Volume 30 Number 1

Michael Payne and Mark Neuman (Eds.)

Perspective: Art, Literature, Participation

1986
161 pages
ISBN 0838751040
Bucknell Review

In this issue of Bucknell Review we are encouraged, through our engagement with literature and art, to examine ourselves as social beings. Here we discover how all the arts test us as participants, requiring us to make meanings and choices, confronting us with unexamined ambiguities. And we are reminded here too, in moving disclosures, that art and compassion may be united. Finally we learn of the unity of art itself; how literature and the visual coalesce to form a transcendent experience inaccessible to our everyday selves. The unity of all the arts and the transforming power of that union, are addressed in David Sten Herrstrom's essay on William Blake. The transfiguring power of Blake's imagery in the Laocoon is generated by the fusion of the visual image and the verbal incarnations that embrace and vitalize it. Visual and verbal are parts of a mighty engine that moves Blake's composite art beyond the figurative to the literal metamorphosis and redemption of Jehovah and of our participating selves. Participation is also Virginia Vaughan's theme in her treatment of perspective art. Here painter and dramatist confront us with multiple realities and meanings. Following the course the artist has set for us, we discover that the apparent is not real, and that we are not the measure of things. Rodney Shewan, examining the legend of the licentious Salome, finds her ghoulish dance to be a compelling metaphor for Symbolist and all artistic aspirations. But for Shewan's three writers, Mallarme, Laforgue, and Wilde, that dance is also a point of literary contentiousness, where they gather to proclaim their contempt for one another's artistic purposes. Rosa and Welcher's discussion of the Icarus legend points to the invigorating union of artistic inheritance and contemporary preoccupations. Here the choice of theme, the poet's inclusions and omissions, illuminate the process of artistic integration and invention. Compassion and art are explored in Barton Levi St. Armand's essay on Melville's "The Piazza." Again artistic inheritances unite with contemporary sensibilities; a "Mannerist" protest is sparked by the emerging recognition that an art which banishes humanity is a dishonorable falsehood. Finally, in Dickran Tashjian's study of the Armenian-born American painter Arshile Gorky, we discover the creative tension between the painter's longing for a new American identity, and his fierce resolve not to exorcise the ghosts of the scattered and murdered Armenian family of his youth. Victim of an outrageous inhumanity, Gorky draws both past and future into himself, authenticating the power of compassion to move art. These recurring themes - the differing yet compatible realities of art, society, and literature; spectator participation and choice-making; the unity of the arts; the interweave of present circumstances and artistic indebtedness; the power of compassion - inform every one of these original and stimulating essays.

Contributors: Virginia M. Vaughan, David Sten Herrstrom, Barton Levi St. Armand, Rodney Shewan, Joyce D. Rosa, Jeanne K. Welcher, and Dickran Tashjian.

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