Soul and Form

Soul and Form

John T. Sanders
Katie Terezakis
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  • Book Info
    Soul and Form
    Book Description:

    György Lukács was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, writer, and literary critic who shaped mainstream European Communist thought. Soul and Form was his first book, published in 1910, and it established his reputation, treating questions of linguistic expressivity and literary style in the works of Plato, Kierkegaard, Novalis, Sterne, and others. By isolating the formal techniques these thinkers developed, Lukács laid the groundwork for his later work in Marxist aesthetics, a field that introduced the historical and political implications of text.

    For this centennial edition, John T. Sanders and Katie Terezakis add a dialogue entitled "On Poverty of Spirit," which Lukács wrote at the time of Soul and Form, and an introduction by Judith Butler, which compares Lukács's key claims to his later work and subsequent movements in literary theory and criticism. In an afterword, Terezakis continues to trace the Lukácsian system within his writing and other fields. These essays explore problems of alienation and isolation and the curative quality of aesthetic form, which communicates both individuality and a shared human condition. They investigate the elements that give rise to form, the history that form implies, and the historicity that form embodies. Taken together, they showcase the breakdown, in modern times, of an objective aesthetics, and the rise of a new art born from lived experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52069-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-xii)
    John T. Sanders and Katie Terezakis
    (pp. 1-15)
    Judith Butler

    Although György Lukács might be said to have initiated the field of Marxist aesthetics, it would not be easy to predict that eventual reputation from a reading of this early work. His late position developed slowly through his various critical works on the novel, Theory of the Novel (1916), The Historical Novel (1936/37), and The Meaning of Contemporary Realism (1955). In his later works he maintains that the historic conditions of capitalism can be found in the form of the novel and that the task of the reader was to learn how to understand literary form as expressive of historical...

  5. 1 ON THE NATURE AND FORM OF THE ESSAY A Letter to Leo Popper
    (pp. 16-34)

    My friend,

    The essays intended for inclusion in this book lie before me and I ask myself whether one is entitled to publish such works—whether such works can give rise to a new unity, a book. For the point at issue for us now is not what these essays can offer as “studies in literary history,” but whether there is something in them that makes them a new literary form of its own, and whether the principle that makes them such is the same in each one. What is this unity—if unity there is? I make no attempt...

    (pp. 35-43)
    Rudolf Kassner

    “Time and again I have met people who played an instrument exceedingly well and even composed after a fashion, yet afterwards, in ordinary life, were perfect strangers to their music. Is that not odd?” This is the question we find, either openly or indirectly stated, in every text by Rudolf Kassner. The smallest of his reviews seeks to supply an answer to it, and in every person he analyzes (mostly they are poets, critics, painters) the only thing that interests him, the only thing he concentrates upon, is what leads up to this problem: how people behave in ordinary life,...

    (pp. 44-58)
    Søren Kierkegaard and Regine Olsen

    What is the life-value of a gesture? Or, to put it another way, what is the value of form in life, the life-creating, life-enhancing value of form? A gesture is nothing more than a movement which clearly expresses something unambiguous. Form is the only way of expressing the absolute in life; a gesture is the only thing which is perfect within itself, the only reality which is more than mere possibility. The gesture alone expresses life: but is it possible to express life? Is not this the tragedy of any living art, that it seeks to build a crystal palace...

    (pp. 59-72)

    The background is the dying eighteenth century: the century of rationalism, of the fighting, victorious bourgeoisie conscious of its triumph. In Paris, dreamy doctrinaires were thinking through every possibility of rationalism with their cruel and bloodthirsty logic, while at German universities one book after another undermined and destroyed the proud hope of rationalism—the hope that nothing was ultimately out of reason’s reach. Napoleon and the intellectual reaction were already frighteningly near; after a new anarchy that was already on the point of collapse, the old order was looming up once more.

    Jena at the end of the eighteenth century....

    (pp. 73-97)
    Theodor Storm

    The bourgeois way of life and art for art’s sake: how much is contained within this paradox! Yet once it was not a paradox at all. How could anyone, born a bourgeois, even conceive of the idea that he might live otherwise than as a bourgeois? As for the notion that art is enclosed within itself and follows no laws but its own, once this was not the consequence of a violent refusal of reality. Art was there for its own sake just as any other kind of work, honestly done, was there for its own sake: because the interests...

