umors of Order: 2003

 


EMERSON and THE HOURS
26 June 2003

Just a little note to celebrate this week’s release of "The Hours" on DVD.

Richard tells Clarissa:

"I wanted to write about it all. Everything that’s happening in a moment. The way those flowers looked when you carried them in your arms — this towel, how it smells, how it feels — this thread — all our feelings, yours and mine. The history of who we once were. Everything that’s in the world. Everything mixed up. Like it’s all mixed up now. And I failed. Whatever you start with, it ends up so much less."

Lawrence Buell writes in "Emerson."

"Everyone notices that ‘Nature’ is arranged in more tidy, sequential fashion than the later essays. But here at the end Emerson draws closer to putting into full practice the aesthetics of the fragmentary glimpse that had been impressing itself on his mind as he was struggling to finish the book. ‘What is any man’s book compared with the undiscoverable All? … How hard to write the truth … write it down and it is gone.’ Many authors know this feeling, but Emerson was exceptional for building it into his leading ideas and for adopting as a stylistic principle that intellectual honesty requires being faithful to those oscillations between epiphany and blankness, to the inevitable incompletion of any ‘final’ result."

Earlier in the chapter Buell writes:

"Emerson anticipated posterity’s recognition of his literary talents when he told his second fiancée that he was ‘a poet’ by ‘nature and vocation,’ though his ‘singing’ was ‘husky’ and ‘for the most part in prose.’ Modern Emersonians have followed suit by claiming more for his literary side than any other while disputing what to make of it. The best summations resort to hybrid images like writer-critic, poet of ideas, or ‘artist in the medium of theory’ that fuse Emerson the writer with Emerson the thinker.

"This is an aesthetics of unfinished business. Art is exploratory, experimental, self-corrective, always in process until mental life permanently shuts down. The most fundamental reason why art is ‘initial’ rather than ‘final’ is that it isn’t just about art. ‘Nothing less than the creation of man and nature’ is its goal. That is why Emerson’s thinking about art quickly takes us into religion, philosophy and politics. Art is the prototype of all creative thought. It is finally not a matter of word-making alone but of life-making and world-making as well."