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The Future of Poetry, and Its Status as "High" Art

Discussion in 'The Philosopher' started by Einherjar86, Dec 4, 2008.

  1. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    I tried to keep this introductory post as brief as possible. My apologies for rambling a bit.

    This debate could potentially get ugly and very messy, but I feel it's something that contemporary academia has to deal with. The audience of poetry has always been tied in with the university; most people who read poetry are university students and the professors who assign the poetry. However, in recent years the increase in creative writing programs has led some people to question the future of poetry and other forms of creative literature. It is certainly true that far more people are writing than ever before, as demonstrated by an increasing demand for creative writing classes. While the enrollment in these classes continues to increase, it seems as though fewer people are taking the time to read poetry and other literature. This raises what is, for me, a serious issue regarding the select status of poetry and "high" art.

    I am a firm believer in the idea of objectively "good" and "bad" poetry. I maintain that art can be classified as good and bad, and that while it may seem difficult to do so and impossible to prove, we still today judge art as good and bad. I adhere to T.S. Eliot's belief that a work of art cannot be sufficient in and of itself. It must set itself against all the works that have come before it. It must react to and respond to its tradition. The gradually increasing number of creative writing majors and programs challenges this idea of poetry as a "high" art, and threatens (I believe) to create an almost "socialistic" school of literary study, in which all works are deemed equally good regardless of meaning or study. I, for one, cannot accept this transformation. I have to believe that art must be achieved; that it is not simply inherent within a person. I believe that genius is inherent; but skill and knowledge of an artistic form's tradition must be present in order for a work to qualify as "high" art.

    This leads us to another issue. In this contemporary scholarly world that has seen such an increase in the desire to write (and not to read), it is not possible that all the "poetry" produced is being, or can be, read. So, we are faced with a question: does poetry that is read by no one have meaning? Can art serve a purely self-legitimizing purpose, or should art serve something higher? Despite the intensity of personal poetry, much of it has been studied and many further meanings and interpretations have been offered, especially on writers such as Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop. However, both of these poets were not illiterate writers. They read a great deal of poetry and literature, and studied the tradition which they chose to identify with.

    It is my belief that purely personal poetry, birthed from the mind of someone who reads no poetry or literature, cannot be considered art. It has no place within its tradition because it is not responding to anything within its tradition. It has no understanding of its own presence and purpose, except from a completely personal perspective. I do not believe this qualifies as art. Perhaps it serves as therapeutic in some sense; but as art, I believe that it fails.

    I'm certain that many will disagree with my position on art. I open this thread to discussion on the matter and why people feel the way they do.
     
  2. Janga666

    Janga666 Infamous Butcher

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    Just to step away from strictly poetry for a moment, I think it's really hard to say what "art" is. I mean someone could say that this is art:

    " " The space between these two quotations is an expression of an existential experience.

    Of course that is bullshit, but there are things just as outragous that people consider art. What i am saying is that I do agree with you that for something to be considered art, it should be a contribution to a tradition and should be the product of skill that was learned about that tradition. that is not to say that there is no original art of course.

    I've been writing poetry since I was 16 (I'm 29 now) and pretty much the only people who have read my poems are peole on some small poetry sites and a few professors when i was in university. When I read some of the stuff I wrote 10 years ago it brings back all the emotions and thoughts that were going through my mind at that time. Because of that I do think that poetry does not have to be read to have meaning.

    I somewhat agree with this, but I think it would be very hard to distinguish between poetry written by someone who reads it and someone who doesn't. I know some people who have never read one word of serious poetry in their lives and have written some really beautiful works. Personally, I dont care what is considered "art", I just enjoy poetry that I enjoy regardless of what it is considered.
     
  3. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    That was a truely amusing rant of presumptuous colors shining through in a blinding brilliance of ignorance.

    Who was the first poet ?

    So who did he study ?

    Is rock NOT art because its players did not study classical music ?

    What of Jazz ? Developed by uneducated poor black people with a strange sense of rhythm and tonal cohesion ? Not "art" ?

