Saturday, October 15, 2005

romantic musings: thoughts on categories

by Charlotte Deaver

For some reason — our cultural interests, I suppose — my husband and I often find ourselves ‘arguing’ about the varying definitions of modernism, romanticism, postmodernism, and poststructuralism. (I’m writing a dissertation in romantic literature, Tim is an extremely romantic advocate for Modernism, capital “M.”) Although we usually treat these categories as more aesthetic than historical (or linguistic, re poststructuralism), we derive the principals that help dictate the terms from historically Modernist artists: e.g. Joyce, Kafka, Proust, Matisse, Hopper, Mondrian, etc.

I realized last night that I view modernism as conflating the intensity of romantic feeling with the fragmentary aspect of postmodernism. The fragment is celebrated by the modernist palette and pen, but not at the cost of emotional heft. Postmodernism, however, uses the fragment for the purposes of irony and distance. Cool trumps warmth. The spectacle trumps the authentic.

While I’m not willing to assert, as per my current definition, that modernism is “better,” I am saying that emotional intensity is better — feeling, meaning, heat, sincerity — and in categorical terms, these are qualities I associate with romanticism. So I’ll also say that modernist texts I love are essentially romantic. And I’ll even go so far as to say that anything I love is essentially romantic. So there.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Catinka Knoth said...

My ignorant self has perhaps no right to comment here: I am lost in all those terms. The definitions could probably be explained to me a million times over and still I'd find them too abstract. I lack an emotional connection to them. They are like language of a very rarified strata. I say all this because I think I've learned from your post that I too am much drawn to the Romantic (I think).

2:10 PM  

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