La Belle Inutile
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Paul Valéry's Cours de Poétique, recently published in two volumes by Gallimard,
does not deal with Poetry in the restricted sense that the word continues to have
despite Surrealism, or perhaps alas also because of Surrealism,
which maybe did not succeed to push far enough the initially glimpsed surrealist revolution.
This Cours de Poétique has little to do with the history of literature,
and just as little to do with any discussions applicable to poetry or even art.
It deals with the process of intellectual creation as such.
Of all types of intellectual creations,
including artistic and literary as well as scientific and technical.
Valéry deals with Poïetics in the sense of intellectual creation,
in the sense of the processes that produce the works of the mind.
And that could be a definition of Poetry
if Poetry consented to lay down its linguistic blinders
and extend the scope of its vision beyond what a respectable tradition has bequeathed to it,
but which, after all, is not more than a tradition.
“The works of the mind are indeed defined as "the works of man which aim to act on his sensitivity or his intellect, without utilitarian intent". The work of art has the property of creating a feeling of "aesthetic infinity" ; while it basically has no use whatsoever, it provokes its own need by activating what we would today a cognitive or sensory loop, or even an addiction effect”. - William Marx commenting Valéry’s Cours de Poétique , Volume 1, Page 27.
Science, Technology, Fine Arts and Industry,
the current representations of which force us to perceive as clearly separated,
not to say partitioned or sometimes even opposed activity fields,
originally were considered as different facets of a single set of practices
that the Middle Ages used to call the Arts,
and that more or less covered all human activities except agriculture, hunting and gathering.
Etymology as well as texts allow one to check that the different firelds of the Arts were not perceived as individual disciplines before the 17th and 18th centuries, as may be seen from the vast unitarian project led by Diderot and D'Alembert of the Encyclopédie, in other words, according to the subtitle, a Reasoned Dictionary of Sciences, Arts and Trades
The separation of Fine Arts and Science which ruined the previously common stream of the Arts was only achieved in the 19th century with the generalisation of Capitalist Industry. Since this moment distances only increased between Science, Technology, Fine Arts and Industry and, in a tree-like manner the crack further propagated within these disciplines themselves, and even within their subparts.
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