As to the significance of the hypersensuality of Flaubert's prose, in the ultimate sense - and what might be called the ultimate Flaubertian mystery - it would seem that it reduces to one suggestion, which bridges the physical and metaphysical, cognition and antithetical lack thereof - the raw fact and facticity of human life consists of the surface of human consciousness (sensibility) and, for most (all but a privileged few), the depths (cognitive or affective understanding, then understanding into the principles of reason) are an afterthought. The Flaubertian mystery involves the details and nuances of what I call the hypersensual (in the broadest sense, the ocular) and how (somewhere) the superabundance of sensual detail inhering in human life both redeems and vindicates all that is vapid and vacuous in the ever-developing continuum of human society, both what it engenders both in individuals and communities, and the manner in which it imposes itself on attempts to elevate, demystify, broaden, and educate broad swaths of population at different moments and through various epochs of human history. In other words, that there is a depth and density, angled against the vapid, to ocular surfaces, so that what they reveal is a kind of value or value-factor which varies in its manifestations from context to context, but grants permanent cognitive significance by revealing (in details, in nuances) what is unconscious or subconscious in the human race, which cannot (in these details/nuances) hide itself - thus, the ultimate Flaubertian mystery is an objective (third person) revelation of human depth from changing, scintillating surfaces.
This Flaubertian mystery is obscure, tangled, confused - and other facets of the surface of Flaubert's prose (cynicism, irony, corrosive insight, revelations of cognitive-affective hollowness) are enjambed against it in such a way that the redemptive can manifest only intermittently. The dialectic between redemptive and corrosive narrative vistas in Flaubert manifests its syntheses in presence, the presence of present textual moments - and neither of the two threads is ever lost entirely against the other - so that not only is their synthesis perpetual, the perfected formal balance of Flaubert's impressively omnipotent third person voice weaves a textual tapestry both tightly and ornately enough that this formality is itself a mystery as dazzling in its array of combinations and effects as the mystery of Flaubert's hypersensual detailing and engraving. Thus, one seeming deficit of Flaubert's efforts when set alongside Tolstoy's - the half-present interiority of his protagonists, which drains narrative interest from their interior and exterior experiences - forms an unexpected synthesis of its own with Tostoy-as-antithesis, by adding a hinge to the most major high art consonant productions of representational art, its colors, forms, textures. Flaubert's prose is, indeed, more "colored" than Tolstoy's, and also more unique in its formulated strategies and symmetrical angularities, cleaving to two representational centers rather than one, and making an indirect assaying of depth rather than investigating Tolstoy's probing, piercing, sustained directness. In "Anna Karenina," only the scenes delineating Levin's maintenance of his farm approach Flaubert's probing, piercing, sustained (and often pure, negatively capable) ocularity. If the peak exceeds the most intense moments of Flaubert's prose, owing to Levin's fullness as a character, is a worth an interrogative glance- as is the nature and complex of what the ultimate Tolstoyan mystery is.
Flaubert's two protagonists - F. Moreau and Emma Bovary - share the complexes of half-developed interiority, oriented around systems of sensibility (hypersensuality) which struggle to achieve understanding. The double standards imposed by gender- that F. Moreau is sanctioned to attain his sentimental education while Emma Bovary pays for hers with her life - do not deflect attention from the essential similarity of this half-hollow core, which registers all facets of human life (affect, social responsibilities, the vicissitudes of different forms of attachment) on only the first, lowest level of cognition, sans the enhancement of a higher mind to grant the form of principles leading into any kind of settled wisdom, against currents which bear them along, rising and falling, in a world only detailed on the surface, and then only by the formal delicacy and exquisite precision of Flaubert's prose.
Flaubert's didacticism - his lesson for discerning readers - is a kind of treatise on what constitutes "missing interiority" in average, undistinguished human consciousness. The disjuncture between what the narrative third-person eye sees - an ornately detailed, finely wrought and structured set of interstices and connective tissues, fastening and clasping figures tightly to a world configured past evanescence - and what F. Moreau and Emma Bovary see - a mirror-reflection of a landscape formed to affirm or deny their claims on socio-sexual and socio-cultural desirability, to (figuratively) nod at them in affirmation of their claims, which they react to with conventional pleasure or displeasure (acceptance engendering pleasure and rejection displeasure), makes clear the author's distinction from his protagonists, his own comprehensive understanding of their circuitry dynamics from "over" them, leading back to the guiding principle of missing interiors, and its strange (uncanny) chiasmus with finely interwoven hypersensual detail, how it generates textual richness against the impoverished cognitions and inchoate misunderstanding of his characters.
Thus, dealing with these texts, hypersensuality on one proverbial hand and missing interiors/interiority on the other generate a tension-and-release dynamic- the detailing, in all its tactile richness, releases readers from our limited ability to affix attention to/"bind" to protagonists whose pedestrian perceptions, motivations, and situational improvisations must be a disappointment to us. In a way, this chiasmus demonstrates Flaubert's form/manner of negative capability- the polarity of hypersensuality/missing interiority is not only never resolved, it inheres so dynamically and seamlessly in these texts that it creates its own form/manner of textual ambience, extraordinarily unique in the annals of major high art consonant prose, and gilded with levels/layers of richness against his own protagonists, who are radically diminished by what they cannot, with their merely sensible cognitions and lack of understanding, surpass. Sensory data is not merely drawn, it is important to note, from nature- the synthetic materials of human life (houses, faces, clothing, food) are all drawn into the scaffolded matrix of Flaubert's regulatory and compensatory hypersensuality, so that the hypersensual textual impulse, as it were, is not strictly anti-human/Other in the conventionally (English) Romantic manner.
