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A fallacy is a defective argument which aims at discrediting another argument or making it appear weak. Thelwell, through the essay on modernist fallacies and responsibilities of the black writer, explores the revolution through which the work of art has undergone. In the early days, art was a function of expression in which writers dwelt on content that people could associate with in real life. This, he notices with time became eroded to give way to modernist era. In the modernist era, the focus is on the internal feelings of the person and not the people around him. The art requires more recognition of self and dwells on the ability to evoke emotions. To him, modern art is vague and void and fails in influencing the community at large. The modernist writers use fiction in contrast to realism. Thelwell sees no value in most of the modernist works. Black writers history and content becomes eroded due to the systems in place. Through taking a critical look into modernists such as Baudelaire, one can be drawn closer to debate and, therefore, decipher if there is any truth in Thelwell’s critique. Thelwell goes ahead to uncover various fallacies and contrasts in modernist writers works (225) which could help analysts derive credible conclusions.
Through a look into Baudelaire’s work, the presence of fallacies becomes depicted. Early in the introduction, a critical journalist wonders why the title of Baudelaire’s collection of works receives the title ‘The Lesbians.’ The whole collection contains only three poems that can validate the title. When choosing the title, the writer hopes to provoke the thoughts of the readers by arousing controversy. The title brings controversy in the real world because the Lesbianism practice forms a weighty subject for debate. This elicits mixed feelings in the readers. Once the audience reads the poems, the relevance of the title cannot be found since the content is shallow. There is, therefore, an attempt by the writer to give life to a concept without having to dwell on its subject matter. This is in line with Thelwell’s critic, which illustrates modern writers, as being innovative in creating new ways of pervasion (225). Through the usage of the title by the poet, a reader becomes perverted even before reading the content. The writer becomes dismayed after reading the content on finding no substantial relevance of the title to the whole poetry. The writer, however, achieves in diverting the attention of the reader by creating confusion.
In the poem, ‘Lesbos,’ Baudelaire expresses his imagination of female homosexuals as embodiments of lust. This arouses jealousy in the males who delude themselves in the desires of what they can get from women. The lesbians’ ability to create unquenchable desire in men is evident. They are an expression of wild lusts and desires which cannot be satisfied. The writer uses erotic language to arouse the imaginations. Through the title, he seeks to endow the women with sexual desire and liberate them from the view as objects of satisfaction to the men who find satisfaction in them. Through the use of erotic figures of speech, the poet creates an emotion that justifies the practice which receives view as a social evil. This obtains conclusion from Thelwell’s critique when he plainly indicates that the modern writers’ concept focuses on emotion building rather than dealing with what people can practically identify with (225).
According to Thelwell (218), modernization creates a path of escape from realism. Representation of this fallacy gets an expression in Baudelaire’s work, in the poem, ‘To the reader’. The writer expresses human misery as out of their control by invoking the role of Satan who pulls their strings. This seeks to suggest that most of what humans do is due to external influence and not as a result of their personal judgment and choices. Satan, as he puts it decides what we should do or should not do. He insists that it is not possible to tell when the devil is at work and, therefore, are unable to distinguish internal thoughts from external influence. All human beings have a mind and free will. If the decisions made contradict expectation of others and imaginary factors get blamed on the result, there is ultimate escapism from reality. The irony is, however, that we are the ones who allow these external influences to enter into the conscience and give them room to manipulate own decisions. People, who hold the thoughts, recognize the influence of the devil, and care about the influence, but they never get to know at what point the enemy is operating in them. Baudelaire seeks to point out the misfortunes in real life as influenced by an external force and not merely accidents. In reality, human beings are able to control their conscience and reject thoughts emanating from external factors.
The modernist works of art focus on fragmentation in contrast to coherence. It looks at building conflict rather than harmony (Thelwell 218). Baudelaire’s poem, Benediction, depict bitterness that the woman in the poem holds against God. Regardless of the pity that God has on the woman, to reconcile back to Him, she continues to blaspheme and thus separates herself further. This poem points out at the discontent in human beings that make them lament despite their success. People tend to capitalize on controversial matters. It would be profitable to focus on the positive aspects of life. This leads people astray and is characterized by unmet desires. This fragmentation could explain aspects of frustration in many human beings who fail to derive satisfaction in their achievements. Instead of learning from their mistakes, the response to challenges is further aggravation of the facts. There is no room for reconciliation in modern poet but rather disintegration. This aggravation develops from the war within the human conscience.
In the poem, ‘The Albatross,’ Baudelaire uses gloom and cynicism to express the pain the birds of the sea suffer in the hands of the sailors. The poem explains how the birds become mocked in order to divert the sailors from boredom. The pain and suffering they cause to the birds elicit pleasure to the sailors. This could explain sadists in the society who like to pull people down and later mock them when their glory fades. According to Thelwell, it is a characteristic of modern writers to use such gloomy expressions though they hold no artistic relevance (224). In works of art, the writer seeks to appease the readers through the use of emotional words, which point them, to self-reflection. Other than the feeling of hopelessness for the sea birds, the writer fails to bring reality to the action. This feature attracts repetition in the poem, ‘Destruction,’ where the writer talks of bloody garments and open wounds; these images, elicit displeasure and disgust in the mind of the reader.
The characterization in Baudelaire’s poetry is original. Through innovation in eccentrics, the writer uses arbitrary characters whose origin is his conscience. Focus on self attracts recognition. The characters used have no reason for how they behave according to Thelwell (226). This is a contrast in traditional art where concepts related to real life experiences. Whereas the concepts sought to solve real issues, the modern art does not have to be of any significance. It is not a requirement for the characters to obey certain values or follow any direction expected by the reader. This is well brought out in the poem, ‘The soul of wine'.
It is evident that the modern writers’ art deviates from the traditional work. This can be seen from the examples cited through the use of imagery based characterization and use of self-reflection. The modern art focuses on the realization of self without significance correlation to real life situation. While the traditional writers tackled issues of social evils and revolutions, the modernists focus on pervasion and morally degrading concepts which do not obey any pattern. They are, as such, based on spontaneous thoughts of the writer and the mood to be displayed in the art. Baudelaire, therefore, as a modern artist is an epitome of the use of fallacies in art. This trait owes recognition to the middle class society of Europe which sought to create its own identity from the traditional era. According to Thelwell, the modernization takes art back to emptiness where it holds no form or meaning (227).
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