“The Self: Clever, Deep, & Confused”
Number 1976. April 4, 2018
Dear Unknown Friends:
Here is the third section of Eli Siegel’s great 1949 lecture Poetry and Cleverness. Here too, from a recent public seminar, is part of a paper by Leila Rosen, teacher of English and Aesthetic Realism associate. The seminar’s title was “How Can a Woman Be Sure of Herself in Life & Love?”
In the lecture Mr. Siegel speaks about various aspects and ways of cleverness. That word, cleverness, can include so much—from cruel trickery, to charm, and even, he shows, beauty itself. But it’s usually associated with a certain superficiality, not depth; with smallness, not grandeur; with deviousness, not sincerity and kindness.
Aesthetic Realism is based on the principle that “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” In the previous paragraph I mentioned opposites that are severed in the notion had mainly of cleverness, in the kind of cleverness people largely go after. Most men and women feel that to take care of themselves they have to be adroit, manage things and persons astutely, or nimbly shrug them off—not see them deeply, be stirred mightily, be richly just. This cleverness, with its rift between opposites, has made for misery.
Yet art, Aesthetic Realism shows, has a different cleverness: in true art, deftness is for the purpose of being just; adroitness is fair to what is deep; agility arises from large feeling. This is a big reason why we need to learn to see in our own lives as art sees—and there is nothing kinder and greater in the history of thought than the education, Aesthetic Realism, that teaches us how.
In the present section of his lecture, Mr. Siegel speaks about a poem of Robert Browning. Then, in what he calls an “interlude,” he comments very briefly on several short poems of his own. I want, in the space available, to say more about at least three of them. So my commentary will be in two parts. I’ll pause for now; then, after Mr. Siegel’s discussion and before Ms. Rosen’s paper, I’ll continue…. Read more
The Right Of is edited by Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, who is author of its commentaries.