Notes about ugliness

October 7, 2008 permalink

Suspicious As a Generator of Disquiet May Be Found

Suspicious as a generator of disquiet may be found in certain contemporary paintings when a simple house, seen in an ambiguous light, and isolated against the landscape, becomes haunted and takes on a threatening and malign air […] The Kafka of The Trial was a master of suspicioun, but sometimes (as in Metamorphosis) what is uncanny is not so much the horror that is shown and described 9a man wakes up to find he has been transformed into a disgusting insect), but the fact that his family take the event as embarrassing yet entirely natural, and we suspect that the story is really talking about our acquiescence in the face of the evil that surrounds us.

Umberto Eco, On Ugliness, p323.

October 7, 2008 permalink

Can You Explain to Me Why when We Defecate We

‘Can you explain to me why, when we defecate, we often examine our excrement?’ Aesop explained: 'In olden days there was a king’s son who, because of his life of luxury, spent most of his time sitting and shitting. Once he remained seated thus so long that, having forgotten what he was doing, he shat his own common sense. From that day forward, men shit hunched over, being careful not to crap away their own common sense. But don’t you worry: you can’t shit something you don’t possess!’

Anonymous, The Aesop Romance, quoted in Umberto Eco, On Ugliness, p134.

October 7, 2008 permalink

And to Thee Nothing Is Whatsoever Evil Yea Not

And to Thee nothing is whatsoever evil: yea, not only to Thee, but also to Thy creation as a whole, because there is nothing without, which may break in, and corrupt that order which Thou hast appointed it. But in the parts thereof some things, because unharmonising with other some, are accounted evil: whereas those ver things harmonise with others, and are good; and in themselves are good. And all these things which harmonise not together, do yet with the inferior part, which we call Earth, having its own cloudy and windy sky harmonising with it. Far be it then that I should say, ‘These things should not be’: for indeed long for the better; but still must even for these alone praise Thee; for that Thou are to be praised , do show from the earth, dragons, and all deeps, fire, hail, snow, ice, and stormy wind, which fulfil Thy word […]

St. Augustine, The Confessions, VII, quoted in Umberto Eco, On Ugliness, p48.

October 7, 2008 permalink

The Poets Have Utilized What Are Called Solecisms

The poets have utilized what are called solecisms and barbarisms; they have preferred, by changing the names, to call them figures and transformations, rather than avoid them as evident errors. Well, take them out of poetry, and we would miss the most melodious sweetness. Gather many together in a single composition, and it will vex me because all will be mawkish, pedantic, affected […] The order that governs and moderates such things would not tolerate their being too many, nor too few. A humble and almost disregarded discourse highlights elevated expressions and elegant movements, alternating between one and the other.

St. Augustine, On Order, IV. Quoted in Umberto Eco, On Ugliness, p47.