25 Sep 2020

Breeur (1.7) Lies – Imposture – Stupidity, Ch.1.7, “Conclusion”, summary

 

by Corry Shores

 

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[The following is a paragraph by paragraph summary of Breeur’s text. Boldface, underlining, and bracketed commentary are my own. Proofreading is incomplete, so please forgive my mistakes. The book can be purchased here.]

 

 

 

 

Summary of

 

Roland Breeur

[Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page]

 

Lies – Imposture – Stupidity

 

Part 1

Lies and Stupidity

 

Ch.1

The Last Judgment

 

1.7

“Conclusion”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brief summary (collecting those below):

(1.7.1) We started the chapter examining a scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment” (see section 1.1.1). But this is just a small part of all the many other fantastical scenes of torture in the same painting. We become overwhelmed by it all and even cheerfully fascinated by all the wonderous images. “Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie” (31). (1.7.2) All the monsters having something unique and absurd about them that captures our attention, turning the grand scene of various tortures into “into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical” (31). (So we see that something tragic can turn into something comic on the basis of an ambiguity in the imagery’s value). All facts carry this ambiguity, and “Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit” (31). But in the painting, Breeur notes, this “distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works” (31). (Perhaps the explicit is the tragic and the implicit is the comic.) For, “The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity” (31). (The humor here would be viewed with sarcasm by the chosen ones who witness it.) This is “The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...” (31-32)

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

1.7.1

[The Lightness of Bosch]

 

1.7.2

[The Comedy and Sarcasm of the Bosch Scene]

 

Bibliography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

 

1.7.1

[The Lightness of Bosch]

 

[We started the chapter examining a scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment” (see section 1.1.1). But this is just a small part of all the many other fantastical scenes of torture in the same painting. We become overwhelmed by it all and even cheerfully fascinated by all the wonderous images. “Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie” (31)]

 

[ditto]

The gruesome scene in Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Last Judgment,” with which we introduced the analysis of the present chapter, is of course itself only a detail within the whole panel. After a while, your attention will eventually be distracted by all those devilish creatures crawling over the scene below. When you look at it, you have no choice in being overwhelmed by some form of enthusiasm, a cheerful fascination and curiosity for all these frivolous, funny, and silly creatures. The impact of their presence is so strong that it begins to dissolve and cheer up the dramatic, heavy, or tragic atmosphere of the tortures: Death and torment suddenly appear as burlesque and foolish, with the carnivalesque lightness that you can see in Ensor’s paintings or in a Monty Python movie.

(31)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.7.2

[The Comedy and Sarcasm of the Bosch Scene]

 

[All the monsters having something unique and absurd about them that captures our attention, turning the grand scene of various tortures into “into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical” (31). (So we see that something tragic can turn into something comic on the basis of an ambiguity in the imagery’s value). All facts carry this ambiguity, and “Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit” (31). But in the painting, Breeur notes, this “distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works” (31). (Perhaps the explicit is the tragic and the implicit is the comic.) For, “The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity” (31). (The humor here would be viewed with sarcasm by the chosen ones who witness it.) This is “The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...” (31-32)]

 

[ditto]

Paradise, on the other hand, seems as boring as it is pious. One wonders whether the chosen ones, in their “Grandeur” (to speak with Pascal), did not fantasize the spectacle of human misery themselves in order to be distracted from their impassive contemplation. Every monster has something unique, something singular – two large flat feet with a head on them, a dragon with a trumpet’s mouth, a flap-eared bird at which you cannot stop looking. But most of all, they turn the whole scene into something festive, something clownish, as in a circus. In this way, they illustrate, in their own way, how a single detail can turn a tragic and intensely charged situation into something comical. As we saw, this ambiguity is characteristic of every fact. Humor also consists in using this ambiguity and exploiting it by evoking or echoing the implicit or possible in what is explicit. But what strikes me most in this scene is that the distinction between the implicit and the explicit no longer works: The tragic and the burlesque are manifested in an eternal simultaneity. This is a spectacle for the chosen ones where humor makes way for sarcasm. The sarcasm of someone like Tertullianus who, in his De Spectaculis29, after having written off circus and theatre as pagan, | anticipates with unambiguous enthusiasm the true spectacle: That of the last judgement, the day the pagans didn’t believe in, the day where the old world would go up into flames and we the chosen ones, finally freed from our monotonous contemplation of the Truth, would feast our starving eyes on it...

(31-32)

29 Tertullian, Apologeticus & De Spectaculis, Trans. T.R. Glover (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003), pp. 299-300.

(32)

[contents]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

Breeur, Roland. Lies – Imposture – Stupidity. Vilnius: Jonas ir Jakubas, 2019.

The book can be purchased here.

 

Breeur’s academia.edu page and researchgate page.

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