by Joyelle McSweeney on Jul.20, 2011
“Shelley’s The Triumph Of Life I love and it–tho likely not at-all impersonal–is not at-all the voice of an intestinal tract, but rather more like a lightbeam–and am I making this up or is there a ton of sky and light etc in that poem?”
In my thinking, we need to remember that the Sublime is a paradox, and it operates both as a summit and a declivity. Both the intestinal tract and the light beam (great pair of images– thanks!).
Of course bacteria live in intestinal tracts and also may give off their own light– bacterial Sublime.
This impossible yoking of summit and declivity is inhuman and irrational, unchartable but it might yoke (spasmatically and unstably) the human to something that can (always) destroy it even if it maybe does literally elevate it. There’s no transendence, in my view, because, unlike ephiphany, it can’t be tolerated. The Sublime is completely dismantling.
Your questions about crime and Art are essential– referring back to the Decadence and the 20th c. avant gardes, Art is crime because it departs from municipal, state, national, and moral codes, introduces puncture, rupture, lawlessness, collapse. Sometimes Art-as-crime reveals the criminality in the current hygenic system or makes visible a kind of filth that is under threat of extermination. But is the reverse true– is crime Art? If I’m being honest, I ‘d have to admit that some crimes are also Art. I think Fascism had/has a big art component– the brutal State was made like a brutal artwork. This is a sad and flummoxing fact and this is why people so often come back to Fascism when they’re trying to grapple (or not grapple) with Art as maximalism.
Maybe it’s just more accurate to say that Art and Crime are both limit experiences– sometimes they double with each other, sometimes they split from each other, sometimes they feed off of each other, sometimes they destroy each other, sometimes each causes the collapse of the other.