Sunday, February 3, 2008

Meaning of Words

Lord Chandos struggles to use language because he starts to loose faith in its validity. He experiences series of overwhelming empathy (e.g., with rats or buckets). It comes from sense of oneness, in which shape, material, name, etc, is only a sort of a "decoration", and not its true nature (I think). And the "thing" that connects everything (through which Lord Chandos experiences other beings/objects), is the "Truth".

Since he had a glance of Truth, he starts to think that "everything was symbolism" or a "grand allegory". In other words, words by itself does not hold much meaning to him anymore, because he is feeling things more grand, things in the metaphysical realm. He questions the meaning of the words, and therefore its validity. He stops writing poetry because he cannot express the Truth in just words-- therefore, this is a moral issue for him.

Lord Chandos's struggle with poetry reflects Hofmannsthal's struggle with expression. Hofmannsthal also felt that words were not enough to convey what he really wanted to convey, and therefore he worked with multimedia forms of expression, i.e. theater. His desire to truly express what he means to is a striking contrast to popular use of flowery language and ornamental artifacts. It comes down to a question of "what are you trying to show with art?" For Hofmannsthal, decorativeness and grandeur was obviously an obstruction to what he wanted to show through art.

1 comment:

Sean said...

I totally agree with your analysis, that words cannot express the unity he feels he needs to express. I find it interesting that "A Letter" was confined to just the topic of poetry. Is there a reason for this? Or is Hofmannsthal just trying to make a point by pointing out that poetry is limiting? I think he might be saying something about art in general though. I definitely think decorativeness and grandeur as you put it are looked down upon here, but what alternatives are there other than abstaining from artistry? It is as if this piece is also a cry for a "new art-form."