Soul and Form (Columbia Themes in Philosophy, Social Criticism, and the Arts)
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György Lukacs was a Hungarian Marxist philosopher, writer, and literary critic who shaped mainstream European Communist thought. Soul and Form was his first book, published in 1910, and it established his reputation, treating questions of linguistic expressivity and literary style in the works of Plato, Kierkegaard, Novalis, Sterne, and others. By isolating the formal techniques these thinkers developed, Lukács laid the groundwork for his later work in Marxist aesthetics, a field that introduced the historical and political implications of text.
For this centennial edition, John T. Sanders and Katie Terezakis add a dialogue entitled "On Poverty of Spirit," which Lukács wrote at the time of Soul and Form, and an introduction by Judith Butler, which compares Lukács's key claims to his later work and subsequent movements in literary theory and criticism. In an afterword, Terezakis continues to trace the Lukácsian system within his writing and other fields. These essays explore problems of alienation and isolation and the curative quality of aesthetic form, which communicates both individuality and a shared human condition. They investigate the elements that give rise to form, the history that form implies, and the historicity that form embodies. Taken together, they showcase the breakdown, in modern times, of an objective aesthetics, and the rise of a new art born from lived experience.
encounter with the historicity of forms has become inverted: where once insight into contemporary ideologies was to be gained through their genealogical analysis, now it is the overt historicity of all texts and forms that invites us to entertain, inhabit, and discard them at will. Finished with metanarratives, we like most to tell the story of how we came to be finished with metanarratives. The legacy of Lukácsian form, in this context, is but one more artifact in a formless stream of creative
Formalism is also said to demean the role of the author in the meaning of the work, question whether authorial intention can be relied upon to understand how the text works and what meanings it conveys. On the other hand, the defenders of form come in different forms. One kind of formalist holds that we cannot approach a work of art without first knowing what its genre is, what the conventions are that guide its production and mode of expression, and what constitutes its specifically literary
to be bound to its own goal. Longing soars higher than itself; great love always has something ascetic about it. Socrates transformed his longing into a philosophy whose peak was eternally unattainable, the highest goal of all human longing: intellectual contemplation. By advancing thus toward the ultimate, insoluble conflict, his longing became free from conflict in terms of real life: love—the typical form of longing—became a part of the system, an object of his explanation of the world, a
himself in everything. Only his own fate really fulfilled itself, and whatever else happened, happened at a great distance from him; events which he saw played on a stage, although they told the story of others, seemed to concern him alone; everything was only what it could give him: a frisson, an emotion, a fleeting smile.” And the reckoning? I have already said it: the brutal ending of dreams forced upon life. When destiny tears apart the finely woven harmonies of dreams so harshly that art is
he, the unredeemed, must break his only weapon with his own hands by withdrawing the excommunication. The Emperor has won, but the radiant man who reached out for happiness with gleaming hands, who effortlessly gave and received happiness, Henry the man, is dead. Gregory leaves Canossa bowed and beaten; Henry will enter Rome as the victor. I rose a different man from when I knelt. He must curse God because he wanted what was right; I have done wrong, yet I bless God. He goes to die, I am already