P is for ¡Pobrecito Writing!

| March 25, 2014

When I think about aesthetics generally, I think about “museum art.” By that I mean, pretty simply, things you would see in a museum: paintings, sculpture, photography, handicraft. But I don’t think about writing right away; I have to make myself think about it. I don’t have the natural association. I find this interesting. So:

Why is writing not prioritized when I think about aesthetic experience?

It must be because I link “writing” to a certain set of ideas — understanding, consciousness, philosophy, theory, interpretation, logic, information; and “aesthetics” to their counterparts — perception, affect, beauty, impression, taste.

It strikes me that I shouldn’t do this. If writing is anti-aesthetic, it is no longer informational, because if it is unaesthetic it is not successful: Who will read it? Who will be left to interpret it?

And still I do not naturally associate writing with aesthetics.

I also might de-prioritize writing in this sense because I think of certain modes of writing (poetry) and movements of writing (Impressionism) as more inherently aesthetic than others (journalism, argument, literary criticism); whereas I think of “museum art” as primarily aesthetic, and informational only secondarily. And if something is aesthetic only in bits and pieces and varying quantities, how could that compare to something else whose essential je-mais-sais-quoi is its aestheticism?

But I pride myself on my ability to write “literary” journalism, and I read literary theory whose crux is it’s aestheticism (Sontag’s “Notes on Camp,” Cixous’ “The Laugh of the Medusa”). So it strikes me that this reason for the de-prioritization of writing when considering aesthetics is inadequate as well.

And still I de-prioritize it.

Can I help myself?

Or will I always have to overcome my first, snap association of aesthetics to museum art, to pull writing alongside its fellow arts?