    (pp. 98-110)
    Stefan George

    L’impassibilité! No one who aims at something more than sharing Everyman’s little joys and minuscule sorrows, no one who refuses to join in the bustle of a provincial marketplace and to become absorbed in the exciting problems discussed there—no one can escape being labeled with it. It threatens everyone whose soul is not totally dedicated to the commonest things, everyone who does not carry his heart on his sleeve, and especially everyone who persists in viewing art as serious work—a poet who wants to produce poetry that is self-sufficient, poetry from which no way leads outward, which demands...

    (pp. 111-127)
    Charles-Louis Philippe

    Longing and form. They always say that Germany is the land of Sehnsucht, of longing, and German longing is so strong, they say, that it destroys all form, so overpowering that one cannot express it except by stammering. Yet people talk about it all the time, and its formlessness is constantly remolded into a new, “higher” form—the only possible expression of its nature. Are we not justified in asking (Nietzsche understood the question very clearly) whether this formlessness of longing is really proof of its strength or, rather, of an inner softness, a yieldingness, a never-endingness?

    I believe that...

    (pp. 128-144)
    Richard Beer-Hofmann

    Someone has died. What has happened? Nothing, perhaps, and perhaps everything. Only a few hours’ grief, perhaps, or months: and then everything will be calm once more and life will go on as before. Or perhaps something that once looked like an indivisible whole will be torn into a thousand shreds, perhaps a life will suddenly lose all the meaning that was once dreamed into it; or perhaps sterile longings will blossom into new strength. Something is collapsing, perhaps, or perhaps something else is being built; perhaps neither of the two is happening and perhaps both. Who knows? Who can...

  13. 9 RICHNESS, CHAOS, AND FORM A Dialogue Concerning Laurence Sterne
    (pp. 145-174)

    The scene is a simply furnished, middle-class girl’s room where new and very old objects are mixed together in a curiously inorganic fashion. The wallpaper is brightly colored and rather common, the furniture is small, white, and uncomfortable in the typical fashion of young middle-class girls’ rooms; only the desk is handsome, large, and comfortable, and so is the big brass bed in the corner, behind a folding screen. On the walls, the same inorganic mixture: family pictures and Japanese woodcuts, reproductions of modern paintings and of old ones currently in fashion: Whistler, Velasquez, Vermeer. Above the desk, a photograph...

    (pp. 175-198)
    Paul Ernst

    A drama is a play about man and his fate—a play in which God is the spectator. He is a spectator and no more; his words and gestures never mingle with the words and gestures of the players. His eyes rest upon them: that is all. “Whoever sees God, dies,” Ibsen wrote once; “but can he who has been seen by God continue to live?”

    Intelligent men who love life are aware of this incompatibility, and they have some unkind things to say about drama. Their clear hostility does greater justice to the nature of drama than the apologies...

    (pp. 199-200)
  16. ON POVERTY OF SPIRIT A Conversation and a Letter
    (pp. 201-214)

    You guess correctly: I saw your son two days before his death. When I returned from the short trip I’d had to take because of my nervous state after my sister’s suicide, I found this note from him: “Do not expect me to look you up. I am doing fine. I am working. I do not need people. It was nice of you to let me know of your arrival. You are good, as always: it seems that in your eyes I am still human. But you are wrong there.” —I was upset and went to see him that same...

  17. AFTERWORD The Legacy of Form
    (pp. 215-234)
    Katie Terezakis

    Lukács’s earliest essays are charged with irony, hyperaware of their own formative activity. The irony is matched by Lukács’s regard for the works he treats; Lukács exhibits such willingness to be moved by his subjects and to elaborate on his amazement that we too feel startled to attention. Not simply because the essays are sophisticated beyond the probable scope of an author less than twenty-five-years of age or in view of Lukács’s resourcefulness in taking a set of literary works into philosophical custody. Rather, what is initially startling about the works first collected as A lélek és a formák is...

  18. NOTES
    (pp. 235-240)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 241-252)