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Michelle Marder Kamhi's "Who Says That's Art?"

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19 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

Can you think of any reasons anyone might have that would make them say Anthem is poetry?

Jon,

The only one that comes to mind is that Rand said it. So they say it.

It's not a bad presupposition as a mental shortcut, but, at face value, it doesn't show much familiarity with Anthem or poetry.

Notice that people who say this are awfully short on examples--from both Anthem and poetry.

Michael

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3 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Jon,

The only one that comes to mind is that Rand said it. So they say it.

It's not a bad presupposition as a mental shortcut, but, at face value, it doesn't show much familiarity with Anthem or poetry.

Notice that people who say this are awfully short on examples--from both Anthem and poetry.

Michael

I mean someone who doesn’t know she said it.

A hypothetical person reads Anthem and thinks it is a poem.

You can’t think of any reasons they would have to think that?

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On 8/8/2019 at 1:17 PM, ThatGuy said:

From Letters of Ayn Rand:

anthem poem.jpg

Also in Letters of Ayn Rand: Later that year, in September, Rand writes to Lorine Prouette, and describes Anthem as a "novelette":557445583_anthemnovelette.thumb.jpg.538df27b5a1c4ef1faa971d248f60b3a.jpg, this time, as a

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For fun, here's Ronald Merrill's comments on the style of Anthem, in The Ideas of Ayn Rand (pg. 56):

"The novelette Anthem was pronounced during another interruption of Rand's work on The Fountainhead. This short but powerful story provides a further premonition of Atlas Shrugged, particularly in stylistic matters. The narrative makes scarcely a pretense of 'romantic realism'; the style is that of fantasy, sometimes more like poem than prose; quite unique among Rand's works. The stylistic influence of Nietzsche is evident, particularly in the eleventh chapter, which is strikingly similar to the opening of Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The actual events of the story range from improbable to impossible; it is the ideas that count."

Merrill adds:
"Rand adopts a literary technique popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the diary-narrative. The story supposedly is an account written by the hero. The text thus consists solely of a sequence of flashbacks; each chapter jumps ahead in the story, maintaining a high level of suspense until the narrative explains what led up to the new situation. Though old-fashioned, this technique can he highly effective and is still used ) for instance, in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey.)"

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

Rand said conflicting things about poetry over her life.

 

1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

But specifically on poetry, she would say things like Anthem was a poem. Then say things like the following in her writing instruction, from The Art of Nonfiction, Chapter 8, Style.

Quote

In poetry, the rhythm of a sentence is formalized; when you use one type, you know what category it belongs to, so it is not a problem. But the rhythm of a prose sentence is a complex issue.

. . .

"Poems" without rhymes are neither prose nor poetry—they are nothing.

Just wanted to add this to the list of Rand's informal definitions of poetry:

“These four attributes pertain to all forms of literature, i.e., of fiction, with one exception. They pertain to novels, plays, scenarios, librettos, short stories. The single exception is poems. A poem does not have to tell a story; its basic attributes are theme and style.”

Ayn Rand. The Romantic Manifesto (Kindle Location 1126). Signet. Kindle Edition.


And here's comment from The Journals of Ayn Rand I think may shed light on what Rand meant when she called Anthem poetic:

"It may be said that a spiritual exchange would be this: I receive all the great inventions, great thinking, great art of the past; in exchange, I create a new philosophy or a new novel. But this is more poetic than exact; there is no direct exchange; there is no way to measure one against the other."

Ayn Rand; Leonard Peikoff; David Harriman. Journals of Ayn Rand (Kindle Location 8198). Plume.

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It just dawned on me that perhaps Rand was drawing on Aristotle in her description of Anthem as poetry. It's been a while since I've read The Poetics, and not an expert, so I'm just speculating. And I can't vouch for the accuracy of the following, but this commentary sounds like Rand, as I mentioned before, may have been thinking of epic poetry. The claim below that epic poetry "consists of verse presented in narrative form" seems to allow leeway for the rhythmic aspects in favor of the idea of Anthem's poetry as being more about poetry as "verbal imagery?" (As my "poetic" turn of phrase suggests...perhaps Rand was taking "poetic license" with the word "poem"? :)

.)

