It is the Greek Philosopher Aristotle who coined the term Catharsis. For him it meant a purging of emotions, cleansing of the soul while one watches a play, especially a tragic one. Here I would like to redefine catharsis as an ‘aesthetic affect’ when one encounters or participates in various forms of aesthetic activity. Every encounter with an aesthetic form results in a Catharsis.
What is it to be in Catharsis when one is composing or listening to music? While listening to Bach’s symphony one encounters a musical-catharsis. The sheer musicality of tone, melody, rhythm strikes a fusion and makes our ears tuned to a magic realism. What about Catharsis while listening to rock music? Rock music induces cacophonic catharsis. As the Philosopher Nietzsche has said: ‘art begins with the fusion of Dionysian and Apollonian elements. What about Catharsis for the musician composing music? A musician will be in a State of productive and integrative Catharsis. A musician would have to be creative to induce melody, beat and rhythm into a musical culture.
What is the type of Catharsis when one encounters a painting or sculpture? I would like to state that we come into being of a pictorial catharsis. Let me utilize some examples to illustrate this phenomenon. Let’s analyze the post modern sculpture of Rodin’s Thinker. The first cathartic mode was fascination. The secondary effect was I was asking the question why Rodin sculpt the thinker in such a stiff motion. Is thinker a rebel who wants to defy God and challenge the intellect? The thinker is a metonymy for Death of God as espoused by Nietzsche. When we look at a painting or sculpture we enter into the process of many cathartic modes of deriving meaning. Next I would like to appropriate Marcel Duchamp’s ‘inverted urinal’. Marcel Duchamp celebrated anti-art and it was a form of protest belonging to the art form Dada. While viewing Marcel Duchamp’s inverted urinal one undergoes the Catharsis of disgust. Catharsis can also be a negative mode of thinking, a negation. What is the type of catharsis when one views Munch’s Scream? The scream portrays an individual in angst. The inner angst of an individual becomes individuated when one encounters the scream.
What is the type of catharsis when one enters into the stream of writing? I would like to call it a writerly catharsis. Writing is born out of the pleasure or angst of the ID. In writing catharsis can be confessional, celebratory, critical, analytical, and descriptive. Writing is born from the body of passion and the mind in obsession. Writing invokes the Dionysian modes of rhythm and beat and the Apollonian modes of melody and harmony. There’s a jazz of poetry and the music of art in the writer’s pen.
What is the type of catharsis one encounters in the process of reading? The process of reading produces a phenomenological catharsis. For example while reading Camus ‘The Myth of the Sisyphus’, I encountered the catharsis of anguish. I could identify with the heroic individual Sisyphus who is forced by the Gods to roll a boulder uphill to find to his tragic fate that it rolls down again. There is no meaning or ultimate goal in life’s trajectory. One encounters life as a form of philosophical suicide. Camus advocates that despite life being a Sisyphus, one must overcome suicide and try to authenticate life’s existence. What is the type of catharsis one encounters Plato’s allegory of the cave? In a cave there people and they are separated by a wall and on the other side they can see light. Plato wanted to convey the idea that there is an ideal world beyond this illusory world of existence. Looking at Plato’s allegory in a postmodern context one can say the purpose of life is to transcend death and that could only be possible by creating aesthetic objects. Art can overcome the meaning of death. Again let’s analyze Sartre’s consciousness of being for itself. Being for itself has the state of the ego which projects consciousness towards an object. Sartre calls the object transcendental. Being attains realization of meaning as the art of becoming. This I would like to call as transcendental catharsis.