Aesthetics Revisited: A Lutheran, Catholic School, and Brideshead

Avatar

John David Duke Jr

David was begotten and conceived in the ordinary way in the middle of 1972, possibly on his father's birthday. Since then, it's been an unremarkable go, except for the time his dad took him to help disarm a Cherokee woman who was shooting at her mother with a rifle.

Related Post Roulette

14 Responses

  1. Avatar Rufus F.
    Ignored
    says:

    It’s interesting how much this overlaps with the post I’m going to put up momentarily, which also has to do with vanished aesthetics and those who wish to hang onto something of them.

    I’m actually surprised- maybe happily- to hear that the Baroque and Renaissance are having a moment. We’ve perhaps left the brief Trump era (or interregnum) which would have been the apotheosis of the 80s style. I’m just glad they didn’t add any walls of glass bricks to the White House. There are, like you said, so many great American aesthetics to draw from. Here, in Canada, new buildings all seem to be square and dark and painted charcoal grey. It’s like living among battleships. I would love to see a revival of prairie aesthetics. Or anything else!

    I can’t say I understand the Foucault reference. I’m about as far as you can get from a Foucaultian, but I can’t think of any aesthetics he liked, or anything at all he championed (well, aside from the Iranian revolution). The buildings he wrote about were prisons and schools and offices he thought looked like prisons. But it definitely wasn’t a wet dream. The delight of Nietzsche probably would have been a peasant’s cottage on a mountaintop. I didn’t really get that line either.

    But I really enjoyed what you’ve said about your childhood and Brideshead, which is the bulk of this post after all. I love the novel, even though I feel a bit shut out from it. It’s a wonderful story and then my problem is the ending. I just don’t find it convincing- to the point that it takes me out of the story. Maybe I missed something. If I ever have time, I’ll give it another go.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      Ah, I just noticed you live in Tonawanda. So, you’re within close distance of some of the best architecture in America. I would not mind seeing a revival of the sort of buildings that can be found in Buffalo!Report

      • Avatar John David Duke Jr in reply to Rufus F.
        Ignored
        says:

        It was a remarkable experience moving here in 2004. The place was still in shambles from the loss of the industrial base. It seemed like they all simply disappeared at once, Spaulding Fibre, Bethlehem Steel, Buffalo Brass, and a few others I can’t recall. They were all literally in ruins. Over time, they’ve been removed, with the result that the support architecture has emerged. The bank buildings, surviving railroad depots, office buildings, and the rows and rows of mansions surrounding these old centers are really a wonder to look at. Our kids go to music school in North Tonawanda, in an E.B. Green designed building which housed the power company for decades, I believe. The old theater is just down the street, in business as a historical landmark. The Carrousel factory is still here, I think (though it is in danger constantly), and also the Wurlitzer Building. That’s just in my neighborhood!Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to John David Duke Jr
          Ignored
          says:

          I remember walking around downtown after about 7 in the evening, when it’s just about emptied out, and you feel like you’re in Tim Burton’s version of Gotham City or something. It’s such a lovely city. Not to mention it has one of the best art galleries in the country and, of all things, the largest James Joyce archive in the world.

          And it’s one of the most affordable places to live in North America. Damn, I might move there too!Report

    • Avatar John David Duke Jr in reply to Rufus F.
      Ignored
      says:

      I did not know until today that Nietzsche had an aesthetic sensibility! Thanks!Report

  2. Avatar Marchmaine
    Ignored
    says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the autobiographical contemplation of the Brideshead aesthetic… but then I would, wouldn’t I?

    A couple thoughts.

    First, a pity you encountered such a Catholic in Chicago; by rule we’re a credulous lot; but we go through periods where miracles seem an embracing burden we must explain away to make ourselves presentable. As if such a thing were possible with our outrageous Marian claims, the perambulations of decapitated saints, and, well, the daily claims of the Mass. Chicago in the 70’s-90’s was such a place.

    I’ve always had a soft-spot for Lutheran’s who at least thought to maintain two of the seven sacraments; I can give one cheer for Luther famously pounding the table with “HOC EST… HOC EST…Hoc est Corpus meum” against the nominalists looking to strip away even that sacrament. The apocryphal(?) origin of Hocus Pocus, so I’m told.