"Aristotle discusses thought and diction and then moves on to address epic poetry. Whereas tragedy consists of actions presented in a dramatic form, epic poetry consists of verse presented in a narrative form. Tragedy and epic poetry have many common qualities, most notably the unity of plot and similar subject matter. However, epic poetry can be longer than tragedy, and because it is not performed, it can deal with more fantastic action with a much wider scope. By contrast, tragedy can be more focused and takes advantage of the devices of music and spectacle. Epic poetry and tragedy are also written in different meters. After defending poetry against charges that it deals with improbable or impossible events, Aristotle concludes by weighing tragedy against epic poetry and determining that tragedy is on the whole superior."

https://www.sparknotes.com/philosophy/aristotle/section11/

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26 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

You can’t think of any reasons they would have to think that?

Jon,

Nope.

Well, actually, I said something similar years ago without knowing Rand has said it. But I had picked up the thought from others in O-Land, not as something thought out.

I would have to look to find the link, but a guy showed up on OL years ago saying he liked some of Rand's ideas, but the writing in Anthem was just awful. I went into automatic "defend Rand" mode. During the exchange I said he was probably not interested in more poetry like writing. And he went on his way. (As he rightfully should have.)

After I said that back then, something kept nagging at me and over time I started checking. The more I checked, the more I came to the conclusion that I had been talking out my ass. The writing is not very good in Anthem. The big-picture style stuff (numbers for names, the I-We thing, etc.) are there and are very good, but the details are not good at all, and consistently not good. And I can back it up. Do I really need to shoot holes in the example from Anthem I quoted earlier to prove that? For people who have a minimum of knowledge of poetry, I doubt it. And that's just one example. The whole book is that way with varying degrees of stylistic clunkiness.

Whenever I've remembered it, I've always felt a tinge of embarrassment at what I wrote to that dude back then.

There's a thought that is common in popular writing instruction. It goes something like this. If you tell a good story, it won't matter how bad your style is just so long as it is intelligible. Good style is better, but even with bad style, a good story will come off and the audience will enjoy it. If you tell an awful story but with great style, people will call it art. Profound art at that. And hardly anybody will read it.

:) 

As a poem, Anthem is a very good popular story. Novelette-sized, too. But not a poem as I understand poetry and as what she later called poetry.

Michael

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Re: Roark, Cortland Homes, and the morality of his actions: for those who might be interested in reading more about this, and don't know about it already, there is an essay by Amy Peikoff in Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead called, appropriately enough for the discussion here, "A Moral Dynamiting". Her main thesis is that "[t]he moral justification for Roark’s dynamiting Cortlandt depends on the fact that he has no legal recourse available to him."

Without getting into the debate over whether or not Roark was moral or not in his actions, I did find it interesting Peikoff's claim that Rand herself, at one point, questioned the morality of Roark's act, and the almost-alternate ending that would, perhaps, have been equally controversial. So it's no surprise that even those sympathetic to Objectivism are still debating the Roark's morality, today.

Peikoff writes:
 

Quote

 

Roark does not want to live in a world in which that building is allowed to exist, both because of what it is, and because of what it demonstrates about his ability to pursue his values in the world as it might become. In addition, while Roark is willing to go to jail if necessary, as “[his] act of loyalty [to his country], [his] refusal to live or work in what has taken its place” (685), he does not believe that this is the inevitable outcome. He thinks he has a chance of winning (654) and thereby demonstrating that it is possible to preserve a world in which he can achieve his values.

In light of this, it is interesting to learn that, for at least one day, Rand considered writing a different climax in which Dominique Wynand kills Ellsworth Toohey. In this alternative scenario Roark still must defend himself in court (and presumably make a powerful courtroom speech), because he takes responsibility for the murder and forces Dominique to remain silent. Why would Rand entertain such an alternative? Perhaps it was because “Many years [after writing The Fountainhead] she remembered hesitating over her original idea for the climax. . . . She was concerned that it might be difficult to make ‘plausible objectively’ why Roark would be justified in such a dynamiting.”5 After doing some more thinking about her idea, and trying it out on a friend whom she described as an “arch enemy of Romanticism,” Rand decided she could “sell it,” i.e., “justify it psychologically.”6 While at first she found the task “formidable,” she says that, “As [she] progressed with the book, it became easier and easier.”7

Robert Mayhew. Essays on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (p. 314). Lexington Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Tying this into the discussion of "error of knowledge vs. breaches of morality":  Whether Rand was right or wrong in her justification of Roark's actions as being moral (perhaps Rand herself made an error of knowledge in her justification?) , it does demonstrate Michael Kelly's point that Rand at least  believed Roark to be acting morally, as she understood it, fitting in with her quote "And I mean it."

