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The Truong' s Foyer

Truong Thi Hong Nhung

few words
Great Ideas
the world of the man
special problems in sociology
The Truong's Foyer
beauty and art
theology and metaphysics


Wood Lily

  This page is for my praiseworthy sister Truong thi Hong Nhung, ex-teacher of school Cailay, Vietnam
Is poet, a prophet or a crafman?...
     Since ancien times, the theories abour poetry have revolved around the notion of the poet as a deliberate crafman, or an inspired seer, or the combination of two. In the ancien word,  poetry meant making,and included all forms of human productivity- that mens making vases as well as making poems.

St. Johns wort w/ Queen Annes lace

     But it soon came to mean the Art of literary making, the imaginative representation of human action, charactere, ane emotion - through words. Such making included dramatic works, both comedy and tragedy and epic narratives, as well as the lyrical verse to which we commonly ascribe the term poetry...
     In the ancient sense of poetry, the use of verse patterns and rhythms by themselves did not regarded as poetry. They were descriptions of actually rather than imaginative creations, which  imitated  the universal aspects of human action - the essential function of poetry, according to Aristotle.
    Leaving aside the question of whether poetry can be written in prose as well as in verse, there is no doubt that we mean something special and unique by the terms " poetic" and " poet". The ancient philosophers recongnized this and tried to investigate just what this uniqueness consists of. Although the poet in the original language of Plato and Aristotle  is literally a maker,  they did not see him as identical with other makers -with the shoemaker, the shipwright and other artisans.
   Indeed, the idea that the poet is a kind of madman or an inspired visionary comes to us from Plato. And so sober a thinker as Aristotle allow that " a strain of madness", instead of  " a happy gift of nature ", may in some cases account for a poet's ability to stand outside of himself and enter into the personalities of his imaginary characters. What Plato and Aristotle called " madness " is equivalent to what we call "inspiration ". We should note, however, that "inspiration ", and thre similar term " enthusiasm ", connoted direction by an external, supernatural force.
   Jacques Maritain, a distinguished modern philosopher, has dealt in recent years with this question of whether the artist is a seeror a craftsman. Maritain 's basic theory had been that the artist or poet is a " maker ", a workman similar to other makers of things, with a skill in turning out objects. But obviously there is something different about poetry, since it is a mental, rather than a manual art. It involves a unique action of the human mind.
   Hence, Maritain emphasized the element of " creative intuition " i art and poetry. By this he means a special disposition, capacity or openness to the deepest levels of the human spirit. But he insists that this is a strictly natural and human process, and he throws up his hands in horror at any pretense of the poet to be s seer possessing special insight into ultimate mysteries.  He accuses modern poets, such as Poe, Baudelaire and Rimbaud, of indulging in just this presumption.
    The critic Harold Rosenberg, however, retorts that these poets had no supernatural pretenses, that they were primarily technical innovators and systematizers, who tried through their own deliberate efforts to bring about the state of  " inspiration " through which poetry has always been achieved.  They emphasized conscious technique , devices and exercises, and tried to construct a systemic discipline for the making of poetry. The modern poet, says Rosenberg, is a sensitive technician who combines the " maker " and the " seer " in the new way..
the uses of music...
        In ancient Greece,  the term  music  originally  referred  to all of arts presided over the nine  Muses.  As a specific term, however, music meant the arts of singing and dancing, and wasd intimately associated with poetry and dramatic performances. For the Greek philosophers, music in this sense was a concrete expression of the order or disorder that is present in the universe and in the human soul. For them,mathematics and astronomy were musical arts too, and they talked about a musicof the spheres as well as of sounds.
       Music, therefore, played an important role in the Athenian  program of education. As literary education cultivated the intellect, and gymnastics developed the body, so  music  cultivated the emotions and the moral virtues.  The educational program proposed by  Plato  for his ideal republic assigned to  music this function of moral education.
       Plato  argued that musical harmonies and rhythms imitate basic patterns in the universe and the soul.  In his view, the growing child is influenced by the melodies he hears so that he assumes the feeling and character traits expressed by them.  Certain musical modes engender grace, temperance, courage, and other virtues.  Other modes induce clumsiness, intemperance, cowardice, and other vices. Thus music  does for the mind what gymnastics does for the body.
       " Musical training is a more potent instrument than any other "  Plato  wrote," because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful, or of him, who is ill - educated ungraceful;... he who has received this true education of the inner being will most shewdly perceive omissions or faults in  art and nature, and with the true taste... in the days of his youth, even before he is able to know the reason why; when reason comes he will recognize and salute the friend with whom his education has made him familiar."
       Aristotle acknowledge the importance of the music as a mean of moral education, but he also stressed the aesthetic and the psychological values of music. In his view, music is the art especially fitted to moral education because of its unique capacity to imitate moral qualities. But it is also important because it provides pleasure and relaxation, and on the higher level, intellectual enjoyment in leisure as part of a liberal education. Finally, music performs a purgative, or therapeutic function, in arousing and releasing feeling of pity, fear and enthousiasm.
    Aristotle  insisted that  musical appreciation requires some skill in musical performance.  Hence, children should be trained to play musical instruments.  However, this is to be a liberal, not a professional education in music. The students are tolearn to play instruments only in order to learn what is good music and to delight in it, not to acquire the skill of a virtuoso.
    Among modern philosophers, Immanuel Kant ranked music below poetry, painting and other arts, because it depends more on the play of sensations than on objective ideas and forms.  he ranked music high in immediate enjoyment and agreeableness, but low on the scale of mental culture.  Schopenhauer  and  Nietzsche, on the contrary, ranked music highest among the arts for the very reason that it expresses deep realities that cannot be expressed in the other arts...

