America as Dionysiac and Apolline: Part 2

In my previous part, I primarily talked about the Dionysiac quality of art and its relation to Donald Glover’s ‘This is America.’ I also proposed questions which I believe the video evoked its audience to wonder about. Henceforth, I would like to talk about how Glover thinks America has “Apollinely” provided a solution (i.e. an orderly solution) to the violence in America and how he participates in the solution that he critiques.

Juxtaposed against the Dionysiac background of the video, and interrupted by the murder scenes, Glover participates in a dancing which breathes of intentional exaggeration. It critiques the American answer aforementioned in my previous post before the answer is even revealed to the audience. In other words, Glover pokes fun at what America provides as a solution to the issue of violence.

As to the answer itself, we may look, in one instance, to the lyrics of the song, for they begin to reveal the Apolline answer to the chaos of the violence. In the second stanza, partying is literally a gift asserted as something anyone, who the personal pronouns ‘we’ and ‘you’ refer to, desires. The stanza as a whole hints of partying as entertainment for everyone who has the potency to be involved. The lyrics are Dionysiac insofar as they are hard to make out. Indeed, at times, the lyrics are softly sung, and our focus is not upon them.

Where, then, is our focus? As the song unfolds, it becomes clearer that entertainment itself is juxtaposed to violence in some manner, for our focus reverts immediately back to Glover’s dancing after the murder scenes have taken place. Furthermore, several school children smoothly dance alongside Glover as erratic violence takes place behind them. The first 12 lines of the seventh stanza lend themselves to the importance of fashion, which entertainment in America often entertains. Think of the celebrity. Is his importance and fashion not popularized in America?

In this frenzied and chaotic America, there seems to be a solution of sorts. What is more convenient to the American in responding to violence than entertaining himself with the pleasures of the arts? Is not pleasure a solution to the depressing news of violence and such? In other words, the dancing of Glover and the school children is symbolic of the pleasures of the arts as the forefront of American adventure. The pleasure in the arts insofar as it is a solution to the frenzied reality of violence in America constitutes an Apolline answer as such. Whether it is a good one or not is another topic for a different discussion.

The exaggeration exerted by Glover throughout the video, again, thus makes fun of this answer, although we do not know explicitly why he does so. We can guess in that he exaggerates because to seclude ourselves from any awareness of violence seems imprudent in itself. If this guess is true, then we need only look to the murder scenes to experience their shock, for if we are shocked, then, perhaps, we are not paying attention to the reality of violence in America. Of course, part of the shock comes from the fact that we are not expecting such a video from such an artist to depict such violent scenes. But, therein lies Glover’s genius in shocking his audience either way, for the Apolline answer becomes evermore apparent.

Do you agree with my interpretation thus far? Why or why not?

The last point I wish to make is this: if Glover pokes fun at the Apolline answer here, then do you not think it ironic that Glover is a celebrity himself? For do we not also prefer his own Apolline dancing over the violence because he is a celebrity? Perhaps, in this sense, we are like the school children following his footsteps. Additionally, is it not ironic that the video is itself entertaining (at least, to some people)? What do you think of this irony? Is it to be expected, for do we not learn through entertaining means more often than not these days?

I have provided a link to the video below for the reader’s interest, if indeed he is interested at all in the matter:

Glover, Donald, Hiro Murai, director, Jason Cole, producer. “This is America,” YouTube, uploaded by Donald Glover, 5 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY.

America as Dionysiac and Apolline: Part 1

Whatever is said of Friedrich Nietzsche’s philosophical perspective of the world, it gives rise to a particular view of art that bodes valuable interpretative power. In The Birth of Tragedy, he speaks of the Dionysiac and the Appoline qualities of art which by their nature go beyond it to the inner life of man in relation to the world around him. I would like to explore each quality in relation to Donald Glover’s ‘This is America’ in order to yield insights in both Glover and Nietzsche’s works.

In Nietzche’s philosophy, the world is often chaotic and requires both order and an Order-er. That which is frenzied or chaotic in art is Dionysiac, so-named after the Greek god of wine, which was often used in frenzied celebrations. That which is more orderly in some manner is thus Appoline, so-named after the Greek god of music, prophecy, and medicine, which were considered more orderly things in Greek culture.

