New And Selected Work
By Nigel Pearce
Key Themes: Mental Health, Essays, Poetry, Prose, Short Stories
About the Author
Nigel was born into a family in 1959 which was fragile and would succumb to conflicts of ideology and lifestyle, the latter itself at the time being considered a matter of philosophical consideration. Nigel left for the counter-culture at the age of twelve and was afterwards placed in the care of the local authorities and then the psychiatric system just before his fourteenth birthday. Enduring enforced E.C.T and intramuscular injections of Chlorpromazine (Largactil) by the age of sixteen. It looked rather like a hellish vortex for some time, but as a consequence of both his creative writing (this is his sixth book with Chipmunkapublishing) and the discipline of academic work: B. A (Hons) 2:1, Dip. H. E. Humanities, Dip H.E. (Open) with the Open University, a Certificate in English Studies from Warwick University and currently Nigel will soon be beginning the final year of a Humanities Degree in Creative Writing. He has risen from the bowels of Hell. Nevertheless, in the manner of Coleridge’s Mariner:
I pass, like night, from land to land;
I have strange power of speech;
That moment that his face I see,
I know the man that must hear me:
To him my tale I teach.
Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
I preface this new collection with two examinations into aesthetics. Firstly prose-fiction and then secondly the aesthetics of poetry. To begin my brief journey I employ the Nobel Prize for Literature as a point of departure for some of my ideas regarding aesthetics and prose writing.
This first thesis examines Modernist and Postmodernist aesthetics as tools for judging literature generally and prose-fiction particularly. I use Pat Barker (1995) The Ghost Road and Philip K. Dick (1968) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep as examples and offer a Marxist critique of the criteria for the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Literature which is seen as the dominant prize in today’s conditions. What I am attempting to do is look for an alternative method of formulation judgements on Literature. The original citation for the Nobel Prize for Literature was:
…for the most outstanding work, in the ideal direction.
(Gupta 2005, p. 210).
However ‘ideal’ should be translated as ‘idealistic’. This suggests metaphysical or Idealist Kantian aesthetics. I contend that contrary to Kantian aesthetics, ‘art’ does not exist outside of material history, rather it is an artefact of production and consumption in a historically specific and concrete ‘mode of production’. It is possible to perceive the Nobel Prize for Literature as being formed and reformed by socio-cultural elements because Allén (1997) illustrates it had constantly reinvented itself to accommodate shifts of ‘taste’ This was made explicit in 1964 when Jean-Paul Sartre refused the Prize because he maintained it was:
…guided by a capitalist western bloc ideology.
(Johnson 2005, p. 213.)
I shall rather perceive aesthetics as a reflection of socio-economic forces, though determined by the material base as Engels maintained ‘only in the last instant’ (Eagleton 1976, pp. 3-6). My readings of Barker (1995) and Dick (1968) allow the necessary logic of my methodology, ‘Historical Materialism’, to develop because the dialectical contradictions present are yet to be resolved; we are still living in the epoch of class conflict. My methodology is derived from Marx and Engels in The German Ideology:
The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness,
is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the
material intercourse of men … The same applies to mental production
as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion,
metaphysics, etc. of a people.
(Johnson p, 220.)
Modernism is a multitudinous and fragmented narrative developed and contested in Brecht, (1978) Lukacs (1963) and in the discoveries of Sigmund Freud. I also note postmodernism in Jean-François Lyotard (1979) and his concepts of the collapse of the meta-narrative and the rise of the micro-narrative in the postmodernist era. These ideas will be complexified and challenged by Fredrick Jameson (1991) Post Modernism or, the Logic of Late Capitalism. Alex Callinicos (1989) Against Post Modernism provides a necessary theoretical corrective to the postmodernist thesis promoting ‘the radical Enlightenment’, and on this foundation I construct new criteria for the Nobel Prize: “The literary text which most persuasively promotes social transformation” and award the Prize to Philip K. Dick (1968) Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep. This is because it exhibits both the ‘cognitive estrangement’, a variant on Brechtian ‘alienation-effect’, reflecting both on imagined and material worlds and on contradictions, for example, the treatment of Rachel and Prim by Deckard. This text illustrates numerous contradictions that generate dialectical opposites. It delineates a dystopia and thereby creates potential for its opposite a utopian society in the reader’s consciousness. This aspiration for a new society when encouraged by engagement with the radical Enlightenment is then realizable in History.
What is my critique of the Kantian Aesthetic? Firstly Kant is significant in that he provided the ideology of the bourgeois writer who apparently exists outside of history and creates ‘art’ as opposed to the production of artefacts. Aesthetics in this view concern defining ‘taste’. For Kant there are two elements as (Johnson 2005, p 202) argues: 1) originality and 2) exemplarity I would add both a) ontology and b) an epistemology. The ‘ontology’ of art is in the art exists not in its being a ‘use-value’ but as ‘recognition as a work of art’ as the Sublime and its epistemology is the stimulation or imaging of the art object. So for Kant, we perceive beauty through our sense-experience, and having an experience of the Sublime universalize it in abstraction. This is a form of ‘Objective Idealism’, it argues consciousness determines being.
Here is a problem for Kant, yes, aesthetic taste includes a subjective judgement but it cannot be universalized in a social formulation which privileges one class or the atomized and alienated individual writer in capitalism. John Keats (1819) Ode on a Grecian Urn encapsulates Kant’s view in nascent capitalism:
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty”-that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know
(Keats 1988, p, 346).
However the Enlightenment Project also gave birth to ‘market capitalism’, the bourgeoisie, and its dialectical opposite the proletariat or ‘universal class’ which would necessarily develop an objective interest in creating a higher and universal aesthetic. My position is that only ‘labour’ is creative and has the capacity to create art and thus art is a social practice only realizable when the ‘means of production’ are socialized. Here Trotsky encapsulates this as practice:
Under Socialism, Literature and art will be tuned to a different
key such as disinterested friendship …Art then will become the
most perfect ethos for progressive building of life in every field.
(Trotsky 1981, p 60.)