Whenever I think I might be being too thin in my thinking about aesthetic practice, someone says something in agreement with my thoughts, though more bookishly and then I see that I’m right, even in my simplicity. Like when I was procrastinating this weekend on writing on my promised account of Hurston’s Mules and Men I went on twitter where Anne Boyer tweeted this quote from Pierre Macherey: “To deprive the bourgeoisie not of its art but of its concept of art, this is the precondition of a revolutionary argument.” I like this sentence because of the “its” and the “its concept of.”
I cannot say that I am not apprehensive about today’s post. In my letter of introduction I promised you a discussion of aesthetics, one that would begin and end with notions of poetry as “freedom,” but as I am sure you know, all freedoms are not the same. I specifically promised you the story of how I fell in love with Kant’s conception of “freedom,” but then eventually left his notion for a new kind of “freedom.” Hurston’s freedom. I am leaving Immanuel for Zora. This commentary is to make the move official, public.
My reflex, since we are dealing with philosophical concepts, is to stay cerebral and abstract, to begin and end in the text.
At first I thought I would use this Commentary space to read through an online archive, but in the end such a gesture felt adjacent to my current preoccupations. What I hope to do instead is to elucidate a narrative of my own search for an adequate poetics, one that begins and ends with two very different theories, though each proposes “freedom” as the ultimate aim of poetic production. I want to attempt to rehearse an evolution of thinking around poetics that begins with Immanuel Kant’s The Critique of Judgment and ends with Hurston’s Mules and Men, though I’ll make some detours.