Literature and Poetry

Issues written by Eli Siegel

Down With Beauty! / Number 149, February 4, 1976

Aesthetic Realism has been saying for a long time that the problem of madness is the same as the problem of poetry. In madness, a person’s desire for symmetry and order is not at one with his desire for freedom or abandon. Human life with its constant temperature—when things are well—of 98°, accompanied in the body by all kinds of unsymmetrical tendencies, instances the fact that a person is order and disorder. Health is not just order; it is the oneness of order and freedom, or order and new possibility. Poetry, like the body at its best, is order and freedom at once, logic and impulse fairly had at the same moment

What I have written is illustrated by the history of all the arts, including, surely, poetry. It is necessary, though, to see the reasonableness of this statement: Poetry is sanity. It is necessary to see the reasonableness of: Art is sanity ....more

The Fight / Number 151, February 18, 1976

The greatest fight man is concerned with, is the fight between respect for reality and contempt for reality that has taken place in all minds of the past and is taking place now. There are three places in literature which make the fight between respect and contempt clearer. These places are Sonnet 66 of Shakespeare; Baudelaire’s “O Mort, vieux capitaine”; and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind.”

Certainly there are many more illustrations in literature of that fight between respect and contempt which Aesthetic Realism sees as the beginning and most important fight in every mind. Still, the three instances of literature that I have mentioned can serve richly to tell what the fight in man is. The large fight, again, in every mind, every mind of once, every mind of now, is between seeing the world or reality as having meaning, aesthetic order, and some friendliness, a world which one can truly like; or seeing the world as disorderly, causeless, uncaring, something one cannot truly like....more

The Gods Are Lessened / Number 153, March 3, 1976

Contempt spares nothing. An important portion of history is how man has wanted to have contempt for the gods he has made and thought he needed. We see from history itself and from the history of religion that there is a desire in man to own and manipulate whatever he might respect....

There is something, we think, that makes gods of ourselves if we can either dismiss the world or find it tedious. And certainly, if along with dismissing the world or finding it tedious, we can swallow it—as Baudelaire intimates—our god—like possibilities are more than ever asserted. There is, at least, a relation between boredom and self-divinity.

The history of religion—or non-religion—tells a great deal about contempt and how it has been in man....more

Look Who's Here! / Number 154, March 10, 1976

...If...Aesthetic Realism is correct and the self is a constant aesthetic debate, then it is not hard for one to see that the two possibilities of self may both be regarded with contempt by a living person. This means that the self given only to care for itself is seen with contempt by that in a person which wants to be more comprehensive or larger. Also, the self which tries to be or wishes to be larger and more inclusive, is seen with contempt by the self-regarding person, the person who thinks that taking care of just what he is, is work enough for one life....more

Care for Self / Number 155, March 17, 1976

It is rather clear that if a person is to care for himself, he must make some sense of our great desire for love and our great desire for contempt. Man is both a diminishing and an enhancing animal. He would like to make everything smaller, more wretched, less important, so that amid the unattractive ruins he might be distinguished. And then there is a tendency in man, rather unsuccessful, to give more meaning to all things.

Unless both possibilities—lessening and increasing—are seen as of man himself, there will be pain...

In the life of Sara Teasdale (1885-1933), one can see quite well what I am talking about.... more

The Shakespearean Awareness / Number 156, March 24, 1976

Every dramatist has to be aware of the three great emotions which, when used not in behalf of a more just world but in behalf of a superior self, can do such harm. These three great emotions which may be used in behalf of a falsely advanced self are: Fear, Anger, Contempt.

Shakespeare says much of fear, anger, contempt. Some of the highest points in the world's literature have Shakespeare's awareness of these three emotions. And Shakespeare has hardly neglected contempt. Sometimes this contempt is readily seen—as when Hamlet satirically and poetically describes his usurping stepfather, Claudius. Everyone, then, would agree that Hamlet had contempt for King Claudius; also for Polonius. However, that he had contempt for Ophelia is a more difficult matter. And, changing plays, it is even more difficult to see that Othello had contempt for Desdemona. ... more

The Hawthorne Omission / Number 157, March 31, 1976

In this number of TRO, I shall give evidence that Nathaniel Hawthorne knew he was driven by a deep contempt; and he also knew that he might die of it. Yet Hawthorne, even when renowned in America as the author of The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, did not know an syone who was so concerned as to take his own statements about himself and others seriously; and so be of friendly use to him. Nor have critics taken many things Hawthorne said with the amiable gravity they deserved.

