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Title Power of "negative" thinking, The: the grotesque in the modern world
Subject Grotesque
Description The 45th Annual Frederick William Reynolds Lecture.
Creator Helbling, Robert E.
Publisher Frederick William Reynolds Association
Date 1982-11-30
Date Digital 2008-05-29
Type Text
Format image/jpeg
Digitization Specifications Original scanned on Epson Expression 10000XL flatbed scanner and saved as 400 ppi uncompressed tiff. Display images generated in PhotoshopCS and uploaded into CONTENTdm Aquisition Station.
Resource Identifier,768
Source BH301.G74 H44 1982
Language eng
Relation Digital reproduction of "The Power of "negative" thinking," J. Willard Marriott Library Special Collections
Rights Digital Image Copyright University of Utah
Metadata Cataloger Seungkeol Choe; Ken Rockwell
ARK ark:/87278/s6ks6pjf
Setname uu_fwrl
Date Created 2008-07-29
Date Modified 2008-08-04
ID 320034
Reference URL

Page Metadata

Title Page 8
Description ROBERT E. HELBLING by Wolfgang Kayser, a German scholar, in a seminal book recently republished in its English translation. The grotesque originates in some cryptic, ontological power, Kayser asserts, which subverts and undermines the familiar and commonplace by the uncanny or alien: ". . . it is our world which ceases to be reliable, and we feel that we would be unable to live in this changed world. The grotesque instills fear of life rather than fear of death."8 For want of a better term Kayser called this irruptive power simply the "It," capitalized, a kind of unknowable "X." In our not so Romantic world, Hegel's occasionally rambunctious "spirit" has become a capitalized pronoun! What intrudes suddenly into the familiar, according to Kayser, ultimately remains incomprehensible, inexplicable, and impersonal. His theory, though gratuitous, at least shows that in the grotesque the familiar world is never wholly absent but always, shall we say, on notice of possible dismissal. Kayser adds that the grotesque is an artistic and literary play with the "absurd," causing thereby no mean semantic confusion. After all, in biological taxonomy, for example, we do not confuse bats with birds or porpoises with fish, although they may have certain features in common. To cut through the semantic knot, let me simply say in passing that in the contemporary critical idiom the term "absurd" is set aside for a type of literature that points to the conspicuous absence of a knowable world order and in the drama, for instance, directly converts the perception of cosmic silence into animated hieroglyphs on the stage, as in Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The grotesque, however, to anticipate my expose, challenges contemporary society to examine its values or lack thereof. Semantic quibbles aside, Kayser's theory of the intrusion of pandemonium into the world seems to account well enough for the kind of terror that fills the pages of the Gothic novel of the late eighteenth century, is evoked with much more psychological subtlety and a touch of satanic humor in Edgar Allan Poe's tales, and in our day is crudely imitated in myriad sensationalist films such as The Exorcist, often with disgusting results. But in its ontological pretense, the theory may strike us as all too speculatively Germanic. As Poe was led to say: "If in many of my productions terror has been the thesis, I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul."9 Following Poe's hint, we should perhaps rummage around in the grotto of our psyche rather than in the lunatic fringes of the cosmos, to find the lair of the grotesque. In a world obsessed by psychoanalytic curiosity the switch was made easily enough. With a prestidigitator's alacrity the ontological "It" became the psychological
Format image/jpeg
Identifier 011-RNLT- helblingR_ Page 8.jpg
Source Original Manuscript: The power of "negative" thinking : the grotesque in the modern world by Robert E. Helbling.
Setname uu_fwrl
Date Created 2008-07-29
Date Modified 2008-07-29
ID 320013
Reference URL