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.
words for the concept of form), they disintegrated, flattened out, committed suicide or decayed inwardly. Kierkegaard did achieve a noble and rigorous life-system constructed on a Platonist basis; but in order to get there he had to conquer the aesthete, the poet within himself; he had to live all the poet’s qualities to the very end so as to be able to fuse them into the whole. Life for him became what writing is for the poet, and the poet hidden within him was like the tempting siren-song of
all, a rigorous distinction hidden behind every compromise, hidden behind its most vehement denial? Can one be honest in the face of life, and yet stylize life’s events in literary form? 7 The inner honesty of Kierkegaard’s gesture of separation could only be assured if everything he did was done for Regine Olsen’s sake. The letters and diary entries are full of it: had they remained together, not even Regine’s bubbling laughter would have broken the somber silence of his terrible melancholy;
facts or resolution by analysis. The world of Storm’s poetry is built somewhere between the two, refusing the formal demands of either. You bit your lips till they were sore and bleeding. You wanted this, I know it well, because my lips once covered them. You let your fair hair be bleached by burning sun and rain: You wanted it because my hand had once caressed it. You stand all day over the stove in the heat and smoke. Your delicate hands are all raw. You want it thus, I know it well, because
fragile stiffness of its lines to infuse spiritual life into itself; one which, however consciously or calculatingly, is willing to contain life within itself only by means of a puritanical technique, and would rather give up that life altogether than forgo its snowy, sometimes perhaps rather starchy, purity. There is something deeply aristocratic in Stefan George’s poems, something that keeps out every lachrymose banality, every superficial sigh, every cheap sentiment by a scarcely perceptible
itself a form of longing? His art draws its power and richness from this struggle against his own sentimentality. He wants to come out on the side of pure strength, even when this strength expresses itself in terms of depravity and vice—and he ends up with a profound sympathy with every living creature, a sense of brotherhood toward every man and woman. His cult of the strong hero is transformed into Buddhist pity—a Christianity without damnation, a Christianity wholly of this world. The world