The Arts, Society, Literature
A generation ago, the association of the arts, literature, and society in a common scholarly effort seemed unusual, daring, unorthodox. In the 1980s, it is no longer easy for scholars to establish and defend traditional and simple categories for disciplines. The contemporary tendency to value specialization above general abilities clashes with a striving to transcend the narrowness of disciplines by a synthesis that resembles the liberal arts generalism of an earlier age. The scholars and critics who write in this issue of Bucknell Review present examples of responsible approaches to integrating various disciplines, relying on their professional competence in one or more areas but not denying the limitations they face exploring territory beyond their own domain. The principal focus of the issue is the synthesis of certain themes and questions basic to the various combinations of articles. Common to all fields is a concern for definition. James Heffernan approaches the long-discussed question of how to define Romanticism in a way that breaks out of the traditional hermeneutical circle, and James Aubrey seeks to define more precisely the meaning and function of the term picturesque as Pope uses it, especially for the picturesque garden. Two other papers relate works of art and their specific social and historical contexts. Krin Gabbard identifies more clearly the meaning of the Centaur for fifth-century Athenians, showing how the Centaur of the 440s is a different kind of being from that of a generation earlier. Dealing with early medieval society, William Cook and Ronald Herzman discuss the climate of tradition and belief that The Song of Roland and works of Romanesque sculpture share. Yet another pair of articles in this issue discuss the relationship between the content of a work of art or literature and the ideology it consciously or unconsciously contains, emphasizing the demands that understanding this relationship places upon the person experiencing the work. Leo Paul de Alvarez discusses the idea of true kingship that pervades Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the relationship of this idea to the play's treatment mimetic action and the creation of images. In the same vein, Lucian Krukowski takes up the question of the difficulty of twelve-tone music for the listener, expanding upon Theodor Adorno's theory about the reason for the difficulty. Two more essays pursue further the social and ideological questions introduced in earlier papers. Stephen Smith explains two common misunderstandings of the Marxist Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid: the division of his thought into three separate periods to account for its contradictory factors, and the assessment of him as an unorthodox and eccentric Communist. James Kavanagh attempts a similar explanation of the ways an author is misunderstood because of a failure to appreciate the role and nature of ideology in his work. He offers a reading of Melville's "Benito Cereno" that reaches into the meaning of ideology for Americans. The interconnections in theme and topic among the articles in this issue are clearly ones that will stimulate readers to reflect upon their own "lived relations" with the arts, literature, and society.
Contributors: William R. Cook, Ronald B. Herzman, James A. W. Heffernan, James R. Aubrey, Krin Gabbard, Jucian Krukowski, James H. Kavanagh, Leo Paul S. de Alvarez, and Stephen P. Smith.
About the editor:
Harry R. Garvin was John P. Crozer Professor of English at Bucknell University.
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