Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Mass Appeal

I was just rereading some comments from last week, and wanted to post this one, from Nan Cohen, above the fold.
Do you know the passage from one of David Hockney's autobiographical volumes of work in which he says that great art, like great religions, must have something for everyone? "Otherwise, it is not a religion, it is a mere cult" is how he puts it. Great art imagines an audience of all humanity even if not every member can perceive it to the depths. (I love Oscar Wilde, but his work's appeal is in part cultish.) The whole passage is long; I have often handed it out to students, especially those who are enthralled with the idea of the poem as puzzle and are in love with obscurity--the more, the better.

I'm reminded of seeing, a year or two ago in Los Angeles, the Actors' Gang production "The Mysteries," which included four medieval mystery plays as well as three contemporary takes; I was just enthralled by the immediate appeal of the medieval plays in a way I never approached when reading them. I have never felt so much like an illiterate fourteenth-century peasant. At one point I was nearly in tears with pity for Christ. And I'm Jewish.
As I read the various posts about "what comes next"--at Robert's blog, say, where there's a plea for more poetry of the "contingent difficulty" variety--my heart sinks, and Nan's post gives me some idea why. Doesn't anyone writing these blogs (let alone reading them) want, or even imagine wanting, the "next big thing" to be "great art," in Hockney's terms? Expansive, open to the many, not the few, immediately appealing, moving us to tears for those we do not ordinarily care about? Sounds better than a Contingent Difficulty Revival to me!

(In other words, I'll have what she's having.)


1 comment:

Brother Roy said...

related stuff. If you are interested come and check it out if you get time.