“Knowing, Feeling, & America”
Number 1946. February 8, 2017
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is the final section of the landmark 1973 lecture we have been serializing: The Scientific Method in Feeling, by Eli Siegel. It is about the opposites of knowing and feeling, opposites that have seemed to people to be at war within them. Today, as in other times, men and women have (though they may not articulate it) an abiding sadness, shame, anger because as they’re stirred with emotion they don’t seem to themselves to be logical, to be the same person who reasons. And when they go for careful reason, they feel they must be unstirred, lack warmth.
Aesthetic Realism magnificently—and logically—shows that knowing and feeling are aesthetic opposites: that 1) both are always in us in some way; 2) they can be beautifully, proudly one in us; and 3) it is our deep need to try to have them be. This is in keeping with the principle on which Aesthetic Realism is based: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
In the lecture we’ve been serializing, Mr. Siegel uses passages from the College Book of English Literature to show the oneness of knowledge and feeling. In this final section he quotes from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene. And he shows that Spenser often deals with that aspect of knowledge which is people’s seeing that they lack it: that is, they know that they don’t know something. And there is, in Spenser’s characters, himself, and his readers, much feeling about this fact.
Mr. Siegel’s discussion of Spenser here is short; yet it is great both in terms of what it says about humanity, and as literary criticism. No critic ever spoke of Spenser this way before. And one of the things we can see is Mr. Siegel’s ability to describe the writing, the style, of an author with such accuracy and relish that his description is itself beautiful prose.
I am going to comment a little, in relation to America herself, on the Aesthetic Realism principle I quoted. I’m doing so now because, at a time of tremendous tumult and anger in this land, it is necessary to think about our nation fundamentally, centrally….Read more
The Right Of is edited by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, who is author of its commentaries.