Locating the Anomalous: Gesualdo, Blake, and Seurat

By Whitted, Brent E. | Mosaic (Winnipeg), March 1998 | Go to article overview

Locating the Anomalous: Gesualdo, Blake, and Seurat


Whitted, Brent E., Mosaic (Winnipeg)


A major concern of much interarts scholarship today is finding a pedagogically sound rhetoric of comparison-making and a supra-disciplinary discourse that enables one to discover what might be called a "collective aesthetic consciousness" beneath the distinctive languages of the various arts. Claus Cluver, for example, argues that critics need to develop terms and methods for analyzing and comparing "individual texts created in different sign systems," as well as criteria "by which such comparisons may be judged" (16). In an essay entitled "Against Comparison," however, W. J. T. Mitchell suggests that such approaches are but one means of building bridges between disciplines; as he sees it, our "necessary subject matter" should be "the whole ensemble of relations among media," and for him "[d]ifference is just as important as similarity, antagonism as crucial as collaboration, dissonance as interesting as harmony" (31).

Concerns like these become especially pressing in the case of artists who are at odds with the traditions of their contemporaries, for the question now is: with whom can they be compared? The related problem is how to account for their "difference," since in today's critical climate - with its emphasis on cultural conditioning and historical specificity - it is no longer possible to invoke traditional notions of "inspiration" or "divine intervention." To date, the solution has mainly and rightly taken the form of attempting to invent new classifications and interpretive strategies, but the terms devised for this endeavor have tended to take the form of broadening existing period categories - as in the case of the post-x syndrome (postmodernism and postimpressionism). In other cases, scholars of one discipline (such as musicologists) have appropriated period categories (such as 'Mannerism') that scholars of another discipline (such as art historians) have used to classify established periods in their own frameworks. Overall the problem would seem to lie in the adherence to chronology in conjunction with the tendency to cluster artists representing "dominant" styles into "major" aesthetic-historical "periods" that proceed from one to the next. This adherence leaves to the side the anomalous artist, whose deliberate retreat from his/her aesthetic tradition enables the development of an intensely private creativity, and who cannot be subjected to historical periodization precisely because such categorization involves assessing the extent to which an artist "masters" the rules that delineate a "style." The anomalous artist creates his/her own "rules" and because this involves the discovery of innovative means for disregarding all generic boundaries between artistic modes and medias, such artists also cannot be accommodated by a critical procedure which adheres to established notions of difference between artistic modes and medias.

As I see it, in order to release the anomalous artist from the double-bind of periodization and disciplinarity, we need to examine a number of concrete instances and thereby derive a methodology that examines the implications of the artist's deliberate independence from his/her socio-artistic context. The key to this methodology is the construction of a working vocabulary that enlists and secularizes critical approaches concerned with the transcendence dynamic of the creative process. Although Angus Fletcher's notion of the "prophetic moment" is now seemingly dated, the terminology he employed in his 1971 study of Spenser's The Faerie Queene lends itself very well to a revisionist project with such cross-historical and cross-disciplinary demands. In this essay, therefore, I will begin by briefly sketching the major contentions on which Fletcher grounds his critical terms; I then consider the work of three artists, each representative of a different "composite" art and historical period: the Italian "Mannerist" madrigalist Carlo Gesualdo (c. 1560-1613), the English "Post-Enlightenment" poet-artist William Blake (1757-1827), and the French "Post-Impressionist" painter Georges Seurat (1859-1891).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Locating the Anomalous: Gesualdo, Blake, and Seurat
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.