Yesterday Kathryn wrote me a comment:
Hi there. If you can get your hands on a copy of Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson i think you’ll enjoy it. Lots in there about Virginia Woolf who Winterson refers to as “Wine and waterfall.” It’s a fabulous book of art essays.
So off I went, in search of Winterson’s Woolf, just to find that she – Winterson that is – had been commissioned to write new introductions for Woolf’s nine novels. She was tempted to say no, and argue very cleverly for her point of view:
Art into autobiography is bad enough but Critical Theory is worse. If you are very smart, like Ellmann or Julia Kristeva, you can summon up a hypertext that floats over the original like an astral body – connected, clear, unobscuring. If you are not smart – and Theory seems to attract the mentally challenged – then all we hear is a kind of intestinal groaning, length after length of tortured sentences coiled round a fugitive idea.
No one can read this rubbish except perhaps other academics squatting over the same pail. They sign to each other but they make no sense to us. If this was rocket science it might be excusable but the special knowledge needed for art is of the communicable kind.
Art is communication.
(And, to add a small personal response here: this is one of my reasons for reading Gadamer)
I felt that while Virginia Woolf’s work needs nothing added, it does need some weight taken away. She has been hi-jacked by so many self-interest groups – feminists, theorists, modernists, historicists etc., that it is difficult to come to the work in its own right, on its own terms. Of course this is a problem for all important writers but Woolf suffers it to a degree of distortion unfelt, say, by Dickens or T.S. Eliot. Some writers seem to attract it more than others.
Luckely for us readers, she said yes, so we can all enjoy these new introductions, written by Winterson and friends.
So this is why I love blogging: It makes the world smaller and larger at the same time. Someone situated out there – somewhere far away in a physical sense, but quite close mentally … can give you advise and new ideas, better than I could ever imagined!
Its a miracle – but still it happens all the time in the world of blogging!
6 Comments Add yours
Yes, it does bring the world closer, doesn’t it?
Glad you checked into Winterson, a favourite writer of mine. The BBC did a mini series based on her “Oranges are Not the Only Fruit” book for which she wrote the sceenplay. I loved it. Oh: I’m following your blog, so i look forward to reading your thoughts here on sub rosa 🙂
Blogging is a wonderful way to learn about writers and books! I remember discovering Art Objects and how excited I was. I’ll have to read her introductions to the novels as well.
I love Winterson and I love this reason for blogging – I couldn’t agree more. I haven’t read the book you mention though. : ) I’m reading The Passion right now.
I love Jeannette Winterson’s feistiness! Her paras above made me laugh – she writes about art academics with a novelist’s flair for colourful language. Many people think these things but few come out so directly and say it in public. She is such an iconoclast. I have not read Art Objects but I am going to give it a go.
I don’t think all academics make their prose impenetrable but a goodly number of them do. I had to learn to use all the jargon when at uni or I would not have got through. Apparently you must ‘interrogate’ everything. Except the language you are forced to us.