 

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41 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

It just dawned on me that perhaps Rand was drawing on Aristotle in her description of Anthem as poetry.

TG,

I doubt it. Maybe, though, but I find the idea remote.

In public, Rand had little use for The Poetics. When she did her fiction writing instruction, she did mention Aristotle (I mean, she kinda had to :) ), but she focused on final causation from Aristotle's other ideas, not the stuff from The Poetics like beginning-middle-and-end, catharsis, reversals, reveals, and the like. And even then, she used final causation in an extremely limited manner--as a process template for creating a plot. 

She could have simply said, start at the end (or start with an important event in a story), then work back from there making one thing lead to the other, but I think she wanted to mention Aristotle. So final causation it was.

I have a theory (or speculation) about why she avoided The Poetics. When Aristotle talked about introducing a protagonist, he said the audience should see him in a situation of unfair suffering (or something like that) so the audience would feel pity. 

In modern language, we talk about mirror neurons, distress signals, etc., exciting empathy in the brain, thus causing the audience to bond with the protagonist. The word "pity" is not much used anymore.

To know what Rand thought of pity, all one has to do is recall Roark feeling sick with pity after he dismissed Keating's attempts at painting as "too late." Then he followed reflecting on how awful feeling pity is and how sick a society is that worships it.

Rand got her view of pity from Nietzsche, not Aristotle. I think Aristotle's way of introducing a protagonist caused cognitive dissonance in her, so she simply avoided talking about The Poetics. And probably did not refer to it much, either, in her own study of fiction writing.

On the other hand, Rand cut her fiction writing chops in Hollywood and The Poetics has been considered as a go-to source there since the beginning. It's one of those things everybody looks at in the screenwriting world, but few talk about.

I find it hard to imagine Rand basing something critical in her own work on Aristotle and not singing his praises for it. That's why I find the idea remote.

Michael

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14 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

TG,

I doubt it. Maybe, though, but I find the idea remote.

In public, Rand had little use for The Poetics. When she did her fiction writing instruction, she did mention Aristotle (I mean, she kinda had to :) ), but she focused on final causation from Aristotle's other ideas, not the stuff from The Poetics like beginning-middle-and-end, catharsis, reversals, reveals, and the like.  And even then, she used final causation in an extremely limited manner--as a process template for creating a plot. 

She could have simply said, start at the end (or start with an important event in a story), then work back from there making one thing lead to the other, but I think she wanted to mention Aristotle. So final causation it was.

I have a theory (or speculation) about why she avoided The Poetics. When Aristotle talked about introducing a protagonist, he said the audience should see him in a situation of unfair suffering (or something like that) so the audience would feel pity. 

In modern language, we talk about mirror neurons, distress signals, etc., exciting empathy in the brain, thus causing the audience to bond with the protagonist. The word "pity" is not much used anymore.

To know what Rand thought of pity, all one has to do is recall Roark feeling sick with pity after he dismissed Keating's attempts at painting as "too late." Then he followed reflecting on how awful feeling pity is and how sick a society is that worships it.

Rand got her view of pity from Nietzsche, not Aristotle. I think Aristotle's way of introducing a protagonist caused cognitive dissonance in her, so she simply avoided talking about The Poetics. And probably did not refer to it much, either, in her own study of fiction writing.

On the other hand, Rand cut her fiction writing chops in Hollywood and The Poetics has been considered as a go-to source there since the beginning. It's one of those things everybody looks at in the screenwriting world, but few talk about.

I find it hard to imagine Rand basing something critical in her own work on Aristotle and not singing his praises for it. That's why I find the idea remote.

Michael

Perhaps you're right. But since you're allowing for the slight possibility: since she did at least READ it, and even took the basis of her definition of art from it, it's possible that she absorbed his idea of epic poetry in her conception of Anthem as a poem. And if Chris Matthew Sciabarra is correct in his claim that Rand absorbed the dialectical method from her Russian education, despite openly being against such ideas, I'd have to extend at least the possibility that something similar happened here.