The seriousness of ' Plays "
       We sometimes forget that drama  was originally an element in public worship. In ancient Athens, drama was enacted in an outdoor theatre centered around the altar of the god  Dionysius. The themes of Greek  tragedy were derived from the stories of Gods  and Heroes and were handled with grave seriousness.
       Greek comedy developed out of revels in honor of Dionysius. By the time of Aristophanes, it was an amalgam of something like our burlesque show, comic opera, and  Mort Sahl  humor.  It combined broad jokes and clowning with barbed satire on the social and political foibles of the time.
      Because classical tragedy  and comedy  had serious moral and social implications, ancient philosophers -  guardians of public morality and defenders of the political  status quo -  advocated restriction  or even suppression  of dramatic performances. This censorious attitude taken by Plato  towards literature in general, usually became intensified when applied to drama, because of its public enactment and influence.
    On the other hand,  Aristotle  argued against the view that the purpose of drama  - or of the imaginative arts in general - was to provide moral edification.  He held that drama is an imginary portrayal of human actions, which achieves its purpose by an effective use of plot, characters, language plot, and other elements.  Our enjoyment of it depends on the plausibility  of its characters and actions within the fictional world constructed by the dramatist.
   In addition of the technical or objective conditions of good drama, Aristotle  said " there are certain sunjective  or psychological conditions ". Drama affects the spectator through an appeal of his emotions, feelings and pleasure. In the case of Tragedy, the spectator experiences and emotion " purgation  " or release, through the arousal and subsiding of the feelings of pity and fear. Our sympathetic participation in violent and painful actions within the imaginary world of the dramatist gives us enjoyment, emotional release  and awareness of fundamental aspects of human existence.
    That does not mean that Aristotle  regarded drama  merely as entertainment.  He believed that drama portrays univeral aspects of human characters, mind,  and action . Its power derives from its imaginative rendering of what is universal in human life. Working in this way, the dramtist complements the philosopher, who deals with the universal through abstract thought.
   As for  comedy, Aristotle  saw it as a portrayal of ridiculous and vulgar actions  on the part of men below, rather than above, the average.  Far from downgrading comedy, he held that its universal character is even clearer than that of  tragedy. It conveys a critical awareness of the way [people act - of their  pretensions, hypocrisies, and others  weaknesses.  Aristotle  pointed out the pleasure we derive from  witnessing comedy ,  but he did not specify the emotional " purgation "  that it provides. For this, we can refer to our own experiences of the Marx brothers, W.C. Fields, Jonathan Winters  and other great comedians.
the definition of beauty...
         Most of those who have attempt to define beauty agree that it involves a response of  pleasure. We call something beautiful when it delights us or pleases us in some special way. But what causes this response on our part? It is something in the object itself? Is it merely a subjective action on our part? Or is it some combination of these two?
        We know from common experience that all persons do not find the same objects beautiful. What pleases some fails to please others. This is sometimes taken to mean that beauty exists only in the eye of the beholder. But it can also mean that when a person' s taste is cultivated, he is able to appreciate the elements of beauty in oobjects which fail to please others because they have not yet learned to appreciate that beauty.
        In the tradition of the great books, the two outstanding theories of beauty  are found in the writings of a  Christian Theologian, Thomas Aquinas and in the works of a German Philosopher, Immanual Kant. Aquinas and Kant teach us that beauty has both a subjective and objective aspect. The aesthetic pleasure certain objects give us is related to the intrinsic excellence in the objects themselves.
       The subjective aspect of beauty  is covered by  Aquinas when he defines the beautiful as that " which pleases us upon being seen ".  Here, the word " seen " does not refer to seeing with the eyes . It refers to vision with the mind  - a kind of intuitive apprehension of the individual object which is being contemplated or experienced aesthetically. The satisfaction or pleasure that the beautiful object gives us lies in its knowability - in its being so constituted that we are able to apprehend it in its unique individuality.
      This lead Aquina  to the objective aspect of beauty. What is it in the object that makes it knowable thus - in a manner that is so satisfying or pleasing to us? Aquni ' s  answer is that beautiful things have three main traits: integrity, proportion, and clarity.
      The easiest way for us to understand what he has in mind is to remember the rule we learned in school for writing a good composition.
       We were told that a good poece of writing should have  unity, order  and  coherence.  It should  be a complex whole  in which all the parts are properly  related  to one another and in which the  unified structure  of the whole stands out clearly. What is true of a good piece of writing  is equally true of a good piece of painting  or a good musical composition.. What any work of art is thus " well made ", it is beautiful; and when it has this excellence, it is eminently  capable of being known and giving pleasure to the beholder.
     Immanuel  Kant ' s theorie  of the beautiful is expressed in somewhat different terms. Like  Aquina, he defines the beautuful as that which gives the observer a certain type of disinterested pleasure; that is, the pleasure which comes, purely and simply, from our satisfaction in knowing the object we are contemplating. But where  Aquina gives an analysis of the objective elements  of beauty, Kant appeals  to certain universal traits  of the human mind as his basis for elevating the true aesthetic judgment of the beautiful above the merely subjective reaction of pleasure in the object. For him, as for  Aquina, good taste can be cultivated and persons who have ot have a truer appreciation of what is really beautiful.

Stone 3

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                                             March 29 2010 ...The nature of a profession ( the world of the man )