To give someone or something a proper name: to my mind, this is what great art does. Art removes us from our petty selves and opens us to the unique reality of the other. In this sense, a religious impulse is at the core of all great art. Like the God “Who numbers each particle / by its Proper Name,” art attends to the miracle of the particular…
Auden was acutely aware that he rarely lived the commandment to love one’s neighbor. But holding the commandment front and center kept him honest about his moral lapses into ego-driven self-regard.
The commandment was also, Mendelson adds, behind Auden’s statement that the purpose of art, to the extent that it has one, is to make self-deception more difficult, and “by telling the truth, to disenchant and dis-intoxicate.”
My friend linked to this article by Peggy Rosenthal, in which she revisits her first post for Good Letters, in which she had read, “in The New York Review of Books… a review-essay, ‘Auden and God,’ by Auden’s literary executor, Edward Mendelson. The book under review was Arthur Kirsch’s Auden and Christianity.”
The bits above are the bits that especially stood out to me in the article. Continue reading