"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

21 February 2006

"On Moral Fiction"

Reading John Gardner's On Moral Fiction, I found some ponderings on the purpose of art that strike me as profoundly true:

"Moral art in its highest form holds up models of virtue."

"Great art celebrates life's potential, offering a vision unmistakably and unsentimentally rooted in love."

"In art, morality and love are inextricably bound: we affirm what is good -- for the characters in particular and humanity in general -- because we care."

"True art [. . .] clarifies life, establishes models of human action, casts nets toward the future, carefully judges our right and wrong directions, celebrates and mourns. [. . .] It designs visions worth trying to make fact. [. . .] It strikes like lightning, or is lightning; whichever."


"We need to stop excusing mediocre and downright pernicious art."


GrumpyTeacher1 said...

Those are great observations! I continually struggle with a decent personal definition of what art is anyway, and Gardner's ideas seem insightful. Thanks for the post.

alaiyo said...

You would love this book, Scott! (Is it okay to tell *you* to buy books, too? :) )


GrumpyTeacher1 said...

Okay? Yes!


Er, probably not. Too late, though.

Megan said...

Does Gardner discuss the difference between moral fiction and moralizing fiction? Sometimes the line between the two seems a bit thin.

alaiyo said...

Megan -- absolutely. He isn't the least bit interested in seeing fiction "moralizing" about life. He is concerned with fiction showing truth -- and truth is undeniably a moral issue.

Scott -- oh, good -- I can corrupt the whole family's economic system this way! :)

Thanks both of you for visiting --