(Only speculation on my part, of course, without something more definitive. I do think you may be onto something with the Nietzschean influence, though, and that would tie in with my earlier comment about Ronald Merrill's quote regarding Anthem and Thus Spoke Zarathustra.) On that note, maybe there's a connection to her idea of poetry and Nietzsche's use of aphorisms.

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24 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

That would be a good answer if it were a sandwich they thought was a poem.

"A sandwich is just a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal."
Poetry in motion!
 

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"What I want is a Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock... 

"and this thing which tells time." 

Wow, that's great. 

"I think that everybody should have a Red Ryder BB gun. 

"They're very good for Christmas. 

"I don't think that a football's a very good Christmas present." 

Oh, rarely had the words poured from my pencil with such feverish fluidity. 


Poetry! Sheer poetry! A+ for Ralphie! A + + + + + + + !!!!!

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5 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

"A sandwich is just a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal."
Poetry in motion!
"Poetry...sheer poetry! A+ for Ralphie!"

Actually, Ralphie got an A + + + + + + + +

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4 minutes ago, Jon Letendre said:

You corrected before I even posted! 😆

That's  because I was originally exercising poetic license in my quotation...

"Oh....fudddddggeee..."
(Only he didn't say "fudge"...)

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18 minutes ago, ThatGuy said:

"A sandwich is just a sandwich, but a Manwich is a meal."

TG,

I have no idea what this means.

If it's something that came out during my 32 years in Brazil and didn't make it there, I missed it. (That has happened a lot with me. It runs Kat crazy at times. :) ) If it's recent, I missed it, too. :) 

I just now looked and skimmed and it seems to be a catchup commercial or something. Is that right?

What's the tie-in?

Michael

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4 minutes ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I just now looked and skimmed and it seems to be a catchup commercial or something. Is that right?

I just looked some more.

Canned Sloppy Joe?

What happened?

(Seriously, I have no clue about this. I know explaining a joke sucks, but I would like to get it.)

:) 

Michael

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1 hour ago, Michael Stuart Kelly said:

I just looked some more.

Canned Sloppy Joe?

What happened?

(Seriously, I have no clue about this. I know explaining a joke sucks, but I would like to get it.)

:) 

Michael

It was a tv commercial slogan from the 80's. (Manwich was the brand name, back when it was ok to assume a sandwich's gender...) Yeah, they were sandwiches, more conventionally called "Sloppy Joes". Basically hamburger in a tangy tomato sauce with onions and spices. (Just the sauce came in the can, not the meat.)

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7 hours ago, anthony said:

Why would it upset me? I've found after much explanation, you don't understand or want to get the "method of judging", so what you now say doesn't bother me. 

There's a conscious mind behind the creation of art and in the perusal of it. The standard of reality, "re-created" reality equally, is the basis of a mind perceiving what exists and judging what's good or not. As with any mind and all reality. With the added fact that the art is not any random existent, it was conceived of and deliberated by someone's mind. It is that simple.

From the view of a certain fixed mindset, Rand must display Roark as superhumanly 'perfect', in order to be acceptable and true to her romantic-realist intentions, apparently.  

You remind me, I've been most interested in that strange, longtime combo of literalism and mysticism, from artists and critics, reflected, too in the bigger society.

Recalls that accurate saying about a certain leader: "His enemies take him literally but not seriously, his supporters take him seriously but not literally". 

One could apply the idea back to Romantic realist literature and its characters. E.g. Roark. Some readers will extrapolate the essence of the man - his virtues of character - plainly demonstrated in his words and acts, and judge him that way and take only that sense with them. Others only seem to see the surface impression of the character from disconnected, minor facts and allow those to dominate their judgments.

In life also, often seen how his superficial "style" - supposedly some kind of a mystical insight into a person's being  - has prevailed over an individual's substance and actions, lately.

 

Classic.

--Brant 

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Just now, ThatGuy said:

It was a tv commercial from the 80's. Yeah, they were sandwiches, more conventionally called "Sloppy Joes". Basically hamburger in a tangy sauce with onions and spices. (Just the sauce came in the can, not the meat.)

TG,

How does that fit in with poetry or Ayn Rand?

Arrrghhh...

It's all so confusing...

:) 

They tried to eat a Sloppy Joe,
On a bun of sour-dough,
They spread a poem in mayo,
And ate an Anthem just for show.

:)

Michael
 

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