By Daniel Cottom
During this pathbreaking examine, the old courting among nineteenth-century spiritualism and twentieth-century surrealism is the root for a basic exam of conflicting hobbies in literature, artwork, philosophy, technological know-how, and different components of social lifestyles. simply because spiritualism delved into the area past humanity and surrealism used to be based at the global inside, the 2 offer a provocative body for analyzing the struggles inside of smooth tradition. Cottom argues that we needs to conceive of interpretation when it comes to urgency, wish, fierce competition, and impromptu deviation if we wish to know the way issues come to undergo which means for us. He demonstrates that even if Victorians conserving seances and surrealists composing manifestoes have been such a lot silly, that they had a lot that was once useful to assert in regards to the lifestyles (and loss of life) of cause.
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Extra resources for Abyss of Reason: Cultural Movements, Revelations, and Betrayals
In doing so it exposed reason as an apparatus of institutions, traditions, texts, practices, personal relationships, and common sense that was unified and coherent only as long as it was represented as an imperceptible spirit. " It would show the meaning reason could not bear: the meaning of its own social existence and power. To be sure, many people simply concentrated on unmasking spiritualist fraud or, like G. H. 67 The general insistence on the unbearable indignity of the movement, however, indicates that the organization of meaning was an issue more important than the question of how far the phenomena were genuine.
Therefore, what is ordinary is wholly imaginary and yet as material as tables or, say, the acoustic waves that create the sound of rapping in human ears. The ordinary is the background or the frame that encloses consciousness without itself seeming to suffer enclosure. In this respect it is the invisible agency of meaning—that dubious spirit —and any scrutiny is bound to transform it, subtly or dramatically, into something else. Even the very fact that it is subjected to scrutiny shows that a change in the object has occurred.
Consider only how easy it is to mock the grandiose ambitions of the surrealists from the standpoint of a historian today, for whom the movement may appear as the affair of a few excitable artists and intellectuals whose doings, in comparison to other events transpiring between the world wars, are very small potatoes indeed. Yet it was precisely this tendency to deny centrality to any experience that did not conform to the world of reason that spiritualism and surrealism both were determined to oppose.