Consequently, dear unknown friends, the Hawthorne Omission is persons’ failure to see a great, constant fear of his. Perhaps this letter or essay is the first attempt to take a deadly concern of a noted writer as truly that.... more

Missed by Edgar Allan Poe / Number 158, April 7, 1976

I shall try in this number of TRO to give the first evidences that Edgar Allan Poe felt that he had put aside good will in his life; and that for the rest of his years, he was hoping to have it back. It is good will, essentially, who is or which is missed in his poems like “Ulalume” or “The Raven.” It is good will which is sadly killed in Poe's “The Tell-Tale Heart” and also in “The Black Cat.” It is good will who is or which is the other self of William Wilson, attacked by the more assertive self. I believe, dear unknown friends, when all the evidence is looked at, it will be seen that good will, presented as a lost woman, is regretted in “The Raven.” So let us see....more

Ah, to Dismiss / Number 159, April 14, 1976

Years ago, through Trent’s American Literature, I learned that Edgar Allan Poe had a hold on Europe which hardly any other American writer had....

We have to ask, what is the nature of this hold of Poe on the reading world? I am matter-of-fact when I say that the reason Poe has a hold on the reading world is that he tells so well of persons' desire to dismiss the world. When you do well with the general desire to dismiss the world, you can become internationally indispensable. That is so with Poe. It became clear while Trent was writing his rather popular work on American literature....more

The Two Pleasures / Number 162, May 5, 1976

One thing that is clear in the history of man is that he has had pleasure of two kinds. Man has had pleasure from seeing a sunset; from Handel's Messiah; from seeing courage in someone; from a great rhythm in words. He has also had pleasure from making everything he can meaningless; from changing architecture into broken eggshells; from making the mighty malodorous; from trivializing. Man, then, praises; he also diminishes. The same lips that can curve and droop into a sneer can be apart in astonishment. Seeing meaning, then, has given pleasure; taking it away has also given pleasure. —Eli Siegel

This issue includes discussion of Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Baudelaire, Ludwig von Beethoven, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare—and others.... more

The Three Failures / Number 181, September 15, 1976

A fair idea may be had of what Aesthetic Realism is by considering The Three Failures, as Aesthetic Realism sees these. The failures are different, are in different fields; but they all arise from the seeing of the world and persons representing the world, in an inaccurate and unjust way. These three failures, in contemporary terms, may be described as: One, The Freud Failure; Two, The Greenspan Failure; and Three, The Eliot Failure.

Because Aesthetic Realism sees Sigmund Freud as having failed the mind of man; sees Alan Greenspan as failing now the economics of man where economics is ethics; and sees Thomas Stearns Eliot as having failed poetry as meaning and music at once—an idea may be had of what Aesthetic Realism regards as not failure, or success. For the purpose of understanding Aesthetic Realism, is it not necessary, dear unknown friends, to know what Aesthetic Realism regards as failure and regards as success?... more

All the Arts / Number 212, April 20, 1977

Aesthetic Realism has tried to make two things clear, both of value to the life of man. The first of these is that all the arts, at their beginning, have something in common; and that this common thing in all the arts is the oneness of opposites, felt and worked with by an individual mind."...more

Includes discussion of Byron, Beethoven, Delacroix, and Michelangelo

 America Has Literature / Number 284, September 6, 1978

The first American novel that impressed Europe was The Spy of 1821 by James Fenimore Cooper. This book is deeply ingenious; but one aspect of it has not been dealt with by the critics. Harvey Birch, who seems to spy both for the British and Americans, is an example of double personality that has taken an external form. Cooper himself was a mingling of naiveté and caution. He was gentle and irascible. Nevertheless, he had one of the greatest imaginations the world has seen..... more

 

This is the text for the course The Aesthetic Realism Explanation of Poetry, taught by Ellen Reiss

Aesthetic Realism as Poetry / Number 521, March 30, 1983

We are proud to reprint in this number of TRO Eli Siegel's Statement with Comments, "Poetry Is the Making One of Opposites." Aesthetic Realism as philosophy that has beautifully revolutionized people's lives, arose from Eli Siegel's seeing of what poetry is. He writes of the first Aesthetic Realism lessons, which took place in 1941: "Aesthetic Realism, as taught by an individual, arose from requests from people in my poetry classes who asked if they could talk to me privately. In my talks on poetry, I mentioned often the fact that what makes a good poem is like what can make a good life. This I see as still true, for poetry is a mingling of intensity and calm, emotion and logic" (TRO 316).

