On Charisma and the Sublime in the Arts of the West
C. Stephen Jaeger
440 pages | 6 x 9 | 52 illus.
Cloth 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4329-1 | $69.95s | £45.50 | Add to cart
Ebook 2012 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0652-4 | $69.95s | £45.50 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Haney Foundation Series
View table of contents and excerpt
"C. Stephen Jaeger's magnificent, generous, and wide-ranging study has at its heart all that which is life-affirming. At every turn we encounter vigorous, eloquent, and intellectually consistent challenges to the division of art and experience. Readers in and between many disciplines will find this deeply perceptive account of the magical workings of enchantment, charisma, and the sublime in texts, images and bodies, empowering and uplifting. It cannot fail to influence the next generation of thought about the arts and media more generally."—Paul Binski, University of Cambridge
"Enchantment formulates a compelling theory of charismatic art as an alternative to our Western preoccupation with mimesis and hermeneutics. With the learning, passion, and verve familiar from his distinguished medieval scholarship, Jaeger's argument ranges magisterially from the body art of primitive cultures, through Classical epic, medieval sculpture, pedagogy and romance (the high point of charismatic culture in the West), all the way to Rilke and American cinema."—Jane K. Brown, University of Washington
"An intelligent, thought-provoking, and compelling discussion of the phenomenon of personal charisma and its transformative effects. C. Stephen Jaeger takes the reader through a stunning series of examples from literature, the visual arts, and film across a very broad historical range, from classical antiquity to the present. Throughout, he presents his claims in highly communicative and inviting prose. A sheer pleasure to read."—John T. Hamilton, Harvard University
What is the force in art, C. Stephen Jaeger asks, that can enter our consciousness, inspire admiration or imitation, carry a reader or viewer from the world as it is to a world more sublime? We have long recognized the power of individuals to lead or enchant by the force of personal charisma—and indeed, in his award-winning Envy of Angels, Jaeger himself brilliantly parsed the ability of charismatic teachers to shape the world of medieval learning. In Enchantment, he turns his attention to a sweeping and multifaceted exploration of the charisma not of individuals but of art.
For Jaeger, the charisma of the visual arts, literature, and film functions by creating an exalted semblance of life, a realm of beauty, sublime emotions, heroic motives and deeds, godlike bodies and actions, and superhuman abilities, so as to dazzle the humbled spectator and lift him or her up into the place so represented. Charismatic art makes us want to live in the higher world that it depicts, to behave like its heroes and heroines, and to think and act according to their values. It temporarily weakens individual will and rational critical thought. It brings us into a state of enchantment.
Ranging widely across periods and genres, Enchantment investigates the charismatic effect of an ancient statue of Apollo on the poet Rilke, of the painter Dürer's self-portrayal as a figure of Christ-like magnificence, of a numinous Odysseus washed ashore on Phaeacia, and of the black-and-white projection of Fred Astaire dancing across the Depression-era movie screen. From the tattoos on the face of a Maori tribesman to the haunting visage of Charlotte Rampling in a film by Woody Allen, Jaeger's extraordinary book explores the dichotomies of reality and illusion, life and art that are fundamental to both cultic and aesthetic experience.
C. Stephen Jaeger is Gutsgell Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Germanic Languages and Literatures and Comparative Literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals in Medieval Europe, 950-1200, winner of the 1995 Jacques Barzun Prize in Cultural History, and Ennobling Love: In Search of a Lost Sensibility, both of which are available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.