Imperfection and Defeat

Imperfection and Defeat: The Role of Aesthetic Imagination in Human Society

Virgil Nemoianu
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 156
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctt2jbn3s
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  • Book Info
    Imperfection and Defeat
    Book Description:

    Literature is defined in a challenging way as the "science" of imperfection and defeat, or else as a type of discourse that deals with defeat, loss, uncertainty in social life, by contrast with virtually all disciplines (hard sciences or social sciences) that affirm certainties and wish to convince us of truths. If in real history most constructive attempts end up in failure, it follows that we ought to have also a field of research that examines this diversity of failures and disappointments, as well as the alternative options to historical evolution and progress. Thus literature serves an indispensable role: that of gleaning the abundance of past existence, the gratuitous and the rejected being placed here on an equal level with the useful and the successful. This provocative and unusual approach is illustrated in chapters that deal with the dialectics between literary writing and such fields as historical writing, or religious discourses, and is also illustrated by the socio-historical development of East-Central Europe.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-05-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[v])
  3. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    For some time now I have wanted to try to group and formulate in a brief and coherent way my views about literature and its role in human societies and history, which I have rather consistently expressed in diverse writings. This fortunate opportunity was provided by the Central European University and, more specifically by “Pasts Inc.” and its leader and animator, Professor Sorin Antohi, as a cycle of lectures in Budapest in February/March 2004. The current book is a version of these lectures; it draws from a number of previous writings, but it also rearranges the material and provides additional...

  4. CHAPTER 1 A PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATION
    (pp. 7-34)

    Any theory of the secondary has to be a theory of corruption, subversion, and decay. Historical progress is composed of human efforts towards the shaping and organization of reality. Historical progress is the domain of rationality, pleasure, and increase, where the supreme law is the law of subordination; details have to become parts of wholes, individuals parts of communities, and the environment and subjectivity must be harmonized for the sake of pleasure and according to the dictates of desire. The universe is reconstructed and unified over larger and larger areas. Evolution is meant as the embodiment of the good, and...

  5. CHAPTER 2 THE DIALECTIC OF LITERATURE AND RELIGION
    (pp. 35-62)

    To continue my argument, I will begin with a few points that reveal more clearly the general connections between literature and religion, and the relevance of this interface for the general theme of imperfection treated here. In particular, the following paragraphs are meant to provide a better understanding of this chapter.

    The first of my assumptions is that a belief in transcendence is common to virtually all cultures known to us, whether major or small, recent or old. Of course, the idioms of communicating with transcendence, of explicating it, may vary widely from age to age, from area to area....

  6. CHAPTER 3 THE DIALECTIC OF LITERATURE AND HISTORY
    (pp. 63-90)

    The next step in this discussion ought to be the interaction between the writing of literature and the writing of history, and, almost inevitably, the contrastive role played by utopia. In a way, of course, utopia combines both of these, while also connecting them with the matter discussed in the previous chapter, namely religion, with or without religion’s occasional involvement with politics.

    The main part of my presentation will deal with examples taken from the early nineteenth century, the period when two important events occurred: one was the invention and the spread of the historical novel, the other was the...

  7. CHAPTER 4 EAST/CENTRAL EUROPE AS A CONFIRMATORY CASE STUDY
    (pp. 91-125)

    I will begin directly with this chapter’s thesis, leaving my conclusions to the end, along with some explanations as to how this helps the whole argument of the present book. My thesis is that over a large area of Central Europe—roughly covering what is now Austria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, the former Yugoslavia, Romania—society was pervaded by a common ethos, one that differed in many key points from the “Protestant work ethic.” The latter had been indispensable in the formation of modern capitalism and liberal democracy in Anglo-Saxon lands, and in Northwestern Europe in general. The Central...

  8. CHAPTER 5 LITERATURE AS ALLEGORY OF HUMAN PERSECUTION AND SURVIVAL
    (pp. 127-144)

    I will now introduce another relevant fact, which will strengthen the points I have already made. It is a fact that aesthetic imagination and literature in special have been regarded with doubt, in fact with hostility, by all kinds of regimes and systems over the centuries, as already alluded to in an earlier chapter. Even in Mediterranean Antiquity, attempts of this kind have been frequent, both theoretically and in political practice. In the Middle Ages, examples of massive pressure toward alignment and leveling are also abundant. The bourgeois and democratic states were more tolerant, but only apparently so: the lawsuits...

  9. Index of Names
    (pp. 145-150)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 151-151)