All posts by akroeps

Modern Competition

Modernity’s connection with fashion is a sign of its inherent instability. It is also inevitably an occasion of rivalry and competition: because the modern by definition is always new, and therefore open to challenge, the only way in literary space to be truly modern is to contest the present as outmoded — to appeal to a still more present present, as yet unknown, which thus becomes the newest certified present. The success of newcomers to literary space and time in breaking into the ranks of the established moderns, and earning themselves the right to take part in debates over the definition of the latest modernity, therefore depends to some extent on their familiarity with the most recent innovations in form and technique.

Pascale Casanova, The World Republic of Letters, (Harvard College: President and Fellows of harvard College, 2004), 91.

Notes: Keeping up with the moderns. Keeping up with the times. Making the future of writing today. Each day is more modern. Join the ranks, writers.

Fertilizing Frankness

“It is a proof of life and curiosity—curiosity on the part of the brotherhood of novelists, as well as on the part of their readers.”

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction,” in Longman’s Magazine 4 (September 1884), 1.

Notes: novels/art imitating life. fiction-induced curiosity. learning through fiction. communal learning.


Art lives upon discussion, upon experiment, upon curiosity, upon variety of attempt, upon the exchange of views and the comparison of standpoints; and there is a presumption that those times when no one has anything particular to say about it, and has no reason to give for practice or preference, though they may be times of genius, are not times of development, are times possibly even, a little, of dulness.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction,” 1.

Notes: art = changing perspectives. art not changing perspectives = brilliant yet boring.

I Wasn’t Expecting a Dialogue

People tell us that Art makes us love Nature more than we loved her before; that it reveals her secrets to us; and that after a careful study of Corot and Constable we see things in her that had escaped our observation. My own experience is that the more we study Art the less we care for Nature. What art really reveals to us is Nature’s lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition. Nature has good intentions, of course, but, as Aristotle once said, she cannot carry them out. When I look at a landscape I cannot help seeing all its defects. It is fortunate for us, however, that nature is so imperfect, as otherwise we should have had no art at all. Art is our spirited protest, our gallant attempt to teach Nature her proper place.

Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” in Intentions (New York: Bretano’s, 1905), 1.

Notes: public versus personal opinion. Nature = Nothing. Art = All.

Why are we fortunate to have Art if Art’s only purpose is to protest Nature? If Nature were perfect, then there would be no need to protest. Wouldn’t it be better to not have a problem with anything? …If Nature were perfect would there still be Art? If so, then would it reflect Nature’s beauty and therefore make us love it more?


If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure. Egotism itself, which is so necessary to a proper sense of human dignity, is entirely the result of indoor life.

Notes: fixing Nature. Overriding Nature. Nature = less, a mistake. Art = more, wanted, appreciated, sensible, sophisticated, “proper,” better, purposeful.

The Indoors, Architecture, and Art itself create a new Natural state of mind — Egotism. Art is creating things Naturally — better than Nature can. Better because it is wanted, not wild.

Oscar Wilde, “The Decay of Lying,” 1.