Example 1: The abstract to an article by Simon Reynolds, “Ecstasy is a Science: Techno-Romanticism,” published in RILM Abstracts of Music Literature (1999): “By exalting impulse, instinct, the free flow of energy, and desire, rock opposes bourgeois virtues—deferral of gratification, moderation in all things, restraint, prudence—which were all anathema to Romanticism. This utopian streak in the rock imagination has evolved over the decades to reach the point where it is increasingly expressed in the discourse of science and technology. Rather than drawing on the Romantic poets or renegade philosophers, as their precursors did in the 1960s, contemporary artists are more likely to employ ideas from genetics, cybernetics, chaos theory, or astrophysics. The supreme example of this is rave culture, where the combination of volume, syncopated rhythms, psychotropic lights, and illegal intoxicants interfaces with the nervous systems of the audience to form a sort of Dionysus-machine.”
Example 2: The abstract to an article by Michael Maffesoli, “The Return of the Tragic in Postmodern Societies,” New Literary History: A Journal of Theory and Interpretation, 35.1 (2004): “… Michel Maffesoli develops a diagnosis of the present that draws on the earlier arguments of The Shadow of Dionysus, The Time of the Tribes, and other works… he argues that we need to take seriously the current transvaluation of cultural values. An orientation to the future is giving way to an immersion in the present; individual existence is replaced by affiliation with the group (the postmodern tribe); there is a wide-spread fascination w with religiosity, mysticism, myth, the supernatural (the ‘New Age’) as well as with violence, excess, and the glamour of self-destruction, whether simulated or real. These cultural symptoms point to a wide-spread resurgence of the tragic in its Nietzschean sense; living for the moment, recognizing the precariousness and vulnerability of existence and the limits of human agency, and yet affirming life in the face of death with exuberance and passion. Maffesoli’s provocative recasting of the idea of the tragic invites us to look not to high art but rather to much-maligned aspects of popular culture — rock concerts, senseless violence, the worship of celebrities-for the true reincarnation of the spirit of Dionysus.”
Question: Do the ideas in either of these abstracts resonate with you? How so? The claim is being made that aspects of contemporary youth culture are Dionysian. Do you have experience or knowledge of a form of contemporary culture that draws on the Dionysian spirit? How does it relate to the qualities of the Dionysian, as developed in The Bacchae and the interpretation offered in the lesson notes?
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