    What of "abstract" art ? Students of Michelangelo... therefore profound ?

    Ever heard the expressions: one mans junk is another mans treasure ? Beauty is in the eye of the beholder ?

    What of creativity ? Do you feel one needs to pack their brains full of the works of others until they mix and match ideas of so called great artists ? Is this truely "creative" ? More of the same old thing ?

    Your on cloud nine dude... on occasion I listen to your music, I enjoy it... however it sounds incredibly derived and simplistic of nature, both in progression, rhythm and lyrically. Does this make you NOT a musician (of sorts)... of no artistic ability... no creative talent ? I'll leave it to the ears of the listener, not some classical music student.

    Believe me I know what brought this topic on and I left you alone after reading how you were studying literature, then thinking back to how you could have the nerve to insult me, a common man because I did not know proper grammer or spelling up to your standards, a literary student, tearing me apart, telling me to read in all the "spare" time I have. Would be the equavalent of me critizing your limp pasty white skilless unworked body... oops... did I just do that ?

    To answer one question, I do enjoy the work of traditional poets and artists. I appall abstract art, abstract writing, and abstract music, praseless non rhythmic poetry. Give me something with body, substance and a down to earth meaning, space is for dust.

    Of course few buy poetry, it is a labor of love and self expression, much like some music is becoming. Music, art, theater and writing has taken a back seat in modern times to other forms of entertainment.

    Art is an act of self expression and creativity, its a no brainer to accept that masters may excel on the final product far more often than the common man... however in the end you either have it or you dont, all the "studying" in the world does not constitute a creative bone in ones body. The world is full of great studious people, however the percentage of great accomplishment fails.

    Enjoy ! :headbang:
     
  4. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Good questions. Ancient poetry usually derives its subject matter from history.

    I usually find it difficult to equate rock music with "high" art. Most contemporary music is rather a form of entertainment with flashes of artistic brilliance.

    Actually, jazz is an advanced form of music that evolved from several different traditions all handed down through generations. It's also a very involved, complicated style of music that demands much from its listeners as well as its performers (similar to poetry). Jazz music is much more of an "art" form than popular rock music. Its many similarities and connections with beatnik writing also demonstrate its much more advanced nature, both musically and symbolically.

    In its response and reaction to previous artwork, yes; it's very profound.

    Back to hackneyed phrases, I see.

    It's creative if you take what you learn from previous artists and make something new with it. That's the purpose of art. Yes, it's creativity; but it's creativity in the face anxiety. Value cannot be achieved without sacrifice. It's not "more of the same old thing;" it's reinvention and reinterpretation.

    Thank you for the comments. It is very derived. It's folk music. Furthermore, I don't believe it's a great art form in any way. Lastly, stop with the personal attacks. You're angry because you think I created this entire thread in response to something you said. I did not. I wouldn't bother creating an entire thread to counter something you said. That would be a waste of time. I created this thread to generate thought-provoking discussion. I'm sorry you think I'm presumptuous; but this is what I believe.

    I'm sorry for anything I might have said to you that offended you in the past. I'm saying this now to avoid any further bullshitting. I want this thread to create positive discussion. That said, nothing in this thread was targeted at you.

    That's great, we can talk about it here. You'll probably find you have that in common with others (including me). However, "bad" doesn't necessarily mean that it doesn't fit into the tradition of visual art. We must understand why the abstract painters did what they did before we can write them off.

    Are you trying to justify this by claiming "that's how it is?" I'm not sure that's a convincing argument.

    Here I disagree. What masters have is a knowledge of what they're responding to. Art must react to what came before it. We don't necessarily have to "like" all of it, but we have to understand its importance. Work created from little skill and knowledge is not as artistic as work that is. You're right in saying that all the "studying" in the world doesn't constitute creativity. However, creativity requires studying in order to enhance its status as art.

    I did. Thanks.
     
  5. Øjeblikket

    Øjeblikket Member

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    just some opinions on some opinions...

