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Crimes of Art and Terror [Kindle Edition]

Frank Lentricchia , Jody McAuliffe
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Do killers, artists, and terrorists need one another? In Crimes of Art and Terror, Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe explore the disturbing adjacency of literary creativity to violence and even political terror. Lentricchia and McAuliffe begin by anchoring their penetrating discussions in the events of 9/11 and the scandal provoked by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center as a great work of art, and they go on to show how political extremism and avant-garde artistic movements have fed upon each other for at least two centuries.



Crimes of Art and Terror reveals how the desire beneath many romantic literary visions is that of a terrifying awakening that would undo the West's economic and cultural order. This is also the desire, of course, of what is called terrorism. As the authority of writers and artists recedes, it is criminals and terrorists, Lentricchia and McAuliffe suggest, who inherit this romantic, destructive tradition. Moving freely between the realms of high and popular culture, and fictional and actual criminals, the authors describe a web of impulses that catches an unnerving spirit.



Lentricchia and McAuliffe's unorthodox approach pairs Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment with Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy and connects the real-life Unabomber to the surrealist Joseph Cornell and to the hero of Bret Easton Ellis's bestselling novel American Psycho. They evoke a desperate culture of art through thematic dialogues among authors and filmmakers as varied as Don DeLillo, Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean Genet, Frederick Douglass, Hermann Melville, and J. M. Synge, among others. And they conclude provocatively with an imagined conversation between Heinrich von Kleist and Mohamed Atta. The result is a brilliant and unflinching reckoning with the perilous proximity of the impulse to create transgressive art and the impulse to commit violence.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center two years ago, no statement caused more anger than composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's description of it as "the greatest work of art that is possible in the whole cosmos," something "we couldn't even dream of in music." Duke University's husband-and-wife team Lentricchia and McAuliffe contend that Stockhausen's pronouncements addressed, however ill-advisedly, connections among art, spectacle, transgression and the Western imagination that many are now eager to sweep under the rug. Moving through Stockhausen to a wide range of material, they ask the difficult question: is Western art's post-Romantic veneration of the destructive, alienated outsider-from Oedipus to Travis Bickle-in any way answerable for the real destruction our culture brings into being? While the book's seven chapters spend a certain amount of time with such expected, even overfamiliar subjects as Don DeLillo's Mao II and Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho, it comes most to life with such bold juxtapositions as the boxes of Joseph Cornell and the cabin of Theodore Kaczynski, or Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov and Scorsese's Rupert Pupkin. Likewise, Coppola's Apocalypse Now is read not only through Conrad but also Thomas Mann and John Cassavetes. Ending with an imaginary dialogue between Heinrich Kliest and Mohammad Atta, the book's accessible combination of conceptual daring and moral seriousness places it well above the common run of lit crit.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

Do killers, artists, and terrorists need one another? In Crimes of Art and Terror, Frank Lentricchia and Jody McAuliffe explore the disturbing adjacency of literary creativity to violence and even political terror. Lentricchia and McAuliffe begin by anchoring their penetrating discussions in the events of 9/11 and the scandal provoked by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen's reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center as a great work of art, and they go on to show how political extremism and avant-garde artistic movements have fed upon each other for at least two centuries.

Crimes of Art and Terror reveals how the desire beneath many romantic literary visions is that of a terrifying awakening that would undo the West's economic and cultural order. This is also the desire, of course, of what is called terrorism. As the authority of writers and artists recedes, it is criminals and terrorists, Lentricchia and McAuliffe suggest, who inherit this romantic, destructive tradition. Moving freely between the realms of high and popular culture, and fictional and actual criminals, the authors describe a web of impulses that catches an unnerving spirit.

Lentricchia and McAuliffe's unorthodox approach pairs Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment with Martin Scorsese's King of Comedy and connects the real-life Unabomber to the surrealist Joseph Cornell and to the hero of Bret Easton Ellis's bestselling novel American Psycho. They evoke a desperate culture of art through thematic dialogues among authors and filmmakers as varied as Don DeLillo, Joseph Conrad, Francis Ford Coppola, Jean Genet, Frederick Douglass, Hermann Melville, and J. M. Synge, among others. And they conclude provocatively with an imagined conversation between Heinrich von Kleist and Mohamed Atta. The result is a brilliant and unflinching reckoning with the perilous proximity of the impulse to create transgressive art and the impulse to commit violence.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1617 KB
  • Print Length: 200 pages
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press; 1 edition (November 1, 2007)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001D4XL1W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,798,124 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format:Hardcover
CRIMES OF ART AND TERROR (2003) from The University of Chicago Press has a definite point of view in which the feelings of writers are often treated as being more important than society as it is, for writers are pictured as desiring a great change that can only be accomplished by violating society's norms. Early in the book, society is given the opportunity to assert its own preferences against Karlheinz Stockhausen, an opera composer who has used a Lucifer character regularly in a series of seven operas. A four-day concert festival was cancelled in Hamburg after comments Stockhausen made on the events of September 11, 2001, based on early reports. He was inspired by the idea that "people practice like crazy for ten years, totally fanatically for a concert, and then die." (p. 6). "You have people so concentrated on one performance, and then 5,000 people are dispatched into eternity, in a single moment." (p. 7).

The second chapter compares the aims of William Wordsworth, The Unabomber, and Don DeLillo. In the third chapter, the relationship between Norman Mailer and author killer Jack Henry Abbott is explained by passages from Fyodor Dostoevsky's CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, Martin Scorsese's movie, `The King of Comedy,' and Bret Easton Ellis's character Patrick Bateman in the novel AMERICAN PSYCHO. I am not familiar with the details of the following chapters, but Chapter 7 is called "The Last Maniacal Folly of Heinrich Von Kleist (A Fiction)." (pp. 148-165). A Short Bibliography lists works with ideas that have contributed to each of the seven chapters. Then Works Cited (pp. 173-175) includes a web page for Karlheinz Stockhausen. The index (pp. 179-187) includes the designation "mentioned" under Wordsworth for three pages where his name merely appears.
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