Monday, October 22, 2018

Alan Jacobs links to a piece that asks why ancient fiction doesn't talk about feelings with an academic variation on "the stupid, it hurts!"





October 18, 2018  /  ayjay
  

Why doesn’t ancient fiction talk about feelings? “I’d often wondered,” says Julie Sedivy, “when reading older texts: Weren’t people back then interested in what characters thought and felt?” Let me put this as politely as I can: What the hell are you talking about?

If you read the Iliad you’d know how Achilles felt when Agamemnon took his “prize,” or how he felt when his beloved friend Patroclus was killed. If you read the Odyssey you’d know how Odysseus felt when his men were being eaten by Polyphemus, and how he felt when he fell, at last, into the arms of his beloved wife Penelope. If you read the Oresteia you’d know how Orestes felt when faced with the task of killing his mother. If you read Antigone you’d know how the title character felt when told she could not bury her brother. If you read the Aeneid you’d know how Aeneas felt when he saw his fellow Trojans painted on the walls of a palace in Carthage — sunt lacrimae rerum, there are tears for things, possibly the most famous line in ancient literature — and how Dido felt when she learned that Aeneas would leave her. If you read Beowulf you’d know how Beowulf felt when, after slaying a dragon, he lay dying, abandoned by all but one companion. If you read the Divine Comedy you’d know how Dante the pilgrim felt about everything, from getting lost in a selva oscura to disappointing his guide Vergil to meeting his old friend Casella the musician to being reunited with Beatrice.

I’m old as dirt and have seen people take many ridiculous positions in my time, but none more ridiculous than this. 

There's a position almost as ridiculous as that, Theodore Adorno's position that there was no compelling or plausible evidence to say that jazz was in any way based on "real" African American music!  It's not going to beat the "ancient authors didn't discuss anything about feelings" for being absurd ... but it's one of the great howlers of musicology over the last century.  This is not to say that Adorno wasn't a fantastic critic with keen insights into the Western art music traditions ... but he was flamboyantly and shamefully wrong about jazz.  

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