The shifting, the transformation, of the relationship between individual artistic components became the central issue in Formalist investigations. […] It was the Formalist research which clearly demonstrated that shifting and change are not only historical statements (first there was A, and then A1 arose in place of A) but that shift is also a directly experienced synchronic phenomenon, a relevant artistic value. The reader of a poem or the viewer of a painting has a vivid awareness of two orders: the traditional canon and the artistic novelty as a deviation from that canon. It is precisely against the background of the tradition that innovation is conceived. The Formalist studies brought to light that this simultaneous preservation of tradition and breaking away from tradition form the essence of every new work of art.
—Roman Jakobson, “The Dominant” (final paragraph) (my emphasis)
4 thoughts on “A Summary of Everything I’ve Written at Big Other”
Hey Adam — along these lines, I think T.S. Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” is a groundbreaking text…a sophisticated awareness of the dialectical relation between tradition and innovation…and an anticipation of R. Barthes’ ideas of intertextuality and how texts redistribute other texts…
“No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of æsthetic, not merely historical, criticism. The necessity that he shall conform, that he shall cohere, is not one-sided; what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new.”