Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Ecstatic Literature

I did not know which blog post to write - so I am writing one about an idea I was thinking about in Greece.
What is ecstatic literature?

I am convinced I stole this expression from some place, but a quick google only revealed some links to ecstatic poetry.
By ecstatic literature I mean a mode of storytelling where the goal is not necessarily to tell a story but to arouse a certain emotional & visceral response in the reader. This does seem more akin to poetry - poetry is an attempt to transcend language with language - to express some unexpressible sentiment or feeling (because language is limited and in every day speech cannot cause us to have such emotional responses.

These sorts of reactions are perhaps more common in film and perhaps the performing arts since they use a wider range of media and in many instances media that is not open to interpretation. When I watch a moving film, the director has selected the particular angle or close up I should view, the attitude of the actor, the music - the audience is there to receive the film not to engage or interpret the film. Reading is primarily an act of interpretation - it does not engage with one of the 5 senses. Watching a film is an act of sense-perception - we dont need interpretation to understand what we saw (unless it is symbolic performance art)

I am no thinking that it is perhaps the element of time that makes these forms more emotionally stirring than a novel which is not bound by time but can be read/re read/pondered upon by the reader. There is one book that is read, and another book that is the dialogue between the reader and the writer in the reader's mind.

Back to ecstatic literature. I was reading the colossus of maroussi by Henry Miller (an author I dont like at all). But this novel is unlike anything I have read in recent memory (except The Fan Man). The florid language, which I normally deplore, transported me to a state beyond that of communicating a story. It made me see the power of literature - which sounds a bit banal - but it is true. Perhaps contemporary literature can do better than roman a clef and magical realism - perhaps we can inject some poetry into the prose and awaken ourselves from dogmatic slumber.

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