Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Notes on Faith and Skepticism

Someone in the 20th Century drew a line in the sand of literary history. On one side was Modernism; on the other, everything else.

Okay, that didn't actually happen, but the way some people talk about it you could swear it did. These attempts at defining the avant-garde(s) as a cohesive movement or style (it is not) make me wonder: is there any single characteristic they all share?

If there is, it is skepticism. Skepticism of language. Skepticism about the legitmacy of any body of authority. Skepticism that our social and political realities will improve in the future. Skepticism that they can improve. Skepticism of narrative.

I could go on.

On the other side(s) of things, there seems to be an underlying sense of faith. Above all, a faith in the ability of language to deliver an experience. Faith our narratives will have an ending that, if not happy, will at least provide closure. Faith that our experiences are meaningful.

How can we be sure?

1 comment:

  1. I really appreciate this note. Though there's no doubt that some break with tradition occurred w/modernist mvmnt, there was also a re-harvesting of older traditions. The break really was with received authority, and poetics have plunged ahead on faith and inner integrity since. We can't be "sure" of a works efficacy until its proved some usefulness to the world. Not only to academics. Very good thing.