Reflections on Art: A Source Book of Writings by Artists, Critics, and Philosophers

By Susanne K. Langer | Go to book overview
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The Histrionic Experience

PETER RICHARD ROHDEN

THE AVERSION TO analyzing artistic problems goes back to the Romantic Movement. The Romanticists established the conception of the divinely endowed artist into whose workshop no human eye is able to penetrate. The element of truth in this idea is that the source of artistic creation lies in the unconscious. But this may be said of any creative achievement, metaphysical systems as well as the deeds of heroes and the dogmas of religion. Nevertheless, it has not occurred to any philosopher to monopolize philosophy for himself, and the supreme power of religion rests on the claim that every soul has to grapple with the secret of faith.

Hero, sage, and saint, therefore, are types which, by stages, merge into general human nature; they are the highest magnifications of potentialities that are latent in every human being. Why then, should the artist be regarded as unique? Does not historical experience show that long generations in the history of mankind never heard of the artist as a special type?

This does not mean that we favor dilettantism or adolescent lyricism. But does the admission that the majority of people have at some time made verses detract one bit from Goethe's greatness? In analyzing the dramatic art, moreover, language supplies us with an

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