Friday, September 7, 2007

On Beauty and Being Just

Here's a version of the quotation from Elaine Scarry's On Beauty and Being Just that I read to start off our first class session:

At the moment we see something beautiful, we undergo a radical decentering. Beauty, according to [Simone] Weil, requires us “to give up our imaginary position at the center. . . . A transformation then takes place at the very roots of our sensibility, in our immediate reception of sense impressions and psychological impressions.” . . . Her account is always deeply somatic: what happens, happens to our bodies. When we come upon beautiful things . . . they act like small tears in the surface of the world that pull us through to some vaster space; or they form “ladders reaching toward the beauty of the world,” or they lift us (as though by the air currents of someone else’s sweeping), letting the ground rotate beneath us several inches, so that when we land, we find we are standing in a different relation to the world than we were a moment before. It is not that we cease to stand at the center of the world, for we never stood there. It is that we cease to stand even at the center of our own world. We willingly cede our ground to the thing that stands before us.

An interview with Elaine Scarry from Salon adds to the discussion.

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