Putting together a package deal around Aughts Philly, I chose the title "Over the Schuylkill," from one of the Apparition Poems. It seems to me that, as a seed to plant, this is as comprehensive a statement as we're likely to make. Why it would have to be that I'm particularly proud is that my finger-in-the-air vibe indicates that, for those of us left standing in the stalemated iciness of this recession, there's really no sense left of being in a rush. Whenever the media decides to pick us up will be fine; and, importantly, they will be knocking on our door rather than the other way around. To be sure, we have other issues to face- the cost of living, of food and health insurance especially, is so inflated in 2014 that the media's continual unwillingness to admit population depreciation in the United States is an abusive molestation of the remaining population, and a pestilential one to boot. I'm stunned, myself, by the utter, ludicrous mediocrity of the US press corps, even as I wonder if the US populace are rather sharper than they've been represented (and caricatured) as.
In a situation like this, art has to be over to the side, to be picked up or dropped as needed. People interested in the arts have varying and variable reactions to why/how art works for them- some can only immerse themselves in the aesthetic in times of prosperity, while others can receive necessary stimulation from art even during a steep recession and its aftermath. I am of the latter type- the recession hasn't particularly dulled my appetite for the aesthetic. One thing "Over the Schuylkill" can do for whatever audience we wind up having is to manifest for them a kind of ideal around possibilities of intimacy, deep companionship, and the redeeming power of profound human connections. I have called 2014 a "scum-scape," in which real people have largely been replaced by well-protected, powerfully-backed mobsters, corporate drones, and other types/forms of fraudulent hucksters. For those genuine people, especially genuine artists who have survived the deprivations of the recession, who need to have their humanity affirmed (against the scum), we can offer that particular good/service to them, among others. This collection is a big, bold voice assuring its audience that they are not alone, and that the '14 human scene is not a complete pigsty. So, as the Aughts Philly juggernaut ambles along in a leisurely fashion, the door is wide open for others of our ilk to follow us. There is a certain amount of armature covering us and our endeavor, but we were a scene and a city with a soul. That's why there can't be a quick rush to grab some attention; preservation of our original, wholesome ethos must remain a high priority for us.
One point of interest in the comparison between '74 and '14- as was not (I'm guessing) planned, and as was not the case in '74, pop culture is failing in America. The power and prestige around Hollywood is so abraded that the movies now being released seem to be cast-offs or red herrings, only to be seen as stop-gap measures during the leanest and most despairing of times. When Oscars are awarded to a sloppy, inchoate mess like "American Hustle," what is being confessed is a state of stalemated entropy. Popular music's entropic collapse is even more pronounced- what graces the covers of the standard pop music trade publications now are the old names and faces, from bygone eras when rock (and other forms of pop) music still sold in significant quantities. With the advent of the Internet, an inquiring public have begun to put the pieces together as to how American popular culture is really constructed- with that awareness comes the realization of different forms of fraudulence, and deceptive maneuvering around image-mongering and icon-making. Part of the '14 malaise has to do with this disparity- an American public who know more than is generally believed to be the case, and a press corps for all intents and purposes stuck back in '74, a time when, despite recessional devastation, shiny imagery still sold and nothing had emerged with the potentiality to elevate America's collective consciousness.
The American media landscape is its own kind of scum-scape- and the cardinal sin of the American press corps, in '14, is not admitting, and placing into wide circulation along lines available, all the ways in which the Internet has transformed national consciousness into something more nuanced and complex than it has ever been before. Newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the New York Times, are still popular, it seems, with the fifty-and-over demographic sector; but the young (including forty-somethings) are on the Net, and not particularly receptive to old school press and its non-interactive methods and protocols of information dissemination. The disjuncture between demographic sectors as to methods of information transmission, assimilation, and dissemination is intense and, for the moment, also stalemated by the intransigence of the old school media on one side and the young (especially the under forties) on the Net (and its proliferation of blogs and specialized sites) on the other.
I would like to opine that of the two congeries of circumstances- recessional malaise with pop culture still functional, as in '74, or recessional malaise depleting popular culture while the Net generates novel, expansive opportunities for self-expression and other modes of information dissemination, as now, that in totem our situation is preferable to what the American populace inherited in '74. Depending on what side of the proverbial fence you stand on, the truth might hurt or be cause for exultant celebration- with the Net up and running, the scum of the world can never really rest. There will always be someone somewhere telling the truth who can't be eliminated, by force or stratagem. For me personally- what Philadelphia was for me in the Aughts, the Net has become for me in the Teens. My surmise is that I am not alone; and, while the current scum-scape assures that the Net is freighted with a full load of dross too, we have previously unimaginable, perpetual possibilities opened out before us, which cannot be curtailed by America's lords of darkness. So, in the aggregate, our 30% advantage over '74 guarantees that when the tables turn, we may find ourselves at a feast.