Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Aesthetic Realism Arts and Sciences Class given by Eli Siegel; Part 2 of a report by Lynette Abel

Here is the conclusion of the Arts and Science class of June 13, 1975 given by Eli Siegel

The immediacy of understanding the opposites of respect and contempt was central in the next discussion as Mr. Siegel took up a narrative, entitled "What became of the Man I Married," from the book Mrs. Success, A Report by Lois Wyse. Lois Wyse a writer of verse and also a social critic became interested in interviewing Polly Winters when she read in her letter "I believe Living patterns Research Institute might be interested in a not so untypical situation of a poor boy that reached the top and left his wife and three children after nineteen years of a good marriage." In the interview Polly Winters talks of how she didn't do any of the things you always hear about. "I didn't get fat or stop enjoying sex or refuse to go on trips." Throughout this interview it was felt by persons in class, Mrs. Winters though deeply pained, leaves out a great deal. One gets a sense that she took this poor boy from the other side of the tracks and cultivated him. Mr. Siegel asked, "Can a woman want to find someone with ability and then arrange him?" Mrs. Winters needed to know what Aesthetic Realism shows, that love is a oneness of criticism and encouragement. She didn't see that she got a great deal of importance out of owning a successful man. " To her, said Mr. Siegel, "he was a magnificent toy."

Throughout this narrative Polly Winters is questioning, but she doesn't get to any clear explanations as to why her marriage ended. Eli Siegel stated, "Aesthetic Realism believes that if a person is seen as honestly trying to respect someone, there will be no separation. The hope to respect," he continued, "has been the thing lacking in marriages."

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To see writing, including book reviews and poems by Eli Siegel click here

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Aesthetic Realism Arts and Sciences Class given by Eli Siegel; Part 1 of a report by Lynette Abel

Here is Part one of an early class I reported on nearly 30 years ago.

"The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." The Arts and Sciences class of June 13, 1975, exemplified this principle of Aesthetic Realism, when Eli Siegel showed the relation of music to love, to ethics, and to the world.

Continuing his consideration of Leonard Bernstein's book The Joy of Music, Mr. Siegel said, "I want people to really know what is meant by the opposites." Leonard Bernstein asks, why does music have such power over us and move us so deeply? Bernstein feels that one enters into a mystic or even magic area when the subject of music is broached. It has been felt generally that the effect music can have on a person is something which is unexplainable. Referring to music as being a combination of mathematics and magic, Bernstein writes, "We are still in our own day, faced with this magical block." People have not seen, what Aesthetic Realism shows, that the relation of opposites that make for beautiful music corresponds to the relation of opposites that make for a happy person.

In a discussion with Sharon Pickering, Mr. Siegel asked, "What happens when you change words to music? Which is more impersonal: speaking or singing?"

Sharon Pickering: I think singing is more impersonal.

Explained Mr. Siegel, "The large difference is that in singing, a person feels he is singing not just for himself. Mr. Siegel told an interesting anecdote of a person who stuttered when he spoke, but never did when he sang. "It is because when he sang, he felt the world was with him."

Continuing, Mr. Siegel stated: "Every object and situation can be seen in three ways corresponding to three ways of seeing the world: monistic, dualistic, and pluralistic. This picture of the world is precisely what is in music." To illustrate how a person is seen in these three ways, he explained, "when someone is walking tomorrow, he'll be tired or not tired but in the meantime he consists of many corpuscles." Every person is one, two, and many.

To show that people are coming to see that having two separate purposes is a large thing in marriage, Mr. Siegel read from an ad in the New York Times about a recently published book:

"Are you and your mate growing in your relationship? Do you have meaningful personal relationships outside your love relationship? Is your love free to pursue independent interests without your feeling resentful? Would you prefer your lover to be happy elsewhere rather than be with you?: If your answer is no to most of the questions, then you should read Love and Addiction by Stanton Peele."

