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Ibsen Notes

 

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206 Nordau on Ibsen I find quite sympathetic. Ibsen’s plots seem shallow, his feminism excessive and absurd. His views on marriage would make serious male work impossible. A surrender to the will of the female, as evident in much painting of the time.

 

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81 Returning, I read some Peer Gynt. This is new identity for me, a splendid dramatic poem whose meaning is immediately evident to me. The criticism in the introduction is quite irrelevant to  my present purposes. Peer Gynt is myself drunk or high, rejected by the creeps who surround me.

 

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61 Strindberg, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, all stand for psychological truth that has been deformed and tortured by rationalistic schemes. The will to power is the psychological theory that best explains this. People can live by other ideas, but that is like being oppressed by morality; it is to deny yourself insight.

Strindberg’s madness is profoundly logical. His suffering is necessary. It is realising the consequences of ideas like Ibsen’s without suppressing and mortifying the self.

 

 

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6 Ghosts managed to stir up argument, even a row. Play of ideas, psychologically unreal. The social reform he seems to suggest, a reform that by now has obviously been achieved. But that does not mean human life is by now satisfactory. Supposed Lutheranism of the pastor, with his appeal to ‘duty’. With ideas of social reform, practical experiments are needed only for the stupid, thought experiments are enough to show the flaws. Strindberg saw right through Ibsenism.

Ibsen’s Ghosts, its harsh judgmental morality. Solutions not really solutions.

Moral prohibitions, judgements, condemnations. Living power of morality in the new order, supposed ideal of health. Look at the young woman and see the forbidden, the prohibitions. Imposition of guilt.

 

9& Shaw (The Quintesence of Ibsenism), at times so perceptive a critic and at others so silly. His desire to establish an Ibsen theatre on a model of Wagner’s Bayreuth. That Ibsen has added ‘the discussion’ to the drama. That Strindberg would also be performed there, as Devil’s Advocate. But his very silly idea that The Dolls House is more relevant and important to us than Othello.

Ibsen very unsatisfactory because although he points out evils, the solutions he proposes seem to come as proposals for social reform. That is really unsatisfactory from an artistic point of view. It doesn’t redeem anything. It is not tragedy such as Strindberg produced.

The solutions are not solutions. Invitations to join some cause is not a solution.

Real drama exposes the contradictions at the heart of reality, the tragedy. It concentrates on this and that is how it liberates and inspires. Reform may have its merits but really it means just a change of personnel in power.

Ghosts. Moral judgment. The anti tragic idea hat reconciliation is possible. The venom Ghosts aroused, so difficult to understand. If it does not work, if the reconciliation is impossible, then one is sick. And then perhaps one must affirm sickness.

The harsh agony aunt view of the world. Discard what doesn’t match up. Leave him.

Nordau on Ibsen His interpretation of Ghosts differs from Shaw’s.

‘Well but is it in Ibsen’s opinion permissible or not permissible to gratify carnal lust as soon as it is awakened?...or does the moral law hold for man only, and not for woman? (Degeneration p369)

Similarity between Ibsen’s view and modern feminism. And also the feminist view derives from Ibsen. This view of ‘the moral law’ was also popular in the age of the suffragettes. It is a left wing idea. An idea of emotion not of reason.

Nordau says how many want Ibsen to be the new Voltaire or Goethe, source of all the ideas of modernity. He talks of the role of Brandes in promoting him. Also of the religious residue, original sin, confession and self sacrifice or redemption.

See how that went into psychoanalysis.

Always the promise of real satisfaction, as if the new ideas will bring a greater happiness. That is part of the dishonesty. How you may find something totally fulfilling. The illusory nature of the question and the promise. A kind of Rousseauite romanticism.

Loading on guilt. The furtherance of some particular order.

Guilt for man, freedom for women. And the idea that in this lies true happiness and liberation.

Idea that a change of doctrine brings greater fulfilment. This itself is a phoney idea. The doctrine is unimportant.

Ibsen’s modernity, that he heralds a new era of female power. His heroines, says Nordau, are like those of Sacher-Masoch, only a little less crudely overt, and Ibsen is a masochist who enjoys reversing the normal relation between the sexes.

The ideal he projects is clearly that of female, or feminist power. Seducing maidservants is such a terrible crime because that is what wives do not like.

Of course there is inconsistency, that is hardly the point.

Female power. The pretence that this means honesty, freedom and happiness is in no way an argument. Drama as crude propaganda.. Why does Shaw go along with Ibsen’s ideas? Because he is all for modernity as well as being undersexed?

Origins of drama. Greek drama, Shakespearian drama. Religious origins. Propaganda to reinforce values. Shakespeare and Strindberg go way beyond that, dealing with some of the questions raised which run so much deeper.

Ibsen promotes discussion, argument.

Interesting suggestion that Brand was influenced by Kierkegaard

 

290 Went to see Ibsen’s Little Eyolf at the Rosemary Branch theatre. I was surprised to be so favourably impressed. It seemed deeper than most Ibsen I have seen.

Weininger writes of Rita as a creation of misogyny. Idea of a dysfunctional marriage’

 

'In recent years Henrik Ibsen (in the character of Anitra, Rita and Irene) and August Strindberg have given utterance to this view (that women have no souls).'

Of course that was not my interpretation. I would have thought Ibsen saw Rita as being in the right, with her demand for happiness, for coitus, and Allmers as at fault. And with that goes a whole theory of human health and happiness. The idea that fulfilment through marriage is the whole aim and object of life. From it one can draw a deep pessimism.

Interesting how such ‘marital dysfunction’ can become interesting material for drama. Ibsen’s symbolist phase. Symbol and allegory. The rat wife.