    While I think the question you were responding to was little more than tomfoolery, I would like to add that folklore is a means of telling the history of a culture and is also, I would haphazardly guess, the source of much poetic verse.

    I disagree. Most poetry written by people unfamiliar with the tradition of poetry is little more than forced rhyme journal entries.

    To the extent that "responding to anything in its tradition" is inclusive of indirect responses. That is, a writer of poetry that is familiar with the works of other poets need not write something that directly responds to another poet's work, but can and should observe what effective tools other poets have used and employ those same tools his or herself. For instance, in reading the works of other poets, one should observe the difference between, say, effective assonance, alliteration, rhyme, linebreaks and etc, and when the aforementioned tools have produced a verse or line corrupted by a lack of subtlety.


    I am in agreement with Einherjar's opinion though that poetry that is little more than journal entries or verse written specifically for one person's enjoyment is not real poetry, nor should it be called art.
     
  6. speed

    speed Member

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    Ojeblikket! Wow, its been quite some time--years methinks. Where is Nile now? He emails and posts to get back on, and he flies away.

    Has anyone experienced monthly poetry readings, where most of the readers basically put journal entries into bad verse? The worst of all is when these tortured young yuppies or generation x-yers read poems (and they always read in that overly dramatic fashion) about old boyfriends and girlfriends and their vacuous feelings in free verse. Oh lord, how the poems are loaded with horrible allusions to Ginsburg, Burroughs, Bukowski, Plath, etc. One must do all one can to refrain from throwing ones shoe at these buffoons.


    As for this comment of socialistic poetry by Einhejar: I think you might have something there, that I'd be interested in learning more about. I would extend the criticism to all writing forms taught in such academic programs; even to most art programs. However, I've never taken any such class (sorry all my degrees are in law, history and urban planning/econ development), but I have read what drivel comes out of these programs, and I unfortunately hear their terrible poetry as well. But I would love to learn more.

    I am however, under the impression that the current state of our world, is indicative of our total lack of culture, understanding of humanities and arts. We have had 30 years of entirely pop culture, and it has produced a few generations of vain, superficial people with as much depth as the paper- maiche dry wall the mexicans hung their now ridiculously over-valued investment home with.
     
  7. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    High art or low art ? didnt know they existed. Art is self expression, some are more creative than others, and some folks have different preferences.

    I find the comment about lack of culture in the past decades quite interesting, I would have thought the opposite to be the case. Perhaps culture is the wrong choice of words. It also seems to me understanding of humanities is... at least in everybodys face on a daily basis.

    I would question much about this as well. Seems to me local poetry scenes center around universities, where somebody is studying something. Seems many that are into creative writing may also be great readers... is this not a form of study ? inspiration ? influence ? Is it necessary for all minds to examine a piece of work with a "professor" in order to understand it or might they possibly have great perception and indepth thought of their own ? Is not life a great study unto itself ? Sure there is the simplistic that toil not over what they consider the little things and appear to have no depth. Yet there are others whos minds never rest, always contemplating. Why would one not want to listen to their thoughts, should they decide to write them down, at least with poetry it may be minimized in its lenght and presented in an interesting manor.

    Is it possible that such increases in the interest of creative writing correlate with the population ? Is it possible that awareness of common tries of peotry is due to our modern network of contact. We havent been spreading the word in many decades via horseback. In other words Im saying I believe there has always been some regular folks sitting in their rooms jotting down their thoughts... perhaps in verse, and on occasion may put something decent together. Today there may just be more opportunity and inspiration to share it with others.

    I fail to see how any of this could possibly threaten the "future of poetry". Once again... simply put... you either have it or you dont, someone will still create something worth the read according to the taste of the reader.

    Which brings me to another thought - With time it becomes much harder to be origional. Many words have already been said on such issues of humanity, worldly views, the meaning of life, love, peace and the color of flowers. They have been stacked this way and that, in a multitude of combinations, things become cliche after a while, in a manor in which you could swear you heard it before even if it seems to have a different twist of the words. At times the twist of the words is what bothers me the most as I find some people digging deep for less frequently used words, "big" words, stacked up to present as a means of self induced profoundness... which reeks of amature hour and over indulged, forced... trying.

