Postmodern Blasphemies: An Afterthought

A previous post here consisted of a link to an essay by Leo Grin, a yodel of approval, and comment that there is an objective right and wrong, not merely in ethics, but in that part of aesthetics which touch ethics, to the degree that the imagination shapes the moral character.

I don’t regard this statement as controversial, or rising above the level of a platitude: everyone who has ever complained that violence on television glorifies violence in the eyes of impressionable children says the same.

However, I do regret that I did not take the time to define what I meant by “cynical nihilism” and to distinguish it from the noble yet doomed melancholy of paganism, which, in my humble opinion, Robert E. Howard captures as well as any man not born in Homer’s day.

My criticism of nihilism is actually rather narrow, and I mean not to mislead anyone into thinking I would direct the same criticism against the broader target of all dark, pagan or melancholy books, such as the work of Edgar Allan Poe, or E.R. Eddison, or Michael Moorcock, or the unjustly under-appreciated dark fantasy of Darrell Schweitzer. For that matter, Tolkien’s work itself is redolent with melancholia. I would not call any of this nihilism.

I was also not complaining about originality in writers, or re-imagining old tropes, or using elements of horror or whatnot. One imagines such objections issuing from all the usual suspects: it is the default counter-attack. Deconstructionism is not the same as originality, and not the same as any dark or negative portrayal of tropes or characters other writers portray positively. Herman Melville, for example, turns the tropes of pagan epic on its head by placing epic characters in a New England whaling ship covered with bones: the Pequod — named after the final war and massacre that crushed Indian power to resist the White Man. But I would not call his work nihilism. Dark, bitter, ironic, bathetic, godless, despairing–yes. But it is human despair, and has no part in that cool and detached inhumanity the nihilists love.

Perhaps another day will afford me leisure to expound my ideas to the four people reading my blog (Hi, Mom!) and my cat, Graymalkin.

I also regret that I did not take the time to find an excuse to post another picture of the Catwoman.

Speaking of Dark Fantasy ...