Having established William Troy’s mistake in his discussion of myth in Thomas Mann’s works, Rosenberg goes on to explain one solution to the split between the living and the inert; a method of making them cooperate through the rationality of analogy:
“A method that would, from the point of view of human experience, the likeness of things far removed from one another seems more important than the colourless and quality-less laws of which science boasts.” Their reconciliation in a form ‘mythic’ raises the concrete example to the level of a ‘higher unity,’ Rosenberg still retaining the abstraction of the Hegelian dialectic.
He goes on to imagine how someone like Mann or Spengler would address the conundrum, “Why do Science and Life remain firmly opposed” and he replies, as if from the men themselves, because in “the actual world, things tend to define themselves as either mechanical or living. The philosophic artist of the analogical method wins at something more than either emotional expression or formal construction, mere data or mere Idea. In theory, his rhetoric combines the transient beauty of organic life with the static perfection of reason and the formal tradition. In this way, it gives rise to a new beauty and a new truth inexplicable in the old terms.
Music,rhythm, repetition becomes a major element, a metaphysical element, since rhetorical beat must serve as the binder of the antitheses, as the equivalent mysterious pace of change and recurrence in the real world.”
This sounds as if it comes from T.S. Eliot’s idea that poetic experience can be transmitted through the canonised language of the tradition of lyric poetry, to educated readers, while the tentacular roots of beat and repetition are available to everyone as inarticulate emotions.
Rosenberg goes on to describe the work of art as the “aufhebung” — the synthesis — of creative actions, and Thomas Mann elevates the Artist to the highest form of humanity: “Always I have seen in art the pattern of the human; in the life of the Artist, human life raised to its highest power; humanity, as it were, in itself, and in its very essence.”
And so it happens that the novels of Gide, Mann, Joyce, Proust, promote and endorse this version of the human, this portrait of the artist.
The result of this explanation of the process of uniting the rational and irrational is now turned upside down by Rosenberg, with this critique:
“Such, in most general outline, is the origin, part literary and part metaphysical, of the specific “world of Art” from which Mann draws his idea of higher measure and value. As a perspective, it shares the shakiness and intermittence of all forms of poetical metaphorical insight, which at times lights up relations and at other times obscures them. Insofar as it sets itself up, however, as a metaphysic of absolutes to replace science, art can function only as a source of mystification, by insisting on a portion of unreason in every idea.”
Now the discussion moves outwards to the general state of fear and emptiness in the world around them all: “Among the most powerfully recurring insights in the past hundred years is that which finds modern society to be in essential respects a vast lifeless mechanism, a fetishistic and inhuman engine of ‘men behaving like things.’ Caught in a vault of iron relations, which contract about him or relax according to laws of their own, the modern individual has been recognised as lost and alienated, a stranger to the world and to himself. The objective and psychological antithesis between individual and society is a fundamental fact of modern culture.”
The sense of ‘science’ as life-oppressing and mechanical “is a major platitude of our time. And the analogical technique in elaborating its symbol-language discovers in medicine and physiology a rich warehouse of death masks and infernal stageprops. Cocteau, for example, creates in his Orphee, a meticulous vaudeville with arrangements of surgical implements, messengers from the grave, sex, The Artist, and other items of the new-myth paraphernalia.
Now Rosenberg turns to Marxism, and its dialectical distance from Mann:”The spiritual predicament of modern man is conceived by historical materialist thought as belonging to a definite stage of man’s struggle with nature; from this view science is an indispensable instrument of the human, the weapon of its knowledge and consciousness of the world.”
Thomas Mann, on the contrary, presents the ‘spiritual dilemma’ of present day man as an eternal situation: “Having fixed the identity of society, discipline, science, and death, Mann’s method creates a perspective of poor absolutes in which all the data of modern man’s existence reproduce themselves in the tableau of an eternal destiny….”
There is more to the Rosenberg argument, which condemns both Troy and Mann. If you are up for reading his detailed discussions of Mann’s works, go to http://hgar-srv3.bu.edu/collections/partisan-review/search/detail?id=283917. And then pick up the thread on page 25/6