Winter 1986 • Vol. VIII No. 1 Personally Speaking |

The Defeated Generation

Is some kind of affirmation implicit in any creating? I believe so. And I believe the history of western art from the Renaissance to the present could be recounted in terms of a continual testing of that affirmativeness. This would be a big job, the kind that takes years, the kind that we propose with a good deal less confidence than our grandfathers did, but it might yield a view of our one-directional history that would be unusually clear and useful. What this means is nothing strange. It is a commonplace of esthetic experience, whether the artist's or the spectator's (though, significantly, we have no satisfactory general term for the "recipient" in the artistic transaction). A negative thought or feeling becomes affirmative in the act of its embodiment as a work of art. That is, a negative thought or feeling becomes affirmative when somebody writes it or paints it or sings it, when somebody expresses it. The only true negative is silence, absence. Granted, in exceptional circ

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