Tag Archives: literature

On Art and Expression

One thing, which is largely disconcerting in Western culture, is the approach and view we have towards expression – primarily artistic expression. It seems that expression in some way presents an individual as being conceited and pretentious. As though that individual has a superiority complex and values themselves above all others because they can express themselves. Malsow, in his nominal work ‘Motivation and Personality’, sums this up perfectly. He purports that, “The United States particularly is dominated by the Puritan and pragmatic spirit, which stresses work, struggle and striving, soberness and earnestness, and, above all, purposefulness.” Art and expression is viewed as an uncontrolled and effortless practice. Whereas the table is a practical item, used to serve a purpose the painting is merely for show. Where the plumber offers a service, the artist is, on the contrary, an uncontrollable menace. And this view undercuts all of Western society. The differences can be observed within philosophy. Whilst the German sect was considering the soul and phenomenology, Britain was preoccupied with Calvinism, the practical and almost stoical view of religion and theology. 


As a result, we promote a culture of repression. The theme of repression and sublimation is a motif in much literature throughout the 19th and 20th century. The idea that one had to subvert the cultural norm to be true to oneself is common in works such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’. Even here we see an authoritative figure brainwash and recondition an individual to think exactly like we ought to think – pragmatically, with practicality and a purpose.


Moreover, we are a society and a culture obsessed with justification and meaning attached to our lives and acts. How often do you hear the expression “that doesn’t make sense” and indeed, perhaps it doesn’t. T. S. Elliot, in my interpretation, deals with this very well in much of his poetry. The elusive and tenuous, yet abundant, allusions within his work to other poetical works often leave us none the wiser after reading and studying further. We’re often left bewildered by what the work meant. What was its purpose? Why did he say that? He said it for no reason. He said it because it sounded elegant; it was beautiful; it was expression.


We constantly aim to confine ourselves within rules and constraints. A kind of bureaucratic way of living our lives, we are categorizing each individual instance so it has purpose and meaning. But spontaneity is too easy in the eyes of an authority. Youthful abandon is naïve and we should move on from this, apparently. Instead we should aim for purpose and a strict role to perform. This idea is all so mundane. Alternatively we should direct our efforts to a Taoist life and promote a kind of action through non-action; perhaps, one can argue, a modern wu wei.

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21st Century Feminism

An issue concerning, sadly, a minority of women is that feminism as an ideology has become dormant. Indeed, in America we see some support for movements which is certainly a sign that the movement isn’t completely dead, but it lacks widespread support from not only females, but males too. The notion of a man supporting feminism may seem somewhat absurd – and to some extent ironic and perhaps undermining. Some women feel the need for independence and to fight for their own rights as a single, united sex, rather than have a man attain it for them – I’m not suggesting they need male assistance, I just feel it’s not a black and white issue and an element of unity from both parties needs to be formed in order to gain complete homogeneity. 

In British Parliament and American Congress we see a great lack of female politicians and subsequently we see an under represented sect of society. Perspectives effect choices and where men feel they may be making the right choices on a woman’s behalf, they are, in fact, nowhere near what is wanted. D. H. Lawrence – and to some extent Gustave Flaubert – is a striking example of this. Using literature as a medium to explore the notion of individuality, repression of desires, and the oppression of a female, rather than exploring key themes of female subjection, his novel stemmed into personal exploration, rather than universal. Of course, it would be ignorant to suggest that the novels didn’t raise key issues to do with desire suppression, but the majority was concerned with the authors personal standpoint. 

However, the two raise salient issues regarding something which goes somewhat unnoticed in modern society as it isn’t widely recognized or, to my despair, heard of. Intersubjectivity is an interesting notion that asserts the individual is defined by a range of connections and relationships and the idea of complete autonomy is a deeply male orientated idea. I, personally, find this viewpoint one we must embrace as it incorporates the idea of universality, homogeneity, and, foremost, equality. It recognizes the need for each other as supporting parties, rather than two mutually exclusive groups that must constantly compete. Competition is, to some extent, necessary, but only in specific areas; areas which don’t concern a basic human right and a divine right, such as being able to achieve the same position of a man in a workplace, self-expression through fashion without judgement, and other issues which focus primarily on women and neglect men. 

Take a further read of continental feminism rather than remaining blind to it and perhaps the notions could be embraced with open arms, rather than misconstrued and thrown into a dark corner to be ignored. 

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