In 1790, Immanuel Kant published an essay that read as complicated as the art he sought to promote. Critique of Judgment serves as the ultimate philosophy of aesthetics, proclaiming Genius is the talent (or natural gift) which gives rule to art (Kant 150). Kant's judgments define true art as solely deriving from intellect. Not only does his notion of art as reserved for brilliant minds exclude most people in general, but also rejects the value of emotion. Instead, people are encouraged to survive strictly on logic and ignore politics. Such disparity between mind and body, reason and emotion, isolates humanity from the very nature which makes us human. Kant even goes a step further to categorize art though gender: men compose the intellectual genius and women, the emotional barbaric. However, over two-hundred years later, the Avante-Garde movement unleashed the definitive rebuttal against its highly aesthetic predecessorsextreme emotion. An innovator of the Avante-Garde, Lautréamont employs the concept of negation to wage a war against aestheticism in art. In Les Chants de Maldoror, his exercise in shock value subtly implores us to feel anger at the tolerance of injustice that aestheticism encouraged. Were his tactics successful in spreading anger and other emotion as both a reaction to and inspiration for art?
[...] Like lyrics, the scream is a rebellion against a patriarchal society, except this time, language itself is accused of being constructed and constricted by men; female singers scream because the only sounds untarnished by male hands are wordless utterances. However, an even deeper meaning, involving emotion, is contained in a scream: “Being far from a fluid signifier, screams are also emotional ejaculations bearing specific associations with highly charged events—like rape, orgasm or childbirth” (Gottlieb and Wald 261). That is to say, a scream in itself is as three-dimensional as a woman as it can evoke feeling of both pleasure and pain. [...]
[...] Lautréamont's character, Maldoror, experiences a similar release: In describing another grotesque encounter of injustice, Maldoror responds, I quaked like the lava inside of a volcano. In the end, my tight chest unable to exhale the life-giving air quickly enough, my lips parted and I cried out a cry so earsplitting that I heard (Lautréamont 53). So repulsed and outraged at violence and injustice, he cannot fathom any words. The significance behind the scream is empathetic—a reaction to the abuse he witnesses happening to other people. [...]
[...] In essence, female performers deliver the message that labels will only stick if nothing is done to rip them off; plus, in creating a unified community, women can overcome and overwhelm prejudice categorizations like that of the band, Fear. Riot Grrrl's rebellious language is referred to as a “stronger critique of patriarchy” (Gottlieb and Wald 268); here, “patriarchy” is the conformist common sense—or injustice (as defined by Lautréamont) which the Riot Grrrls negate. Similar to Lautréamont's moment in book two of Les Chants de Maldoror where again, he says, so as to scorn accepted opinions, there will be in my lyrics, an impressive proof of force and authority,” (Lautréamont 117) female punk bands also take breaks from tactics of chock value. [...]
[...] Because the conformist common sense clings to labels like “girlish” and de-familiarizing the images of girlishness and sexual promiscuity by pairing them with messages against sexual abuse is a clever method of negation. Lautréamont often employs such tactics in his work as seen in the previously mentioned scene where his actions of killing the prostitute reflect violence and hatred, but on the contrary, his words reveal that he feels deep pity for her. Also, in their performances, Riot Grrrls “make self-esteem political” (Gottlieb and Wald 269). [...]
[...] He shows us the other side of justice: a mechanism of arbitrary evil created from mankind's apathy towards each other. Prostitutes represent the outskirts, the very people that are logically deemed as barbaric—but never pitied. Yet, Maldoror's own “pity for the unfortunate” is a reoccurring theme of Lautréamont; such deep pity is symbolic of rich emotion and intolerance of injustice. Later in the scene, Maldoror murders the prostitute—a metaphoric display of how we kill each other through neglect. He finishes the scene, “Children, it is I who tell you this. [...]
Online readingwith our online reader
Content validatedby our reading committee