Rita. Woman sexually rejected by her husband. Therefore idea of sex comes to assume vast importance and even a kind of threat. Idea of the task of man as first to deal with this then he can be free to do what he wants. Undealt with it assumes exaggerated importance and becomes something unpleasant.

So Weininger sees her as a monster and turns against sex altogether.

See how woman may seem to oppose man’s will. But of course it doesn’t have to be like that. He does not have to give in or submit himself only to tame and appease. In one review they wrote of ‘bad faith’ Allmers and his writing, his decision, his virtue.

Male weakness and evasiveness. Ibsen and the female demand for fulfilment. What must Allmers do to restore his male will? That is the interesting question and I does not mean yielding to all that the woman say he should  do. But it does not mean rejecting her. It is his will, his book, his writing.

 

341& Sexual morality. Attack the female idea that gives so much power to women. Attack sexual morality, low class ideals of restraint. What women want ought not to be the standard of life accepted by men.

Ibsen’s ideas are utter confusion, logically speaking. the claim to instinctual liberation is phoney. Women’s desires are clear enough, they are the guardians of morality. Morality comes to mean what they want. Even doing what you want comes to mean doing what they want you to do. Standards of morality get twisted into rules for so called fulfilment. These rules get asserted as so called psychological laws. Rather than any superior truth or depth he just expresses what women want, their demands and desires.

Ibsen and the new age of female domination.

 

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17 Went to see The Master Builder at the Albery theatre. Symbolist drama. Quite a bit to think about. Not a feminist work. Some psychological acumen. Differing male and female views on sex. Guilt. Robust conscience.

 

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208 Saw Peer Gynt at the Rosemary Branch. Guilt, paranoia, selfishness. Salvation through Solveig. A brilliant poem, brilliant and profound. Influences? Byron (Don Juan) fairy tales, Christianity. Selfishness and the guilt to which it gives rise. Egotism. Subject to negative judgements. The urgent need for redemption. Interesting how this comes in the form of a woman, a virgin who selflessly waits. Like Wagner’s redemption. The reality of this, which is not really Christian at all. Little touch of nudity.  We see the bare arses of Peer and the troll princess.

 

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142 Went to see Ibsen’s play When we Dead Awaken at the Almeida theatre. What to make of Ibsen? As literature there are obvious flaws, great crudenesses, over heavy symbolism. But G. says that is the way women see men, as psychic vampires.

I find Strindberg ever so much better. For Ibsen only gives one side of the story, one part of the argument. It needs to be completed. Ibsen is interesting, he does express ideas which have played an ever increasing part in western society. The attack on the idea of the artist, the man and his view of his destiny. Surely he could not be thinking of himself in the old sculptor, to portray himself as so dead? And a recovery from such death only in a brief moment of Nietzschean exhilaration at the top of a mountain.

Embodiment of the attack of the female upon the male.

 

147 Ibsen and the sex war. Female idea that the destiny of the male does not matter. Thus the female aspires to negate the will of the male while desiring to be overcome by it.

Source of mystery here.

In the great city subtleties abound. Complications. Simple answers seem far from obvious.

 

161 Consider Ibsen and the negative way in which his females present the male. Did his own wife perhaps describe him in such terms? An intelligence not directed at achievement within society, because it would aim to change the parameters on which society is constructed. Which is therefore condemned to poverty and uselessness.

 

‘Ibsen’s own circle of vision is that of the middle class in a great city of yesterday and today. His conflicts, which start from spiritual premises that did not exist till about 1850 and can hardly last beyond 1900, are neither those of the great world not those of the lower masses, still less those of the cites inhabited by non-European populations.

 All these are local and temporary values – most of them indeed limited to the momentary ‘intelligentsia of cities of West –European type. World historical or eternal values they emphatically are not. Whatever the substantial importance of Ibsen’s and Nietzsche’s generation may be, it infringes the very meaning of the word ‘world-history’ which denotes the totality and not a selected part- to subordinate, to undervalue, or to ignore the factors which lie outside ‘modern’ interests. Yet in fact they are so undervalued or ignored to an amazing extent’ . (Spengler - Decline of the West vol 1 p24)

 

http://www.mith.demon.co.uk/philmythmag.htm

 

Wilhelm Reich admires Peer Gynt and there must be something very interesting in what he says although it is a little elusive. Perhaps he sees Peer Gynt as someone on a trip which at times threatens to become extremely bad. The great Boyg is a proponent of the dilemma. The button maker is a figurative representation of that Hell which is worse than death. something which has run itself into unresolvable dilemma. Ibsen does try to moralise, but Reich sees truth behind the moralism. Ibsen is hardly trying to condemn society for giving Peer a bad trip.  Is the Great Boyg a moral figure, or simply a fiendish fact? It is an important thing about the trolls that they are not human, that it is impossible for a human to live like a troll without ultimate Hell. The difference between 'Man to thine own self be true' and 'Troll to thyself be enough',  is the difference between open ended action, Tao te Ching like passivity where what ultimate meaning there is comes as an act of grace, and the diabolic hubris that prematurely lays down all its own values. As is well known, only God can do that, only He can be quite self sufficient. That's not to say that man can never become one with God, but that if he tries to build a tower of Babel up to Heaven his power of organisation as well as his strength is eventually going to break down, because the effort required is infinite. Reich is quite right when we come to ask why Peer Gynt went off on his bad trip. It seems to have had much to do with the people around him. However, Wilhelm Reich's materialism led him like Marx and Freud, to deny the validity of  mysticism. Rejecting ordinary mysticism, he expounded a sexual mysticism of his own, as narrow in outlook as that of the orthodox Christian or Hindu.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 
 

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