The explanation of poetry presented here is asked for by the whole history of literary criticism; for every important critic has had some sense that opposites matter in poetry.... more

What Makes Imagination Kind or Cruel? / Number 1960, August 23, 2017

...[In the paper of his published here,] Dr. [Edward] Green—composer, musicologist, professor at the Manhattan School of Music—is writing about the greatness of Aesthetic Realism’s understanding of imagination. In all the history of thought, it is Eli Siegel who showed there are two kinds of imagination, and these arise from the two big desires at war in everyone: the desire to respect the world, and the desire to have contempt—“get a false importance or glory from the lessening of things not oneself.” And Dr. Green writes courageously (also humorously) about something that has tormented artists, and that they have not understood: an artist as person may use his imagination in a way that’s fundamentally at odds with the respectful imagination from which art comes. Through contempt, people weaken their minds and lives every day. And through contempt, artists have also hindered, even stifled, the art in themselves....more

This issue includes:


The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known online:

*Current Issues: The most recent issues in which Aesthetic Realism explains the news, happenings in people's lives, events in history, and some of the most moving works in literature.

*National Ethics: What honest criteria can we use to be good critics of ethics on the national and international levels? Aesthetic Realism looks at ethics as to loyalty, international affairs, & more.


*Literature / Poetry: Discussing many great works of poetry and prose. Criticism, wrote Eli Siegel compactly, is showing "a good thing as good, a bad thing as bad, and a middling thing as middling."

*Love: How Aesthetic Realism describes the purpose of love—"to like the world honestly through another person." Discussion of what interferes with having real love—today and in history.


*Racism—the Cause & Solution: The Aesthetic Realism understanding of contempt as the cause of racism, and the place of aesthetics in respecting, pleasurably, people different from oneself.

*The Economy: Why our economic system has failed to meet the needs of the American people, and the Aesthetic Realism understanding of good will as the basis for successful and fair economics


*Education: The success of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in having students learn to read and write—learn science, social studies, art, every subject—and be kinder, less angry, less prejudiced.

*Eli Siegel Day in Baltimore: Talks given on August 16, 2002, Eli Siegel's Centenary, placing Mr. Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, his work, in terms of world culture and history.


*Art: "Aesthetic Realism sees the purpose of art as, from the beginning, the liking of the world more..."

*Archives: The rich education provided by Aesthetic Realism in issues of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known which are online.


Aesthetic Realism Foundation online

The most comprehensive source of information about Aesthetic Realism is the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—and the sites connected to it, including this one. You can start, for instance, at the Foundation's home page. Then, go on to biographical information about Eli Siegel, who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941. You will see how the education he began teaching in those years continues now in Aesthetic Realism consultations and in public dramatic presentations and seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—as well as in the Foundation's Outreach Programs for seniors, young people, libraries, teachers. Meanwhile in the schools of New York, the dramatically effective Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method has enabled students to learn, to love learning, and to pass standardized examinations for three decades. And artists since 1955 have exhibited at the Terrain Gallery for which many have written commentaries (including on their own works), based on the philosophic principles of Aesthetic Realism. You can read about Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education online, as well as about every person on the faculty of the Foundation. As editor of TRO her commentaries are in every issue (see, e.g., "Nature, Romanticism, & Harry Potter"; "Clothing and Emotion"; and "Jobs, Discontent, and Beauty"). In the Aesthetic Realism Online Library, you'll find the largest single repository of reviews, articles in the press, lectures, poetry; and The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. In 2002, Eli Siegel' s centenary, the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of Baltimore, the city where he grew up, wrote on the meaning to America of Aesthetic Realism and its founder. So did the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, in the U.S. Congressional Record.

Selected Resources online

People in America's diverse professions—the humanities, the arts, education, the social sciences, medicine, labor—have written on the value of Aesthetic Realism. They describe the way Aesthetic Realism teaches people how to understand themselves more accurately; how the ability to be just to other people is enhanced; how one's professional attainments are augmented. Language arts teacher Leila Rosen, for example, writes on the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. Anthropologist Arnold Perey writes on the way Aesthetic Realism opposes prejudice and improves international understanding. And there are many others. Historically, new knowledge has often been met unjustly. This was true about the new, innovative thought of Louis Pasteur and John Keats, Beethoven and William Lloyd Garrison, Jonas Salk and Isaac Newton. And it has been true about Aesthetic Realism. Documenting and opposing this, the website "Friends of Aesthetic Realism — Countering the Lies," written by more than 60 individuals, refutes the falsehoods of the few persons who have attacked Aesthetic Realism and lets the facts speak for themselves. People who want to express their opinion of Aesthetic Realism, and have the knowledge to back it up, have created blogs and websites and have written numerous articles. See, for example, composer and educator Edward Green; essayist Lynette Abel; photographer Len Bernstein; teachers Ann Richards, Christopher Balchin, and Alan Shapiro. Others are listed in "What People Are Saying." The education of Aesthetic Realism enables a person to understand oneself more exactly than has been possible before, and to like the world honestly, authentically.


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