Sunday, February 20, 2005

On Aesthetic Realism and Edith Wharton's Summer, continued

The paper by Carol McCluer continues below

II. Real Love Is Care for the World
In one Aesthetic Realism consultation, when I said I liked going out with men I saw as impressive, my consultants explained:

Women want to have power over men they see as powerful....If a man is very much given to something, a woman would like to get his mind off it. So do you think you'd like Mr. J. to stop reading Tolstoy and give his attention to McCluer?

I answered, "Yes." And they said,

If you were really interested in him, you would want him to care more for literature, not less.

My learning from Aesthetic Realism that the purpose of love is to like the world made possible my marriage to Aesthetic Realism associate Kevin Fennell. Together we are the parents of a daughter, who is 11. In consultations, I began to get the education about love women are yearning for; I learned what it means to have a strengthening effect on a man, to see him just as he is and in relation to the wide world.

In one consultation assignment as we were coming to know each other, I wrote about Kevin in relation to this main principle of Aesthetic Realism: "The world, art and self explain each other; each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites." I was studying how he, like everything in reality, is an aesthetic situation. This is the power of seeing—completely opposed to the power of conquering. Through it, my feeling for Kevin Fennell grew larger; I liked myself for this kind of thought, and the triumph I had gotten through conquering men was hollow in comparison. I wrote:
Kevin Fennell...has a self that is like no other, making him a unique example of the human race. And yet he needs things and people in order to live...He needs books to know more and to feel more; he read Martin Chuzzlewit and his feelings mingled with those of Charles Dickens....There are impressions of the world in him....He has a memory of the Colorado River. As he talks or thinks about it, the river becomes him and he becomes it--both composed and excited at once.

As I continued having Aesthetic Realism consultations, I had larger, deeper emotions about everything—I saw the opposites in a plate of food, in cars on a city street, in a painting by Renoir, and in people, including the man who became my husband. And as I was more affected by things and people, I felt freer, more truly powerful: my thought was clearer and I had hope and happiness. And I knew at last I could like myself for how I was with a man.

More coming in my next post!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

What Power Do We Want?--by Carol McCluer

Here is the first installment of the paper by Aesthetic Realism Associate and actress Carol McCluer on this important subject--one every woman (and man!) needs to understand. As a woman, I respect very much how she writes about what she learned from Aesthetic Realism about the conflict in herself and in Charity Royall, the protagonist of Edith Wharton's novel Summer, between two kinds of power. This paper will appear in several installments.

What Power Do We Want?by Carol McCluer
including a discussion of Summer, by Edith Wharton

I am grateful to Aesthetic Realism for explaining that there are two kinds of power: a hurtful power based on contempt for the world and people; and the true power we really want, based on our deepest desire, to like the world. Wrote Eli Siegel:

The way that good power can be distinguished is through asking the question: "If this desire of mine were successful, and I were to have power over this person, would the world look better and would the person himself or herself be stronger?" Any power that a human being has over another that doesn't make the person it is exerted on stronger, and the world in which the power takes place look more beautiful is bad power.

Learning the difference between these two powers has been the kindest thing that ever happened to me. I was able to change a cheap, debilitating purpose I had, particularly with men, and was given something I was thirsting for: a criterion on which to criticize myself.

I. Two Kinds of Power in a Girl of New England
The novel Summer, by Edith Wharton is about a girl, Charity Royall, who, as a young child, was taken in by a man known as Lawyer Royall and his wife. She had been born into poverty in an outlaw colony people refer to as "the Mountain." Mr. and Mrs. Royall become her guardians, and they live in the small New England town of North Dormer. When Charity is about 13, Mrs. Royall dies, and the story takes place when she is 18. It is centrally about her desire for power over two men: Lawyer Royall, whom she thinks she despises; and a young architect, Lucius Harney, whom she thinks she loves, but who turns out to be cruel and deceptive.

Charity is in a fight between two kinds of power. On the one hand, she has large emotion through seeing the power of nature and liking it. Edith Wharton writes: all that was light and air, perfume and colour, every drop of blood in her responded. She loved the roughness of the dry mountain grass under her palms, the smell of the thyme into which she crushed her face, the fingering of the wind in her hair and through her cotton blouse, and the creak of the larches as they swayed to it.

But Charity also wants to have power through being superior, having an effect on people without being affected by them. Though Lawyer Royall is seen as an important man in town, she has scorn for him because of one incident in particular. About a year before, in a reckless moment, Mr. Royall, who had been drinking, had knocked on her bedroom door, showing that he saw her as desirable. Disgusted and furious, she had told him to go away. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Royall had asked her to marry him, but she ridiculed and refused him, and coldly used the fact that he was ashamed, to have power--to make him do things for her. She demands that he hire a woman to do the housework, and get her a job as village librarian so she can earn enough money to get out of North Dormer.
Mr. Royall consents, and Charity is victorious; yet Edith Wharton describes what she thinks of herself for this: "[S]he knew her power, knew what it was made of, and hated it."

Read more in my next post!

Monday, February 14, 2005

Carol McCluer on Summer

Coming soon: Aesthetic Realism Associate and actress Carol McCluer writes about Edith Wharton's novel Summer. Check back in a day or two!

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Wharton's "The Pelican"--Described by Eli Siegel

I have posted on my own website the report Alan Shapiro gave of Eli Siegel's lecture "Some Sentences in a Passage of American Literature," in which he discusses--among many other things--the powerful story by Edith Wharton. "The Pelican." Read it and see more about Wharton's critical observations of people's purposes with other people--in this case, a mother with her son--and how Aesthetic Realism explains these purposes. Since I'm having a bit of trouble with my link, you can read it on my website: Go to the "Reports" button, and you'll find it there. Have a great time reading!

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Eli Siegel discusses "The Pelican"

In my next post, I'll be featuring a report by Aesthetic Realism Associate Alan Shapiro of Eli Siegel's lecture "Sentences in a Passage of American Literature," which features a rich discussion of Edith Wharton's short story "The Pelican." This story has, as do her other works, her very keen and critical observations of people and their motives with each other--in this case, a mother and son. For now, I'll recommend other papers by Alan Shapiro--a jazz pianist and music teacher who, I'm glad to say, is my husband. Go to his website at