    On the matter of Brideshead and aesthetics, I certainly take your point that a besetting sin of a certain sort of traditionalism might be nostalgia; but the line between nostalgia and inheritance can be blurry. Sometimes I think people on the outside (of anything) wrongly attribute nostalgia for a dead thing to people building anew on a living tradition… it’s a natural error, I should think.

    For example the Chapel you cite in Brideshead isn’t Baroque… Charles isn’t seduced into the Baroque… it is a “monument of art nouveau.” The aesthetic of suffering in Brideshead *is* Arts and Crafts.

    “The whole interior had been gutted, elaborately refurnished and redecorated in the arts-and-crafts style of the last decade of the nineteenth century. Angels in printed cotton smocks, rambler-roses, flower-spangled meadows, frisking lambs, texts in Celtic script, saints in armour, covered the walls in an intricate patter of clear, bright colours. There was a triptych of pale oak, carved so as to give it the peculiar property of seeming to have been moulded in Plasticine. The sanctuary lamp and all the metal furniture were of bronze, hand-beaten to the patina of a pock-marked skin; the altar steps had a carpet of grass-green, strewn with white and gold daisies.”

    Oh dear. Or, as Charles said, “Golly”

    Here’s a picture of the possible inspiration for the Chapel.

    The Flytes, you see, are Moderns. They are we. Charles paints the old pile at Brideshead in his modern style. If there’s a gothic sensibility it belongs to Anthony… who is bemused by Charles’ “pictures” knowing them to be ‘trendy’.
    The flight of the Flytes is to modernity; and the entire ‘tragedy’ plays out before “a small red flame–a beaten-copper lamp of deplorable design” an artifact of the English Arts and Crafts artistic movement of the late 19th century.

    I don’t point this out specifically to gainsay your personal experience or underlying point… possibly the thoroughly modern (long suffering and insufferable) satirical author Waugh was more aligned with what you’re suggesting?Report

    • Avatar Marchmaine in reply to Marchmaine
      Ignored
      says:

      p.s. I feel obliged to point out that I may be contributing to the misspelling of Marchmain into Marchmaine.

      In my defense, I added the ‘e’ for purely aesthetic reasons; and to distinguish my use from the use of those justly entitled to it.Report

    • Avatar John David Duke Jr in reply to Marchmaine
      Ignored
      says:

      I appreciate this. It was difficult to maintain the thread of my argument and the evolution of Charles Ryder. Unless I am mistaken, he does say earlier that he was an instant convert to the Baroque, and I compressed it with his encounter in the chapel. Perhaps I misunderstood the significance of his conversion. I mean, otherwise, I could just copy and paste the whole novel AND I WOULD COMPEL BY FORCE EVERYONE TO READ IT. At any rate, it’s hard to use someone else’s subtle argument as a buttress for one’s own subtle argument. I’m actually glad about your comment.

      I wanted so badly to play the “flight/Flyte” angle more broadly, but the warfare angle was what I wanted to assert more than anything, and I don’t think I would have understood it as a flight to modernity without your pointing it out; now I see it. I think previously I saw the flight as away from something more than toward something. Nevertheless, Sebastian flies toward love, no?

      I also appreciate your distinction between nostalgia and inheritance. I would say, instead of nostalgia, pristination, that idea that something in the past was the correct thing, and in the case of art, the correct art, divorcing it from its context, which usually includes a great deal of the incorrect. The argument is, as I rambled around in my piece, that such an attitude stifles growth, on the one hand, and prevents artists from creating an inheritance as future forebears themselves.

      You’ve convinced me, however, that I must re-read the novel, and not rely solely on Jeremy Irons’ dreamy narration of it.

      As a postscript: Chicago and St. Louis, along with the Catholic Biblical Association, were very disappointing with respect to establishing friendships with Catholics. I honestly believe that historical Lutheran hostility in these regions (the arrogance!) is the real culprit. Here in Buffalo, however, I was adopted by some south Buffalo ruffians, all Irish Catholics. I ran sound for their traditional Irish music band for a year, and we had a grand time of it. Boy, do I have stories to tell! We’re still very close friends after many years.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Marchmaine
      Ignored
      says:

      Now explain about the teddy bears.Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *