Modern EuropeanIntellectual History Lecture 20 The Multiple and Fragmentary Self
outline • intro: from vitalism to existentialism • Hermann Hesse (1877-1962): from the dualistic to the protean self • Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936): scripts and the self • conclusion
beyond dualism • from vitalism to existentialism • Vitalism involves versions of dualism (civilization v. savagery, male v. female, adult v. child, West v. East) • from a dualistic view of human personality a more complex, protean conception
works • Peter Camenzind (1904) • Emil Sinclair, pseud., Demian (1919) • Siddhartha (1922) • “The Longing of the Time for a Worldview” (1926) • The Wolf of the Steppes (Steppenwolf) (1927) • The Glass Bead Game (Magister Ludi) (1943)
Steppenwolf • Harry Haller • “A wolf of steppes that had lost its way and strayed into the towns and the life of the herd.” • “There is much to be said for contentment and painlessness, for these bearable and submissive days, on which neither pain for pleasure is audible, but pass by whispering and on tiptoe. But the worst of it is that it is just this contentment that I cannot endure. After a short time it fills me with irrepressible nausea and hatred. In desperation I have to escape and throw myself on the road to pleasure or, if that cannot be, on the road to pain.” … I would rather feel the very devil burn in me that this warmth of a well-heated room. A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life.” • “Now what we call ‘bourgeois,’ when regarded as an element always to be found in human life, is nothing else than the search for balance. It is the striving after a mean between the countless extremes and opposites that arise in human conduct. … It is between the two, in the middle of the road, that the bourgeois seeks to walk. He will never surrender himself either to lust or to asceticism. … His ideal is not to give up but to maintain his own identity. … A man cannot live intensely except at the cost of the self. Now the bourgeois treasures nothing more highly than the self (rudimentary though his may be).”
“Treatise on the Steppenwolf” • “The Steppenwolf had two natures, a human and a wolfish one. … In his conscious life he lived now as a wolf, now as a man, … But when he was a wolf, the man in him lay in ambush, ever on the watch to interfere and condemn, while at those times that he was man the wolf did just the same.” • “The division into wolf and man, flesh and spirit, by means of which Harry tries to make his destiny more comprehensible to himself is a very great simplification. It is a forcing of the truth to suit a plausible, but erroneous, explanation of that contradiction which this man discovers in himself and which appears to himself to be the source of his by no means negligible sufferings. … But there is not a single human being … who is so conveniently simple that his being can be explained as the sum of two or three principal elements; and to explain so complex a man as Harry by the artless division into wolf and man is a hopelessly childish attempt. Harry consists of a hundred or a thousand selves, not of two. His life oscillates, as everyone’s does, not merely between two poles, such as the body and the spirit, the saint and the sinner, but between thousands and thousands.”
cont’d • “It appears to be an inborn and imperative need of all men to regard the self as a unit. However often and however grievously this illusion is shattered, it always mends again. … And if ever the suspicion of their manifold being dawns upon men of unusual powers and of unusually delicate perceptions, so that, as all genius must, they break through the illusion of the unity of the personality and perceive that the self is made up of a bundle of selves, they have only to say so and at once they majority puts them under lock and key, calls science to aid, establishes schizomania and protects humanity from the necessity of hearing the cry of truth from the lips of these unfortunate persons. … A man, therefore, who gets so far as making the supposed unity of the self two-fold is already almost a genius … In reality, every ego, so far from being a unity is in the highest degree a manifold world, a constellated heaven, a chaos of forms, of states and stages, of inheritances and potentialities. It appears to be a necessity as imperative as eating and breathing for everyone to be forced to regard this chaos as a unity and to speak of his ego as though it were a one-fold and clearly detached and fixed phenomenon. Even the best of us share the delusion. The illusion rests simply upon a false analogy. As a body everyone is single, as a soul never.”
Cont’d • “Every day new souls kept springing up beside the host of old ones, making clamorous demands and creating confusion; and now I saw as clearly as in a picture what an illusion my former personality had been. The few capacities and pursuits in which I had happened to be strong had occupied all my attention, and I had painted a picture of myself as a person who was in fact nothing more than a most refined and educated specialist in poetry, music and philosophy; and as such I had lived, leaving all the rest of me to be a chaos of potentialities, instincts, and impulses which I found an encumbrance and gave the label of Steppenwolf. Meanwhile, though cured of an illusion, I found this disintegration of the personality by no means a pleasant and amusing adventure. On the contrary, it was often exceedingly painful, often almost intolerable.” • Friedrich Nietzsche: “self-overcoming” • Wilhelm Reich, Character Analysis (1933)
the promise of drama • Hesse: “Of all literature up to our days the drama has been the most highly prized by writer and critics, and rightly, since it offers (or might offer) the greatest possibilities of representing the ego as a manifold entity, but for the optical illusion which makes us believe that the characters of the play are one-fold entities by lodging each one in an undeniable body, singly, separately, and once and for all. And artless aesthetic criticism, then, keeps its highest praise for this so-called character drama in which each character makes his appearance unmistakably as a separate and single entity.” • Pirandello: “Mine has been a theater of war. The war revealed the theater to me: when passions were unleashed I made my own creatures suffer these passions on the stage.”
It Is So! (If You Think So) (1918) • “But what are you for other people? What are you in their eyes? An image, my dear sir, just an image in the glass.” • “It remains to be seen if what is a phantom for him and her is actually a person for herself. At this point it seems to me there’s some reason to doubt it.” • “Whomever you believe me to be, … and as for myself, I am nobody!” • Alasdair MacIntyre: “In many premodern, traditional societies it is through his or her membership in a variety of social groups that the individual identifies himself or herself and is identified by others. I am brother, cousin and grandson, member of this household, that village, this tribe. These are not characteristics that belong to human beings accidentally, to be stripped away in order to discover ‘the real me.’ They are part of my substance, defining partially at least and sometimes wholly my obligations and my duties. Individuals inherit a particular space within an interlocking set of social relationships; lacking that space, they are nobody or at best a stranger or outcast.”
Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921) • The Father: “We have the illusion of being one person for all, of having a personality that is unique in all our acts. But it isn’t true. We perceive this when, tragically perhaps, in something we do, we are as it were, suspended, caught up in the air on a kind of hook. Then we perceive that all of us was not in that act, and that it would be atrocious injustice to judge us by that action alone, as if all our existence were summed up in one deed” (231-2). • differences between fictional characters and “real” actors who play them: • external • • characters require sufficient likeness to actual surroundings to play scene • internal • • misses interiority • • never leave character (so in practicing mother has to watch seduction scene) • • acceptability (no stripping) • • daughter’s complaint that skipping seduction scene privileges father’s point of view
is it better to be a character? • “You see, the difference is [that our reality] doesn’t change; it can’t change. It can’t be other than what it is, because it is already fixed forever. It’s terrible” (266). • “We are all making believe here. … A character, sir, may always ask a man who he is. Because a character always has really a life of his own, marked with his especial characteristics; for which reason he is always ‘somebody.’ But a man — I’m not speaking of you now — may very well be ‘nobody.’” (264-5). • “[T]he same way this you as you feel it today — all this present reality of yours — is fated to seem a mere illusion to you tomorrow” (265).
Henry IV (1922) • “having form” v. “being form” • Q: Did your wife’s illness allow you to study the world of the mad, their psychology and their logic? • A: Whoever suffers and lives in the torment of a person he loves is unable to study it because that would mean assuming the indifference of a spectator. But to see life being transposed in the mind of my poor companion enabled me later to convey the psychology of the mad in my creative writing. Not the logic. The lunatic constructs without logic. Logic is form and form is in contrast with life. Life is formless and illogical. So I think that the mad are closer to life. There is nothing fixed and determined within us. We have, without ourselves, every possibility, and suddenly, unexpectedly, the thief or the lunatic can jump out of any one of us!” • “Has it never happened to you, my Lady, to find a different self in yourself? Have you always been the same?” (169). • “As sad as is my lot, hideous as some of the events are, bitter the struggles and full of trouble the time— still all history! All history that cannot change, understand? All fixed forever!” (195). • “I’m only sorry for you that you that have to live your madness agitatedly, without knowing it or seeing it” (206).
Pirandello’s fascism • Pirandello, “Created Life” (1923): “Mussolini can receive only blessings from someone who has always felt the immanent tragedy of life which … requires a form, but senses death in every form it assumes. For, since life is subject to continual change and motion, it feels itself imprisoned by form: it rages and storms and finally escapes from it. Mussolini has shown that he is aware of this double and tragic law of movement and form, and hopes to reconcile the two. Form must not be a vain and empty idol. It must receive life, pulsating and quivering, so that it should be forever recreated. … The revolutionary movement inaugurated by Mussolini with the march on Roman and all the methods of his new government seem to me to be, in politics, the necessary realization of just this conception of life.”
conclusion • -the transition from the dualistic to the multiple self • -the need for scripted character to have an identity • -the availability of this character only in and through fiction and derangement • -but is fixed character a betrayal of modernism?