspiration, the relationship between metaphor and reality in ancient Greece leaves the Muses as more a rhetorical flourish than an actual conception of inspiration's roots (mythos makes no claims to facticity). See also the secular mythmaking by Romantic wits like Edward Bulwer-Lytton: "Talent does what it can; genius does what it must."

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