Monthly Archives: December 2009

Transcending compensation.

Some thoughts from Jack Zipes to keep you pacified (compensated! Hah!) until the next post:

“Folk tales were often censored and outlawed during the early phase of the bourgeoisie’s rise to power because of their fantastic components which encouraged imaginative play and free exploration were hostile to capitalist rationalization and the Protestant ethos. Once the bourgeoisie’s power was firmly established, the tales were no longer considered immoral and dangerous, but their publication and distribution for children were actually encouraged toward the end of the the nineteenth century. The tales took on a compensatory function for children and adults alike who experienced nothing but the frustration of their imaginations in society. Within the framework of a capitalist socioeconomic system the tales became a safety valve for adults and children and acted to pacify the discontents. Like other forms of fantastic literature – and it is significant that science fiction rises also at the end of the nineteenth century – the tales no longer served their original purpose of clarifying social and natural phenomena but became forms of refuge and escape in that they made up for what people could not realize in society. This does not mean that the radical content of the imaginative symbols in folk tales and other forms of fantastic literature had been completely distilled. As Herbert Marcuse has suggested, ‘the truth[sic] value of imagination relates not only to the past but also to the future: the forms of freedom and happiness which it invokes claim to deliver the historical reality. In its refusal to accept as final the limitations imposed upon freedom and happiness by the reality principle, in its refusal to forget what can be, lies the critical function of phantasy.’ Still, the question remains as to how to make the artistic forms conceived by the imagination operative in society. In other words, how can the imagination and imaginative literature transcend compensation?”

Breaking the Magic Spell (1979), Jack Zipes, pg. 174

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