    As per my quote from Miltons Paradise Lost, not ONE "big" word, yet it flows like my mountain stream, when in its more tame mood and places the mind exactly where it needs to be.

    Myself, I hope for the balls needed to go to the local "word fest" in April and present my few better pieces. Last year I bailed, timid and alone, I blew it off, feeling I had nothing worth hearing, this only cheats myself. There is only three minutes for presentation which is tough for me. I do prefer the more theatrical presentation, as I feel it lends to the flow and expression.
     
  8. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    I usually tend to think of low art as having only entertainment value, and therefore not really very "artistic" at all. This includes most modern films, music, and quite a lot of literature. Low art tends to be voyeuristic in nature, causing a separation between the artist and the audience. People enjoy this voyeurism because it lends itself to escapism. People can forget their own troubles and worries and revel in the issues of others. This kind of art requires little patience and is extremely accessible. It's often one-dimensional, and doesn't offer much other than sensory stimulation and immediate gratification. There's little to no effort or learning required to absorb "low art." These are what I usually consider to be the characteristics of low art. Do others agree? Disagree?
     
  9. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    Does this exclude "classic films", old simplistic poetry such as Kipling, traditional folk music of various cultures, redundent and predictable classical music, theater such as Webber and Rice, landscape, cathedral painting, modern home design, commercial design, interior design, automotive design, woodworking, luthier design and cut glass windows ?

    Lets look up the defination of "art"... shall we
     
  10. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    What do you mean by "classic" films? If you mean Casablanca, then yes; it excludes that. Casablanca is far from high art. As far as poetry such as Kipling and Henley goes, I would venture to say that it possesses less artistic merit than the poetry of the Romantics or Victorians like Arnold and Wilde. What some of the counter-decadence poets possess is a witty flair of creativity; they're what I would call "clever" (although, at times, I believe that Henley is much more; he is one of my favorite poets :cool:). As far as folk music, I've already given my perspective on that: no, it's not high art. It's rather a form of cultural tradition that creates a sense of unification and nationalism. And as for Webber, landscape, commercial design, automotive design... no, none of that is high art. You think someone who designs the interior of houses is creating high art?

    And good luck defining art. You'll find that there are several different schools of thought on what constitutes art, one of them being the view I've laid out here (although I've elaborated somewhat, I believe).
     
  11. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    But you are wrong, film making, theater, automotive design, landscape painting, architecture, ect. are all skilled forms of art which require creativity. Furthermore they are also great courses of study for many. I used these as example for claims made on what does and does not qualify as art. One may not like or hold an interest in the artistic talents of any particular person or field but any claims of "not art" are bogus.

    Regarding the infatuation with "high art", a response to my previous thoughts on the matter would have been appropriate.

    So how does any of this "threaten" your "high art" poetry ? Do you mean to indicate that the literary scholars will no longer be creative or decide to stop studying ? or perhaps not write ? The level of their work will be influenced into absurdity by the works of "commoners" ? Are you implying that "commoners" need to stop writing poems ? or if they do, should brief moments of interesting word configuration and rhythm be disregarded and that these people need to be told "thats not a poem" ?

    Anyhow, once again I fail to see anything threatening to the scholarly and would also think that creative writing classes may lead some to deeper forms of study and reading the works of the better versed.
     
  12. Resonator

    Resonator Member

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    If I could observe something from a friend of mine, we both understand what it is to have real passion for art. Allow me to demonstrate, if I may try;

    The wind is at my back once more,
    Carry me not into the realm of 9,
    For destiny will not await me
    If my life becomes a sign.

    It will be me!
    There will be the eternal one!
    Blazing like the sun
    upon thee!

    Come what may,
    As our flesh is torn from bone,
    We will become like stone,
    And seize the day...