Out of these questions, followed an important discussion with Adrianne French. Mr. Siegel asked her, "Are you and your mate growing in your relationship?

Adrianne French. I don't know.

Eli Siegel. There are two things that love can be judged by, 1) Am I getting to be a more complete person? 2) Do I respect myself more through how I see this person? The idea of growth is important. There are many persons having a good time through another person, but they aren't getting to be more themselves. This has caused persons so much agony.

Mr. Siegel then asked her, how is the word "growing" a flagrant example of opposites?

AF. I'm not sure.

ES. It changes to be more itself. Growing is motion that makes the thing more itself. One justification for Aesthetic Realism is that it encourages true growth in a person. Are you tired of growing?

AF. Yes.

ES. Every person has a terrific desire to be bored. Being bored is the same thing as trying to prove nothing has done one any good. To be bored is to be a conquerer.

The large thing to ask is, is Aesthetic Realism true," said Mr. Siegel. "Truth never runs out. Contempt has been the key to many a dreary door. My purpose is to extend your horizon and intensify your impression."

The names of persons in the class have been changed.

Check back for Part 2 of this moving, important class. In it, Mr. Siegel will discuss a chapter titled "What Became of the Man I Married," from the book Mrs. Success, A Report by Lois Wyse.

Until then,


Saturday, February 05, 2005

"Shakespeare's Interesting," Part 2 of an Aesthetic Realism class given by Eli Siegel; Reported on by Lynette Abel

This is the conclusion of this great class

Then, using an annotated 18th Century edition of Hamlet Mr. Siegel explained, “I’m not going to read the play as such. I’m going to begin with the notes for casualness. Every passage I do read, he said, will be incidental to an 18th-Century observation.”

Critics have been very much puzzled by the Ghost right from the beginning. “The main point,” said Mr. Siegel “ is whether Hamlet’s father was troubled himself. Why is the Ghost in such a hurry? It seems he was uncertain of himself.” The critic Warton in a note says the vanishing of the Ghost “is like a start of guilt.” “This backs up Aesthetic Realism” commented Mr. Siegel. “Hamlet’s father was not so good—he was better than his brother maybe but that isn’t saying much.” Then reading from the famous scene in which Hamlet speaks to his father, as Ghost, Mr. Siegel commented,” This is one of the passages Hamlet: Revisited sees as rather humorous.” I read from it now:

Ghost. List, list, O, list?
If thou didst ever thy dear father love—

Hamlet. O god!

Ghost. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.

Hamlet. Murder?

Ghost. Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural.

Hamlet. Hast me to know’t that I, with wings as swift
As meditation or the thoughts of love,
May sweep to my revenge.

“In my raffish, profane fashion,” commented Mr. Siegel “I think these words show some mocking. If the wings are as swift as meditation it is not fast. And thoughts of love are usually slow. ‘What does Rita really think of me?’ I regard this as funny as “The Importance of Being Ernest.” And Mr. Siegel read Warburton’s note on the word meditation:

“This word is consecrated by the mystics to signify that flight of mind which aspires to the enjoyment of the supreme good.”

Mr. Siegel commented, “Any mystic that’s in a hurry would be kicked out.” The critic Steevens points out that there is not other ghost that compares to this ghost. “It happens,” said Mr. Siegel “the Ghost in Hamlet in terms of the supernatural is the best of its kind.”

It was pointed out that all of Shakespeare’s plays are interesting because of the problems they show. “The wonderful thing about Hamlet,” noted Mr. Siegel “is that while it has these problems it is so everlastingly poetic. While people are being dramatic the clash and clang of words, verbs, nouns and conjunctions and syllables are being dramatic too.” This class was a great instance of literary criticism. Like the world, it was casual and profound.
Hope you enjoyed it!

By the way, I'd like to suggest you check out my friend's literary blog, which is titled Aesthetic Realism and the Works of Edith Wharton and see her website too.

