Utopian Symphony Analysis

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The utopian dimension of the technological wish image makes the disappearance of Gaddis’s artist type conceivable. In a utopia there is neither cause for outrage nor motivation for revenge. But if one’s vision of the artist is haunted by outrage and revenge, then utopia, as represented or expressed through the utopian dimension of the wish image, is the only place in which this obsessive, driven artist can finally be mercifully quiescent. The wish image, mocked and scorned, yet releases the self who is compulsively driven to do more from the grip of violent emotion. Gaddis’s self who could do more is dispensable in the utopia envisioned in the wish image that he ironizes because utopia does not need artists of the kind that Gaddis describes.…show more content…
Of the feat of “Transforming this chaos of hands guiding bows, fingers plunging valves, resolving this clutter of the physical,” that is, of the sheer and stunning ordered chaos of a symphony, the speaker says, “I can’t think about it, I can’t not think about it but when I try not to think about it I go absolutely crazy” (91). The symphony is somewhat like the tango dancer, whom Gaddis also mediates on. While both musician and dancer practice arts of their own, they participate simultaneously in an art that comes from without. The symphony participates in the musical vision of the conductor and the composition of the composer and the dancer participates in both this composition and its interpretation by the players. The dancer and the symphony are performers, that most despised category for Gaddis relative to the artist, and yet a condition that describes the wishful tonic latent in his final work. We could also call someone like the speaker, who sorts through reams and scores of notes about arts and artists, and who rearranges his secondhand sources and ideas in a complex rhetorical display like Agapē Agape, a performer. The symphony prevails over the composer, and repetition and reproduction prevail over creation. Even though it is the hand of the artist that Gaddis sets out to defend, the novel is a secondhand symphony of firsthand sources. It is the secondhand in all of its meanings (plagiary, phantom hands, belatedness) with which Gaddis shakes hands under the table in reconciliation, accord, and
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