Whatever operation(s) of the mind it takes to order something, that is, for example, to make it clear to the listener the notes of a song, or to the audience the scene changes of a play, or to a reader the end of a paragraph and the beginning of another, or to the party-goer the beginning of the party and its end, is considered for Nietzsche the “principium indiviuationis” or the principle within inner man to perceive things and persons as individuals.

If man by nature orders things, then the suspension of this order gives away to the Dionysiac, that is, the frenzied experience of the world to commence. Individual things become unindividualized, for as they are perceived, they cannot be distinguished from one another. The party-goer, for example, might remember having arrived to the party, thoroughly enjoying it thereafter, but, perhaps, little more than either of these facts. A similar case may be found with the frenzied violence occurring in the background of ‘This is America,’ for before we can perceive what is happening, the scene has changed, and we must either replay the video or move on.

Compare the background of the video to that which occurs at its forefront. We have shocking murder scenes representing historical instances in recent times. In other words, the background literally becomes the forefront evermore intensely. The two murder scenes could be treated as moments when in the Dionysiac we are called to something more Appoline. What could satisfy our desire for order here? A call to be aware of violence in America? A call to be aware of the effect(s) it has upon Americans? A call to fight violence? Do we not desire peace in this otherwise chaotic and violent world?

My last point is this: Nietzsche argues for how both the Dionysiac and the Apolline are necessary for one another. That way, neither are privileged. Where there is too much of one taking place, unwanted events may occur, such as the violent murder here, and artists, for instance, often invite the other to take its place. Keep this idea in mind for part 2. In it, I will explore America’s answer to the questions asked above and how this answer might itself be problematic. Additionally, I will entertain the idea that Glover’s portrayal here is itself problematic in light of this answer.

Works Cited:

Glover, Donald, Hiro Murai, director, Jason Cole, producer. “This is America,” YouTube, uploaded by Donald Glover, 5 May 2018, www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYOjWnS4cMY.

The Illocutionary Acts of the Catholic Mass

I have heard that there are four major transformations in the Catholic Mass correlated to certain illocutionary acts. The term ‘illocutionary act’ is a linguistic term. Thus, I will briefly analyze the Mass linguistically. An ‘illocutionary act’ is a phrase that when said enacts in its saying that which it talks about. For example, ‘I baptize you…’ enacts that which it talks about, baptism. A similar thing occurs when the judge declares someone to be guilty of charged, or when the priest proclaims the husbandry and wifery of the two who are married, or when, for example, that I resign from my job as I am enacting my resignation.

The first transformation in the Mass is from violence to peace. The violent crucifixion of Christ becomes in a simplistic manner the means of consolation through empathy (hence the cliche ‘offer it up’) and the absolution of one’s sins. What, then, is the key illocutionary act here? Such an act may be found signified in the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) and enacted in the Sign of the Peace.

The second transformation is from death to life. The eschatological element to the Mass is when either the priest and/or we allude to Judgment Day on which God will command whether to die a second time or live thereafter in a Trinitarian communion with Himself. Such an element resides in the Profession of Faith, the Our Father prayer, and can reside in the readings and/or the homilies. Additionally, the first transformation is necessary for the second, for it takes the telos of peace to constitute the death of sin.

The third transformation is commonly named ‘transubstantiation’ or the morphing of the “whatness” (essence) of the bread into the “Whatness” who is Christ. The key illocutionary act here is when the priest in persona Christi says that “this is My body.” The mystery lies linguistically in that the words “Whatness” and “who” are next to one another as if they are the same, for, indeed, in Christ they are.

The fourth and final major transformation is our isomorphism with the body of Christ in order to become his Body as a community in communion with the Holy Trinity as one. Whatever society we were before the Mass, we are invited into a new society, a Trinitarian society, through Christ in the Eucharist. Hence, we are to “go in peace, now and forever.”

I have hoped to shed some light on the Mass! Of course, linguistics is no small angle to view the Mass nor the only angle of studying it, but its fullness may certainly come alive for those who are interested in it linguistically or otherwise.