Best regards,

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

"Shakespeare's Interesting," Part 1 of an Aesthetic Realism class given by Eli Siegel; Reported on by Lynette Abel

In 1973 I had requested to study Aesthetic Realism with its founder, poet and philosopher, Eli Siegel. On October 20, 1973 I attended my first class. And I studied in classes with Mr. Siegel from 1973 - 1978. What a cultural, historical, ethical, illuminating, exciting experience these classes were! In them, Mr. Siegel gave extemporaneous talks on the arts and sciences, literature, history, economics, medicine, humor, the human mind, and more; he discussed the complete works of Shakespeare, the life and work of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Walt Whitman, Henry James, William Butler Yeats, Carl Sandburg to mention just a few things. I wrote reports of some of these classes. Several of them, I will publish here.

My education continues now in professional classes taught by Ellen Reiss, Class Chairman of Aesthetic Realism. And along with other students in the class, I have the joy of hearing each week the recorded lectures given by Mr. Siegel from the 1940s through the 1970s. I begin to serialize a report of a class I wrote in 1979, one of hundreds, he gave on Shakespeare's great play Hamlet. Hope you enjoy it!

In a recent History of Aesthetic Realism class consultants and associates heard a tape recording of a poetry class Eli Siegel gave December 9, 1970 titled, "Shakespeare's Interesting." Mr. Siegel often said the play he cared for most was Shakespeare's Hamlet. In 1963, he placed the play in relation to world culture with his major work Shakespeare's Hamlet; Revisited. " The approach today," Mr. Siegel began, "will be different from anything that has been before. The accent will still be on Hamlet but the subject today is that Hamlet was related. My purpose," he explained, "is to have persons truly at ease about Shakespeare and Hamlet and other things. I shall be casual; I shall go hither and thither." With wide, careful scholarship, Eli Siegel looked at notes of various famous Shakespearian crit­ics commenting on many of the puzzling and famous passages of Hamlet.

He began with a 1950 work which is very much esteemed Shakespeare's Problem Plays by E.M.W. Tillyard. "A problem," said Mr. Siegel "asks how to have it solved. The problem of life is how to make a one of the fact that one is oneself and is surrounded by all else, the universe." Tillyard quotes Theodore Spenser "that Hamlet's soliloquies show a progress in his power to convert the personal into the general [though] his behavior at Ophelia's funeral, which comes after all the soliloquies, shows a very thorough relapse." "Spenser is saying," explained Mr. Siegel "that while Hamlet seems to do better in soliloquies, he's not so good later. We do go from meditation to immediacy in a way that is not so good. How to make a one of our deepest, quietest thoughts and our motions is a problem."

"Tillyard makes more of Hamlet's relation to his mother than most people," said Mr. Siegel—-his father is almost incidental. Anyone who has a mother has a problem of focus and comprehensiveness. Hamlet had the problem of trying to think of his mother as worthy of being cherished and at the same time trying to honor science. Everyone has this problem. The great problem in life is how to relate desire to fact." Tillyard comments on this in relation to the scene where Hamlet talks to his mother:

"Once Hamlet can face his mother and share with her the
burden of what he thinks of her he can at least begin
to see the world as something other than a prison."

"It's true," explained Mr. Siegel "because a person who is afraid of the real­ity of his mother is likely to be afraid of other things. An incomplete person he observed can not welcome a complete universe."

"The keen problem that hasn't been understood about Hamlet," said Mr. Siegel "is how he saw his father and why he had a hard time both obeying and disobeying his father. Whatever Hamlet is doing, he has the questions per­sons do have. What am I doing here? How should I see it all? Though Hamlet wasn't a complete success in dealing with his problems, the way he saw them was already a success." Tillyard implies that Hamlet did not solve his prob­lems. "But," stated Mr. Siegel "he did the first thing: He tried to be honest about them."

I will be serializing Part 2 of "Shakespeare's Interesting" soon
Lynette Abel