rob mclennan: Do you have any theoretical concerns behind your writing? What kinds of questions are you trying to answer with your work? What do you even think the current questions are?
Michael Lithgow: A critical question in my academic life is the relationship between aesthetics and truth. Of course, “aesthetics” is a tricky term. My research at the moment is reconsidering Kant’s critique of judgment in terms of epistemological legitimacy – the role of aesthetics in knowledge, which, surprisingly, is still a little controversial, or it can be depending on your audience. Journalism has long claimed a monopoly on the aesthetics of truth that I think is being eroded in part by contemporary, online cultural engagement – by publics capable of defining, or at least exploring, their own terms of legitimacy as audiences and producers. Poetry manifests as a centre of gravity for me no doubt in part because of the complications of “truth” that interest me, the relationship between truth and language, and the limitations of reason. Sometimes I think that my interest in poetry is all about defending a six year old’s belief in magic, and maybe it is, but there is something urgent at play in the philosophical doubts about modernism, positivity, rational enlightenment. Aesthetics I think offers a way for us to encounter and resist the ways legitimacies of knowledge reflect relationships of domination. I'm slipping into dissertation speak, here – blah – but my point is that aesthetics is one of the ways we can resist whatever limitations might be lurking in cultural assumptions, discourse, ideology, etc. It is exactly in its beautiful, leaping, confounding, rhythmic, metaphorical forms that poetry – like all art – can allow new ways of being human to flourish. We exist through our languages, through our symbolic systems; we become through language, and this is the exciting part of living inside poems, like living inside god, or living inside the sun. Something like that…
- Michael Lithgow, as part of his 12 or 20 questions interview over at rob mclennan's blog. You can read the whole thing here.
And if you want even more Lithgow, you can read my interview with Michael here.