    The mindless begin to gather by the brook,
    Together they blind,
    If only to bind,
    That which they inevitably took,

    For the Birth was fierce and carried fire,
    And amongst the ash, the rulers conspire
    To fuel the hell that they have seen coming.

    The birth of the wicked one!
    It has begun!
    We see the days of clouding,
    Amassing in your eyes!

    Lay life for the bretheren,
    The uncrushable bond of faith,
    Tantalizing every thought
    That holds the key to their dreams...

    Fin. I am on limited time here.
     
  13. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Creativity does not necessarily mean something is art. Art requires creativity, but creativity in itself cannot be sufficient to produce art.

    No, I'm not implying that "commoners" need to stop writing. I'm saying that true literary art requires knowledge of its tradition. I'm saying that people should read more instead of jumping straight into writing. Too many people (especially college students) think themselves adept at creative writing or take creative writing classes, but none of them bother to read or take literature classes. I'm saying that the best way to learn how to write is to read more, and most people in today's world are too impatient to do so. Indeed, I believe that there are people with inherent genius who have never taken a literature class; but learning and practice is required to mold the genius into a creative product, and one of the best practices for writing is reading. This idea of practice, this knowledge of tradition, is what sets high artistic poetry aside from Hallmark greeting cards. My fear is that, based on this overwhelming contemporary view that poetry can be judged subjectively and requires little learning, every poem created will eventually be judged on a purely individual level. Each poem will be said to possess greatness because of what its author intended. This school of thought threatens the foundations of poetry as high art. There will no longer be any movements in poetry because writers will have no need to validate themselves alongside other writers. This will throw into chaos the entire elevation of poetic movements such as Romantic, Classical, Modern, etc. because each poet will be judged individually irregardless of his peers. The entire formation of classical literary criticism will be shifted, and literary criticism itself will become an almost pointless study, because all poetry will be considered equal and effective in its own right.
     
  14. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    This is an off the point cop out, ignoring "are all skilled forms of art", "also great courses of study for many" as well as playing down the high level of natural born talent that some people possess with further comments such as "I believe that there are people with inherent genius who have never taken a literature class; but learning and practice is required(?) to mold(?) the genius into a creative product(?)". Where I'd venture to say that such people would out class the "learned and practiced" student lacking truely creative talent whom just regurgitates their presumed knowledge with an air of entitlement.

    Regardless, I feel that this train of thought that your school of opinion are basing their fears on is an over reaction... and possibly further fueled by self rightous induced denial... brought on by the occasional show of profoundness of those not from such school. I've read some real crap written by literary students.

    Those of great ability as well as insite will always shine through. There will continue to be a wide spectrum of skill level as well as opinions on "good taste", as I believe there always has. Today we live in the world of mass communication as well as technology and electronically driven entertainment. Short of a permanent epidemic power failure nothing is going to change that, thereby making this wide spectrum of skill level ever present and obvious for all to see... key word "obvious", so I see nothing to fear.

    Through all this, in the back of my mind I keep thinking of "abstract art" which I find obsurd, yet uppity social climbers find it profound and I muse at memories of a program I once watched where some artist painted on a giant canvas by throwing handfuls of paint at it. A waste of fine cloth that would better serve its purpose waxed and covering a wood pile, as the street graffiti artist creates some interesting work with a few rattle cans of paint. This is how I feel about poetry lacking of rhythmic verse, yet it exists, thought to be profound, at times comes from the learned and to me is a waste of pulp.

    Such is life... another "hackneyed" phrase... no doubt
     
  15. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Please try and absorb what I'm saying razor. Things like interior design and autmotive design do require creativity and talent, I'm not denying that. What I'm saying is that it is not art. I honestly don't see how you think it is. The only thing I see you doing to justify it as art is claiming that there are courses in these areas of study; but there are courses in biology and chemistry too. My initial statement is not a copout, and I don't see why you think it is. I'm explaining to you that people can still be creative and talented and yet fail to create art. I'm of course focusing on literature in my posts. People need to learn about writing poetry before than can successfully write good poetry. They need to know what has been written before them in order for their work to qualify in the tradition of poetry. Genius on its own cannot create art. Skill and talent is required (as you've suggested above). I know you're not very fond of college students, especially those who presume to be creative but just "regurgitate their knowledge with an air of entitlement." And I admit that I've seen plenty of students who do just that; but university study can produce good results too, razor. Literature and creative writing majors need to study the history of literature in order to practice their hand at literary criticism, fiction and poetry. The same goes for those who choose not to take classes.
     
