January 12, 2015

"Your revolution will not succeed because you have not yet learnt to be frivolous."

A line from the 1987 novel "Saints and Scholars" by the communist (his word) academician Terry Eagleton. Asked about that line — why is comedy important? — he says:
“It is... because comedy can be a form of friendship, solidarity. I mean, one of the difficulties of being a radical is always being against or outside things. Radicals want to come in from the cold as much as anybody else.” For Eagleton, it seems, the cold is part of the radical life – he is now both thinking of Bertolt Brecht and quoting him: “‘We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship could not ourselves be friendly.’ ”
Eagleton says he was "an earnest, high-minded, grim-lipped intellectual" until feminism — of all things! — turned him toward "'low-minded' virtues such as bathos, irony and... comedy." How earnest, high-minded, and grim-lipped a man must be for feminism to lighten him up!

25 comments:

mccullough said...

Novelists who beat the drum for any ideology in their work induce fingernails-on-a-chalkboard shocks to my nerves.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

How earnest, high-minded, and grim-lipped a man must be for feminism to lighten him up!

That's not funny.

mccullough said...

Wallace Stevens is his favorite poet, so I'm going to spare his life.

But this high and low culture combined in literary works goes back to the Greeks, at least, and is in Dante, Chaucer, and Shakespeare.

It's absent in Milton and some other high-minded authors love me TS Eliot, but isn't unique.

John Asbery's poetry exemplifies the combination of high brow and low brow, as a more recent example.

Anonymous said...

"Your revolution will not succeed because you have not yet learnt to be frivolous."

Kerensky to Lenin 1917

Krumhorn said...

There is nothing so redolent of bathos and irony as when lefties try to pretend to be friendly. This is because they are so smugly certain of their moral superiority, it is virtually impossible to warmly embrace anyone so far below their lofty perch on which they squat at the same time as they sneer down their beaks at the rest of us.

In general, lefties are hateful little snots. There is no comedy in that.

- Krumhorn

chuck said...

“‘We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship could not ourselves be friendly.’ ”

Bertolt Brecht, like many intellectuals, looks to be rationalizing the fact that he was an a**hole.

Achilles said...

"How earnest, high-minded, and grim-lipped a man must be for feminism to lighten him up!"

Modern day feminism is so bad even Oscar the grouch would chortle watching these harpies beclown themselves.

buwaya said...

Very, very grim indeed.
Conservatives, on the other hand, we are all light hearts and happy fellowship - yes, its true !
No bloody good at humor though. Mostly, one has to be seriously aggrieved to do humor well.

William said...

Brecht did a fine job of undermining the moral authority of the Weimar Republic. What could possibly be more corrupt and venal than the City of Mahogany? His disdain was part of the reason that none of the thinking people rallied to its support. Brecht's opposition to the Nazi regime was less effective. Fortunately,all these events led to the foundation of the East German state. At long last he was able to live in a country that was worthy of his egalitarian ideals and humane instincts.

Shanna said...

“It is... because comedy can be a form of friendship, solidarity

I'm not saying I buy the rest, but this quote reminded me of something I read in the book 'the great escape' which inspired the movie...They talked about how the germans were always trying to separate the allied prisoners but were unsuccessful due to the shared sense of humor, which the germans could not understand.

rhhardin said...

Serious is a genre of frivolous, not its opposite.

Jon Burack said...

An appropriate topic given the murderous reaction of the Islamists to a bunch of cartoons. I was thinking yesterday of the movie "Name of the Rose" (have not read the book it is based on). It is also about humor. Aristotle's writings on laughter. The Venerable Jorge puts poison on the pages to kill anyone who reads them. After all, if you okay laughter, he says, what is to stop us all from ultimately laughing at everything - even God. I can't say as I ever found reading Aristotle humorous - but I will take it over feminism any day.

MaxedOutMama said...

Well, old-style feminism, Ann? Really, that wasn't grim.

If you started reading at the age I did, books for young kids represented your occupational choices as pretty much teacher, nurse, homemaker. Back then it was sort of a joi-de-vivre type of movement for many.

Modern feminism, with its fainting couches, catastrophic shirt-induced traumas and depressing search for solidarity in victimization, may be grim, but originally as it played out in women's hearts and minds it wasn't.

Humanistic movements aren't. At some point I concede that feminism in our culture became a non-humanistic movement (at least as practiced on college campuses), but that's not really a reversal of the movement.

Mitch H. said...

It is somewhat illuminating that Emma Goldman's supposedly pithy aphorism If I can't dance, I don't want your revolution! is actually a paraphrase of a much longer, humorless rant about not wanting to be reduced to a nun in the cloister for the sake of The Cause. The ideological intellectual is vaguely aware of the importance of joy in life, but never really lives lightly.

YoungHegelian said...

@JB,

I can't say as I ever found reading Aristotle humorous...

As opposed to reading St. Thomas. I mean, when he says in the Summa Theologica that "According to Boethius, the argument from authority is the weakest form of argument", that's just some gut-busting funny material. It's even funnier in the Latin!

I guess it's all about timing. You either got it or you don't...

Terry said...

Eagleton's political writing is fatuous.

Why is it that the capitalist West has accumulated more resources than human history has ever witnessed, yet appears powerless to overcome poverty, starvation, exploitation, and inequality? What are the mechanisms by which affluence for a minority seems to breed hardship and indignity for the many? Why does private wealth seem to go hand in hand with public squalor? Is it, as the good-hearted liberal reformist suggests, that we have simply not got around to mopping up these pockets of human misery, but shall do so in the fullness of time? Or is it more plausible to maintain that there is something in the nature of capitalism itself which generates deprivation and inequality, as surely as Charlie Sheen generates gossip?

One of the largest problems with the poor in America is indolence and obesity. "Mopping up these pockets of human misery" would require a societ-style police state. Eagleton can't put two and two together. He does not seem to notice or care that marxism goes hand in hand with totalitarianism because economic equality is the enemy of freedom.

Michael said...

I somewhat agree with Maxed-Out Mama that early feminism didn't have its jaw set so grimly as the humorless scolds of today, though there aren't a ton of yocks in Shulamith Firestone, say. Still, the problem was recognized even then when Ms. did a humor issue in 1973:

http://gender.stanford.edu/sites/default/files/uploads/2011/08/1973November2-225x300.jpg

Matthew said...

Feminism is simply the laxative that began this man's enormous outflow of mental diarrhea.

Anonymous said...

Liberals pretending to be warm and friendly: Pajama Boy.

Jeff H said...

How LIMP-WRISTED and SPINELESS a man must be for feminism to...have any discernible effect upon him. Other than to make him laugh out loud.

veni vidi vici said...

"Your revolution will not succeed because you have not yet learnt to be televised."

Kennedy to Nixon 1960

Anonymous said...

Poor, hen-pecked fellow must be surrounded by feminists. In fact, one was looking over his shoulder when he typed that, I'm sure.

Andy Freeman said...

> In general, lefties are hateful little snots. There is no comedy in that.

There is, but only if they're the butt of the joke, and lefties hate that.

A good example is "how many feminists does it take to change a lightbulb".

Anonymous said...

He sounds like Ignatius J. Reilly. Hope things getting better for him before he gets taken away.

srp said...

MaxedOutMomma recalls the brief Helen-Reddy-on-the-Carol-Burnett-show moment for feminism. We had about a year and a half of Hear Me Roar before it became Hear Me Whine.