Art

When is Fiction Art and Why Does it Matter?

Art commands special status and support from states, corporations, and the public at large. Art is not just a matter of profits – indeed some art is extremely unprofitable.  Art is of enduring cultural esteem and concern.

Yet given its importance, surprisingly there is no accepted definition of art.

Most philosophers believe that simply being entertaining is not enough. Similarly defining ‘art’ in terms of the emotions it evokes won’t do. There is nothing valuable in the arousal of emotion for it’s own sake (unless you’re willing to agree that – for example – pornography is art). Even if we acknowledge some emotions are more valuable than others, we’d still need a yardstick by which to measure their  relative worth.  This would lead to impossible questions about morality and  religion.

Instead, some philosophers suggest that art should be defined by whether or not it promotes knowledge and understanding – most particularly self-knowledge because according to Hegel (1170-1831) it is only self-knowledge that frees us from fate (i.e. the forces of causality that binds lesser creatures to their animal nature).  This would seem a particularly appropriate theory for contemporary Westerners who are in large part,  psychologically defined.

If we accept this last thesis, then how might we ascribe value in the literary arts, where by definition (through the use of language) some knowledge is always conveyed?  Some philosophers suggest the answer lies in the fact that authors create images (character, scene, events, ideas) that  enhance understanding of the human condition.  But is this enough?

I suggest that to be considered art, fiction must go beyond simply creating images that help us reflect on our lives.  Instead to be classified as art, I believe fiction must create images that become paradigms for our lives.

Take for example Shakespeare’s Othello. Othello is not only the image, but the archetype of destructive jealousy.  He is not merely a distillation of the characteristics commonly found in jealous persons (i.e. a stereotype), but instead he taps directly into the very patterns that structure our experience of the world.

To accomplish this is a tall order.  It requires more than gimmicks, theatrics or even good writing.   It requires a style of narration that draws readers into to a character’s experience in such a way that as the result of reading, in his heart the reader knows the subjective joys and sorrows of a different way of being.  Only in this way, can fiction be said to provide us not only with understanding, but with self-understanding.

I further suggest that although a particular work of fiction falling short of this mark may be profitable and enjoyable, it is not art.  Conversely, although a particular work of fiction that does meet the mark is neither profitable nor enjoyable, it deserves the special status and support given by society to art.

Astrology

Clegg & Cameron in Composite

Typically used for astrological assessment of romantic relationships, a composite chart gives insight into the thurst of the combined energy of two people.

The highlights of the composite of Britain’s two new leaders: (1) Libra moon (naturally adaptive ability  to smooth trouble situations and reconcile conflicts of opinion), (2) Jupiter in Leo (ambitious, warm and dignified approach to exercise of power), and (3) Sun,Venus,Mercury stellium in Sagittarius ( bright, lively, and enthusiastic expansion of philosophic ideals).

Further, when compared to Britain’s own natal chart*, we find that (1) diplomatic composite Libra moon within minutes of Britain’s MC (place in the world from point of view of others), (2) in sextile (working easily and effectively) with that warm and ambitious composite Jupiter, and (3) in sextile (again, working easily and effectively) with those bright and enthusiastic ideals of the Sagittarius stellium.   Not only that, but that shiny stellium is placed right at Britain’s ASC (way of experiencing itself in the world).

Most astrologers would agree, these placements did not occur by accident.

So what might it mean for Britain’s future?  I predict a warm, open, and enthusiasm approach to  governance that will heal our cynical view of politics (and politicians).  It may also signify a return to world preeminence for Britain in the role of diplomacy and mediation.  Fingers crossed that I’m right.

*12 April 1927 (0.01)/London, UK

Astrology

Pluto & Politics

An astrologer for whom I have great respect, once told me that Pluto transits are like psychic diarrhoea – they don’t feel particularly good but are absolutely necessary to clean out the waste which would otherwise kill us.  Never forget that Pluto is the God of the Underworld.  In the end, Pluto always wins.

Throughout 2010-2011, the UK (as a political entity*) has transiting Pluto squaring it’s midheaven (symbolising the highest and most visible point the sun reaches each day).  This signifies an enforced change of national direction and political leadership – it won’t be comfortable but it could not have been any other way.

When Pluto comes calling it’s better to ‘go with the flow’ rather than trying to resist the change.  The more you resist, the bumpier the ride.  This reality came home to roost when while dragging my feet about the inevitable end of my first marriage, I  literally ended up in the emergency room with a strangulated  bowel. Gangrene had set in and I was headed for big trouble.

That I’m writing this now means I survived the whole affair – got stronger and wiser from the experience – and all that good stuff.

The point is, that as we (individuals or nation states) navigate the tides of time, there will be moments when change is thrust upon us.  We’re best off to embrace the changes and move on.

*using the 12 April 1927 (0.01 AM)/London/ chart

Film reviews

The Duchess – past and present

Researching for my new novel (Lords & Lies), my husband and I recently watched the film ‘The Duchess’ – which is based on the true life story of the Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire (an ancestor of Princess Diana).

In her time (1757-1806), Georgina was beautiful, glamorous, and a trendsetter in fashion and politics.  She was also a compulsive gambler, a drug addict, and an adulteress.

Not only was Georgina married off at age 17 years to ‘the only man in town who didn’t love her’, but she was also forced to live under the same roof as her husband’s mistress (cheery menage a trois – you ask?  perhaps….).  Although she was privileged and adored by both her public and her children, her personal problems got the better of her.

So long ago, her life.   Yet  still today, her story resonates in our hearts and minds – the details of which could easily be ascribed to any number of modern celebrities.

What does this tell us about human nature?

More importantly, what does it tell us about the nature of ‘progress’?

I don’t have the answers.  Do you?

BTW, if you’re interested, Amanda Foreman has written a splendid biography of Georgiana, called The Duchess (Harper Perennial, 1998).

Book reviews

Lessons to learn from Anthony Trollope

I just finished reading Anthony Trollope’s brilliant novel The Way We Live Now.

Although written in 1872, Trollope’s portrayal of the ultra-greedy businessman, Melmotte, has much to show us about the way we really do in fact live right now.  As another character comments, Melmotte is ‘a sign of degeneracy’, not the cause.

Not unlike bankers and (some) politicians today, Melmotte’s claim to fame was that he ‘manufactured’ money from issuing more and more (bad) debt.  In pursuing this career, he almost manages to crash the markets in the City of London.

The interesting thing is that rather than being the worldly and elegant gentleman he professes to be, in reality he’s a no-body from no-where trying to make the world believe he’s something that he’s not.

Perhaps a lesson to be learned is that ‘money doesn’t make the man’ and that such a lesson is as important today as it was in 1872.

So ladies and gentlemen, what should we make of this?

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