  16. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    I guess Im not into the criticism part of things... too much, unless its really bad.

    I still say you are wrong about art. Especially in areas such as auto design, but Im a life long motorhead and I see fine pieces of art when I look at certain automobiles (mostly older). Those guys even at least at one time had to sculpt mock ups of clay.

    I do plan on looking up some of those writers you mentioned. Literature, primarily poetry was one of the school subjects that did get my attention... way back, but I long since forget, seems I was into the romantic era but still... all my effort went into "studying" hardrock music... and girls bodies... now theres something that could be considered... art lol
     
  17. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    We can agree to disagree razor, that's fine. I'm happy that you just read my post and understand where I'm coming from. There are current schools of thought that completely agree with you, which say that art should be subjective and things like interior and auto design should qualify. I simply don't agree with that, and I've had lots of people call me a snob because of it (it actually resulted in a quite nasty debate in the Social Forum); but that's what I believe.

    If you ever want some names of more writers/poets to read, I'd be happy to give you some. There's lots of good material out there.
     
  18. razoredge

    razoredge Member

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    Now poetry is something I could read. Im just not perhaps ambitious enough to get involved in long storys written in books.

    As for other forms of art, I would simple suggest cutting some slack to people of other crafts and perhaps one day see the art in their work. Especially certain exotic automotive body design, some of it is simply mouth watering and takes all the necessary elements of a great "artist". Im considered a "snob" because I like the exotics which are clearly out of my tax bracket over the better eras of domestic automobile styling, but I still appreaciate both and even some eras Im not particularly into. Same goes for theater and cinema and some modern forms of music, I still think they require great artistic skill and in many an instance show such. Surely you would not say Ian Anderson and crew were not "artists" ? Dont break my heart here and force me to loose all faith in your judgement. :mad: (sad)
     
  19. Einherjar86

    Einherjar86 Active Member

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    Jethro Tull is one of the few bands who I would argue create very artistic music. The problem with contemporary progressive music is that, while it's sometimes very creative and often artistic, it is still theatrical. Now I know you probably won't buy into this "high art" crap, razor :cool: but theatricality is anathema to art. Michael Fried (a prominent art critic) has written that theatricality will cause the death of true art, because theatricality creates a sense of voyeurism in the audience, thus distancing them from the art. The point of art is for people to connect with the product, to find unity with it. Theatricality destroys this effect, because it causes people to seek art for escapist purposes, which is not what true art should achieve. People look at the characters in the work and are able to separate themselves from them, and they lose the ability to identify with them. Despite all the efforts of most rock musicians, their creative area is extremely theatrical. I don't necessarily think it's their fault, that's just how their artistic medium works. Rock music is inherently theatrical.

    So now, maybe we can move to a discussion on theatricality in art. Has anyone ever read Michael Fried? What do others have to say about this idea that theatricality is anathema to true art?
     
  20. speed

    speed Member

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    Although in some instances, I agree with this theory; logically it is not sound. Examples: Shakespeare wrote theatre, hehe; insert classical composer ____; insert renaissance or baroque, or almost any period's artist_____--all were or could be very theatrical; and so on and so forth.

    I think a heightened degree of theatricality is often found with lesser artists, as they dont know any better (I think of most poets and singer-songwriters these days), and are instead showing off the form, or art for arts sake, or masking their lack of depth, etc, etc. These are just examples.

    Its hard to boil down art to an arbritary theory. Hell, its hard to boil down art! I do think we're experiencing a dearth of great profound art, but not well-done art; I have many theories, which all could easily be refuted.
     

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