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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Literary Taste, Circular Over Time by R A Rubin

I believe it is true that artistic taste, literary taste are circular in movement over time. The primitive becomes the pet of the Avant-Garde and in turn the intellectuals take hold with these new directions and become the lions of the art world. Then the public craves a yet more spectacular art and the artists strive to fulfill the demand. The naivety of the primitive gives way to the intellectual, the schooled technician, and this group gives way to cynicism and excess. Then the public pines for the simplicity that started the avalanche in the beginning.

The Australian
Hardwired to seek beautyDenis DuttonJanuary 13, 2006

"This craving for novelty is itself a fascinating area of empirical research. There is a tendency, for example, for all artistic genres to develop in the direction of greater emotional content in time. Music moves from baroque to classic to romantic, with modulations becoming more striking, emotions stronger, orchestras larger. Movies go from merely illustrating stories to becoming more graphically exciting.

These patterns toward increasing violence and emotional content can be put down largely to satiation: the process by which we simply get tired of anything we consume and crave more excitement from it.

Such cycles tend to have natural conclusions, with film producers periodically returning to the calm formality of Jane Austen after pushing the boundaries of sex and violence. Such episodes can be charted and studied with perhaps less precision, but certainly more fascination, than can the tides and cycles of ocean currents.

Darwinian aesthetics have hardly got off the ground, and much work remains to be done. Nevertheless, I've already seen a stiff, knee-jerk resistance to the very idea among older academics in the humanities. It's odd that the very academics who express outrage that religious conservatives want to keep Darwin out of high school biology classes in the US are themselves unwilling to admit Darwin into their own seminars."

Can we assume that the 19th Century Americans, Cooper, Crane, Melville, and Twain are the the primitives followed by the intellectuals or craftsmen, James, Dreiser, Hemingway and Fitzgerald; and they are followed by Saul Bellow and Phillip Roth? Ah excess! Now I yearn for the primitive.

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