A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics by Donald Richie

By Donald Richie

This provocative publication is a tractate—a treatise—on good looks in eastern paintings, written within the demeanour of a zuihitsu, a free-ranging collection of principles that “follow the brush” at any place it leads. Donald Richie seems to be at how perceptual values in Japan have been drawn from uncooked nature after which transformed through stylish expressions of sophistication and flavor. He explains aesthetic recommendations like wabi, sabi, conscious, and yugen, and ponders their relevance in artwork and cinema today.

Donald Richie is the main explorer of jap tradition in English, and this paintings is the end result of sixty years of staring at and writing from his domestic in Tokyo.

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Edvard Munch, Street Musicians. Zurich Kunsthaus. unnameable sense of urgency and loss that pervades the atmosphere. The subjectivity expressed here is in the grip of forces not at all accessible to selfconsciousness. And for that very reason self-consciousness must dominate the scene. We do not ask tvhat is being painted but what is happening to the painter and to his personages (who could never aspire to being “characters”). To feel what this painting seems to present, we cannot impose dramatic emo­ tion but have to surrender to that pervasive uncertainty, as if that might also be an index of what it means to be a subject in Munch’s world.

So I have to produce at least a minimal overall representation of how his book is structured; then I can take up those specific 72. \ 74 I The Particulars of Rapture aspects of his case that I want to elaborate or contest. I begin then with what Wollheim calls the “characteristic history of an emotion”: V (one) we have a desire: (two) this desire is satisfied or is frustrated, or it is in prospect of being one or the other: alternatively we merely believe one of these things of it: (three) we trace the satisfaction or frustration, real or merely believed-in, actual or prospective, to some thing or some fact, which we regard as having precipi­ tated it: (four) an attitude develops on our part to this precipitating factor: (five) this attitude will generally be either positive—that is, tinged with plea­ sure—or negative—that is tinged'with unpleasure—though sometimes it may be neutral.

But I am also interested in how we might project historical links among these varia­ tions. For then we see how the articulation of particular affective states makes it possible for related stances to take on urgency—in part as realizations of paths not taken and in part as responses to pressures that emerge as agents discover limitations in the investments they make in any one type of affective condition. Mood became an especially attractive affect because it had strong affini­ ties with impressionist interests in rendering the atmospheric effects pervad­ ing particular scenes.

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