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Luiz Costa Lima: Social Representation and Mimesis

Luiz Costa Lima: Social Representation and Mimesis

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Social Representation and MimesisAuthor(s): Luiz Costa Lima and J. Laurenio de MelloSource:
New Literary History,
Vol. 16, No. 3, On Writing Histories of Literature (Spring,1985), pp. 447-466Published by: The Johns Hopkins University PressStable URL:
Accessed: 18/03/2009 01:00
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SocialRepresentationand Mimesis
LuizCosta LimaI
M"
IMESISandrepresentationhave been socloselyassociatedthatonemayquestionthe need to dedicateyetanotheressaytotherelationshipbetween them.Infact,this asso-ciation datesfromancientthought,andithas servedthepurposebothofdismissingart asarepresentationof nomore than a worldofappearancesandopinions(Plato)'and ofextollingitas theartist'smeansofrepresentinghis"innerlight,"which corrects nature itself(Plotinus).2Since, however,inspiteof theiropposingpositionsbothPlato and Plotinus endedupby condemningart,3itmightseemas ifthis were duetothe association between art andtheideaofrepre-sentation.Inotherwords,art is devalued whenever itsexpressionissubordinate to thatwhich itrepresents.Butthiscontention is notjustified.In PlatoandPlotinus,theinferiorityof the mimeticproductdidnot resultfromits associationwithrepresentation,but ratherfrom the fact thatthis associationtookplacewithinametaphysicalconceptionof theworldinwhich the IdeaorArchetypeis a nodalpointthatcannot bereachedbythe mimeticobject.Thus wecancorrect the above statement andsayinsteadthat themetaphysicalconception,to the extentthatitreflectsan essentialisticinterpretationoftheworld,doesnotdojusticeto the mimeticobject.Letususethisstatementas astarting pointfortheanalysisof therelationshipbe-tweenmimesisandrepresentation.The statementimpliesthat thebasicproblemdoesnot consistintrying,underthepretenseofsearchingforan ideaofmimesisthat doesnotdepreciateitsproduc-tion,to dissociate mimesis fromrepresentation,but ratheringraspingthe world view which makes this associationpossible.We need not dwelluponanyindividualthinkeror bother to estab-lishwhetheror not heproducedametaphysicsin order to assert thatWesternthoughtpresentsacuriousconvergenceinitshandlingofthe relationbetweenart andrepresentation.It does sobymeansofthe notion offigure:"Literature isconsideredtoberepresentationalwhenitproducesafigureof either aparticularandrecognizablehis-torical,social orpsychologicalrealityor,in a moreabstractmanner,
 
NEW LITERARYHISTORY
afigureof anideal,mythical, metaphysical'reality'-whenitpresentsormakes visible the 'essential'or 'characteristic'traits of some 'out-side,'ofaspaceorcontextotherthanthe'strictly literary.'The 'out-side' is assumed to exist beforeitsrepresentationand thusto betheoriginofrepresentationalliterature,to bepresentin itselfbeforeitisrepresentedinliterature."4This notionappliesequallyto notions as wideapartas Plato'sandPlotinus's:whetherwe have afigureof theexistingsocial orpsycho-logical realityor of an idealreality,art isconsideredrepresentationalinthatitmanifests the "truth"or"essence"ofanoutsideheldupasthecore of the world. We have automatizedthiswayofthinkingtosuchadegreethat we feel there is no alternative toit-afeelingheightenedbythewiderangeof currentsofthoughtwhich,despitetheirdifferences,havea commonstartingpoint:"Allidealisms andmaterialismsseem toshareincommon this definitionof therelation-shipofliterature(ofall'art')withthis'outside';it issimplyover thenatureofthe'truth'containedinthe 'outside' and thewaythistruthismade'present'inliterature thattheydiffer."5 For amimeticproducttohaveavalue,it mustrepresentomeWeltbild;hat is tosay,itcan bevaluedonlyif itservesasanillustrationof acertain worldview.Asaresult,insofar as thevarioustheoriesaboutthemimeticproductderive from orarecontainedinthesesystemsofthought,theonlyrightwaytoreacttoits "illustrativeness" would seemtorequireeither arefusalofanytheories whatsoeveror thesoleaccep-tanceof onewhich,denyingallrepresentationalassumptions,mightpostulate,as inthe case of theexpressivetheory,thatthe artist'seffortisdesigned"toexpressandorder hisfeelingsinpoeticform,"6arestatement ofthe Romantic idealwhich,inpractice,wouldlead totheendorsementofFenollosa's view:"InFenollosa'sterms,what apoemmeans iswhat it does."7Thus the antitheoreticism ofmanyacontemporaryartist andauthor,as well asofcritics influencedbythelateBarthes,couldnotbeexplained simplyas areactiontoprofes-sorial and academiccomplications;it wouldrather bearesponsetotheillustrativism ofmimetic(orrepresentational)theories(Balzacasillustratorofclassstruggle,JoyceandKafka ofcapitalistdecadence,SophoclesoftheOedipus complex).Infact,itistheverynature ofthe traditional connectionbetweenrepresentationandmimesis to turnthe latter into anillustrativeex-ampleof asystemofthoughtthatassignsaproperplacetoit,whilemimesis "testifies" tothesystem's"truth." Tobear thisout,ifsome-whatsuperficially,oneneedonlyobserve that evensuchpolarop-positesas reflextheoryandstylisticsshare acommonapproachtotherelationshipbetween work andreality.LetS standfor theprop-448

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