"What is this babbler trying to say?" Acts 17:18

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Not to Itemize but to Generalize

Michael J. Lewis, in an article on architecture entitled The Decline of American Monuments and Memorials, gives his opinion of why American art is uncomfortable with itself and unable to approach coherent greatness. Speaking of both the plastic arts and the written, he says:

"Allegory requires an imaginative act, and is literary, whereas our culture is uncomfortable with figurative language. This began around 1977, the moment the language censors began to attack phrases like “Man does not live on bread alone,” asking “What about women?” A painful literalism set in, which is hostile to figurative language in speech and to abstract allegory in art. Nowadays we tend to think literally rather than literarily, which explains why Frederick Hart had to portray the American military experience in Vietnam by means of three men of three distinct races—and why a women’s memorial was subsequently added. [Even though to the 58,000 male soldiers killed there were only 7 women killed.] The fear of leaving someone or something out is hostile to the allegorical impulse, which seeks not to itemize but to generalize, and to speak not specific truths but great truths. It is not surprising that a culture ill at ease with the notion of absolute truth would find it very difficult to make monuments that show urgency and conviction."

HT: Hillsdale College Imprimis

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