Posted by: Ken Brown | June 14, 2008

Quote – Wendell Berry on Art and Sex

Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community:

When sexual lovemaking is shown in art, one can respond intelligently to it by means of a handful of questions: Are the lovers represented as merely “physical” bodies or as two living souls? Does the representation make it possible to see why Eros has been understood not as an instinct or a “drive” but as a god? Are we asked to see this act as existing in and of and for itself or as joined to the great cycle of fertility and mortality? Does it belong to nature and to culture? Can we imagine this sweetness continuing on through the joys and difficulties of homemaking, the births and upbringing of children, the deaths of parents and friends–through disagreements, hardships, quarrels, aging and death? Does it encourage us to forget or to remember that “certainly it must come to pass that the very gentle Beatrice will die.”?…

The relevance of such imagining is urgently practical; it is the propriety or justness that holds art and the world together. To represent sex without this fullness of imagination is to foreshadow the degradation and destruction of all that is not imagined. Just as the ruin of farmers, farming, and farmland may be predicted from a society’s failure to imagine food in all its meanings and connections, so the failure to imagine sex in all its power and sanctity is to prepare the ruin of family and community life and of much else. In order to expose the privacy of sex, we have made of it another industrial specialization, leaving it naked not only of clothes and of customary discretions and courtesies but also of its cultural and natural connections. (pgs. 165-166)

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