May be it is as simple – perhaps not telling the entire story though at least a major chapter. Tantalus and Eros – Sigmund Freud and his followers first excited us with the analysis of the adversaries, and reached boredom with the exaggeration of such claim to sole representation. The entire life subordinated under the unconsciousness and the fight of these apparently insoluble contradictoriness.
And still, we come across it again and again – and if we are open enough we see it not so much and not primarily as personalities (and the lack) but also and predominantly as matter of social interests, of social patterns reflecting different interests and powers. Sure, the short version is the individual interest against the interest of social interests. The dissoluteness, set free at a stage where people lost any hope, where they draw back from a society which lost the capacity of providing anything: Like the pure lust of the seven young women and three young men, who wanted to escape the black death, left Florence and emerged in the telling of stories, overcoming the restrictions of a society that lost the power over them, positive and negative, supporting and controlling power … .This apparently generic struggle of the two different patterns of control: instinctive acting on one’s feelings, standing in such detrimental way against society can also be seen the other way round: the oppression of individual lust by a society that actually lost control over itself – I quoted earlier Immanuel Kant and his rejection of pure reason.
It may look far-fetched and may still be also reasonable – the pure reason as control of a society that lost any true reason, that lost cognition in a wider sense. This gives another background then for the vendetta of which we learn in Alighieri’s canto 6 of the Purgatorio: two families, Montecchi and Cappelletti, standing against each other and the tension overshadowing the love of a couple that we may consider today as one of the most famous couples in literature: here in the purgatory we find the origin of Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare, surely without that we should accuse him of plagiarism, took up a story that originated in Italy – and he took up a topic that went much beyond the love of the couple, went beyond a family feud, reflecting the different patterns, the different leading morals that up to then and thereafter shaped in totally different ways the process of civilisation.
By way of soci(et)al development and personal sensations alike we can see Romanticism as one of the forces taking up the ‘spiritual level’, frequently reappearing and not least carrying with it egocentric notions: like George Gordon Byron: Don Juan of his time, living the lost paradise and making it up for himself, rejecting any claim as it is still brought forward in Milton’s Paradise Lost where we read:
What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support;
That to the highth of this great Argument
I may assert th’ Eternal Providence,
And justifie the wayes of God to men.
Milton looking for the solution in God (1667), Bryon suggesting the ego as the ultimate solution (in the early 1800s) and today the new romanticism in painting, perhaps a little bit reflecting 19th-century impressionism in the widest sense – from Goya to Cézanne, as a frequent guided tour in the New Pinakotek shows. – But let us not forget the difference. May one see impressionism as a specific reflection of romanticism (though one does not have to follow this interpretation) looking very much for a retreat, whereas today’s romanticism being more an audacious, desperate cry for help of those who lost hope?
And although these romanticisms in their different appearances and meanings are not simply about the too often kitschy love relationships, they find a battleground that expresses the entire story from an unexpected side: finding its one pole in the mariage de convenance and its counter-pole in the emotional devotion – both actually very specific, very different expressions of both: equality and otherworldliness in the here and now. The formal equality of the law, the otherworldliness of an entirely formalised system of pure reason on the one hand – the equality of love, of understanding, going hand in hand with the otherworldliness of absorption by the rapture of blinding affection. – Una poetica della meraviglia as Rudolfo Celletti termed it, bringing together the contradictions in only one tense time. And expressing it in the compositions by Bellini: mellifluous melodies, still absorbing us in permanent tensions.
A ‘timeless’ piece: Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi obviously something that gains its value, its inspiring character not least by being inspiring for so many times.
And We Still Did Not Find The Answer