Page 24

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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 24
Description 24 ROBERT E. HELBLING over its possible ontological and psychological implications to its contemporary sociological import and its manifestations in our language and the rational sphere. As we look back at my opening reference to the decorative grotesques in the Domus Aurea, we may wonder: "How could that father give birth to this child?" Well, there is still a slight family resemblance. In its artistic and literary accoutrement the grotesque still makes a strong appeal to the visual; then there is the outright assault on our anxiously guarded fields of familiarity - including perhaps a lingering moral sense - with its attendant alienating effect; but the primal pointlessness of the artist's aesthetic play with form has given way to the moralist's concern with the lack of ethical norm. And, finally, the lurking threat of Thanatos, the death instinct, has moved from its dark niche in the psyche into the deceptive light of our reasoning processes. As we read Giinter Grass and so many other writers of the grotesque genre, we might at first think that the point of view is too undefined, the meanings so equivocal that they fade away like Cheshire cats. The equivocation is of course in keeping with the equivocal response of apprehension and laughter traditionally associated with the grotesque. But, in closing, we must ask ourselves what the purpose of the seemingly deadpan portrayal of dehumanizing atrocities in Malaparte, Heller, Durrenmatt and so many others is. It is no longer a mere comic disarming of an incipient threat so we can adopt a noli me tangere attitude and immediately relapse into our intellectual or emotional comfort. The workshop of grotesque writers is no dispensary for cheerful bromides. We might be tempted to say that their true intent is to illustrate the horrifying insight that the horrid can also be comical. But that seems too gratuitous and might apply at best to the manic humor of the likes of Monty Python, which is a way of coping with horror too frightful to confront openly, a protective strategy similar to smoking a pipe, which makes one appear intelligent without ever saying anything. (I smoke a pipe - occasionally!) In that vein, the noncommittal stance of the literary grotesque in our day might be likened to the time-tested strategy of comedy, where the defense is complete and detachment from a potentially serious subject matter is achieved. But I doubt that. In my view, the contemporary grotesque rather goes the opposite way: its aim is to arouse anxiety by means of the apparent comic and push it to a paroxysm, rather than allay our justifiable fears. In so doing, it need not indulge in flights of morbid fancy, but can gather up as in a focus the grotesque inherent in the world, in emblematic episodes that may function much as mathematical mod-
Format image/jpeg
Identifier 027-RNLT- helblingR_ Page 24.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 320029
Reference URL