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Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry

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Originally published in 1766, the Laocoön has been called the first extended attempt in modern times to define the distinctive spheres of art and poetry.


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Originally published in 1766, the Laocoön has been called the first extended attempt in modern times to define the distinctive spheres of art and poetry.

30 review for Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Nahed Rahel

    حاول الناقد الإلماني ليسنج في كتابه "لاؤوكون" أن يرد الشعر إلى فلسفة زمانية، والتصوير إلى فلسفة مكانية في محاولة لرصد أوجه الاختلاف بينهما، وقد دفعه ذلك إلى اختيار اسم لاؤوكون عنوانا لكتابه، ولاؤوكون هو أحد كهنة طروادة اليونانيين للإله أبولو غضبت عليه الالهة "فسلطت عليه أفاعي ضخمة قتلته هو وأولاده، وقد أثارت هذه الأسطورة خيال المثالين والشعراء من اليونان والرومان، فصنعوا تماثيل تصور عذاب لاؤوكون والأفاعي تطوقه، ثم جاء فرجيل شاعر الرومان فصور جزعه في شعره" . ومن ثم التقط ليسنج الخيط من التمثال وا حاول الناقد الإلماني ليسنج في كتابه "لاؤوكون" أن يرد الشعر إلى فلسفة زمانية، والتصوير إلى فلسفة مكانية في محاولة لرصد أوجه الاختلاف بينهما، وقد دفعه ذلك إلى اختيار اسم لاؤوكون عنوانا لكتابه، ولاؤوكون هو أحد كهنة طروادة اليونانيين للإله أبولو غضبت عليه الالهة "فسلطت عليه أفاعي ضخمة قتلته هو وأولاده، وقد أثارت هذه الأسطورة خيال المثالين والشعراء من اليونان والرومان، فصنعوا تماثيل تصور عذاب لاؤوكون والأفاعي تطوقه، ثم جاء فرجيل شاعر الرومان فصور جزعه في شعره" . ومن ثم التقط ليسنج الخيط من التمثال واللوحة والشعر؛ ليوضح الفرق بين التصوير والشعر، محاولا الفصل بين مجال الشعر ومجال الفنون الأخرى ونجد أن ليسنج هو من أضاف فكرتي الزمان والمكان في تصنيفه للفنون فقد ميز بين الفن التشكيلي المكاني الثابت والفن الشعري الزماني الحركي وتتلخص نظرية ليسنج في قوله إذا كان صحيحا أن التصوير يستخدم، في محاكاته، وسائل أو إشارات مختلفة تماما عن تلك التي يتعامل بها الشعر، هي الأشكال والألوان في المكان، بينما يتكون الشعر من أصوات تنطق في الزمان، وإذا كان ثابتا أن الإشارات تربطها بالضرورة صلة الملاءمة بما تدل عليه، فإن الإشارات التي تنتظم الواحدة إلى جانب الأخرى لا تعبر إلا عن أشياء متتابعة أو ذات أجزاء متتابعة ويعرف ليسنج المكان بإنه تزامن الأشياء ضمن نظرة شاملة، هي الشكل المتجانس للرؤية. فالأشياء المكانية هي تلك التي تراها العين دفعة واحدة؛ إذ إن المكان هو وحدة الأشياء ضمن شريحة من الزمن وتعايشها في رؤية خاطفة. وهنا يؤكد ليسنج مبدأ الارتباط بين المكانية وحاسة البصر، وبسبب هذا المفهوم للمكان أمكنه الجمع بين النحت والتصوير وكأنه ليس من فارق أساسي بينهما ويرى ليسنج أن "العناصر التي توجد بجوار بعضها البعض، أو الأجزاء المكونة لها، التي تأتي في تتابع - هذه الأشياء- يمكن أن نطلق عليها أجساما، وبالتالي فإن هذه الأجسام المرئية هي جوهر الرسم، أما الموضوعات التي تتوالى تباعا، أو أجزاء منها تتوالى وراء بعضها البعض فنسميها أحداثا، وبالتالي فإن هذه الأحداث المتتابعة المتتابعة هي ما نسميها جوهر الشعر" ولذلك تكمن عبقرية التصوير في تجميد لحظة معينة وتثبيتها في مكان ثابت، أما عبقرية الشعر ففي إبراز النشاط الحركي وفاعليته الذي ينساب على سلسلة من اللحظات المتعاقبة. وهذا ما عناه ليسنج بقوله "إن للشعر لحظات في الزمان وللتصوير لحظة في المكان" فالرسام لا يستطيع إلا أن يستخدم لحظة واحدة من الحدث ويصورها بإيجاز قدر إستطاعته وينفذها بكل الحيل والوسائل الفنية، لكن من الناحية الأخرى فهناك الكثير من العناصر اللانهائية التي يمكن لأن يعبر عنها الشاعر في هذا الموضوع بالكلمات، مستخدما الأدوات الخاصة بفن الشعر، وهي حرية تناول اللحظة الماضية أو التالية لها، على أن يقدم لنا ليس فقط ما يمكن أن نراه عند الرسام، بل ما يمكن أن نخمنه

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josh

    Fairly interesting. In some ways, this responds to Winckelmann's assertions in his essay on Greek art. Quite similar in content, involving lengthy discussion of ancient Greek art. Has a somewhat more polemical style, however.

  3. 5 out of 5

    David Goshadze

    As an artist, I learned lots of things from this book. It's great for people who're interested in philosophy and aesthetic theories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    This treatise is a raw undertaking- it comprises a struggle much like that depicted in the cover: namely, to be the Solon giving laws to the wild tribe of artists and intellectuals. Doomed to failure, I read as if it were me wrestling against the monster snakes with my family.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Samson Blackwell

    This is incredibly incisive.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pavel

    Essential, perhaps the most important book for anyone who's going to direct either on-stage or in cinema or to become professional artist.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Valorie

    Though this book is very much a product of the eighteenth century, Lessing's thoughts and musings on the differences between painting and poetry are still relevant today. Scholars interested in all the various art mediums, including television/film, painting, sculpture, performance art, plays, novels, poetry, and etc., will find use and interesting musings in Lessing's work. Here, he charges poetry and painting with the task of depicting beauty, using the Laocoön statue as his main lens. Because Though this book is very much a product of the eighteenth century, Lessing's thoughts and musings on the differences between painting and poetry are still relevant today. Scholars interested in all the various art mediums, including television/film, painting, sculpture, performance art, plays, novels, poetry, and etc., will find use and interesting musings in Lessing's work. Here, he charges poetry and painting with the task of depicting beauty, using the Laocoön statue as his main lens. Because it is written in a more meandering way than a nonfiction book with the same idea would be written today (I suspect the same prompt would be answered in an essay no longer than something that would end up on Longreads) it's hard to figure out which exactly Lessing decides is the "better" art form. His long digressions and considerations of other thinkers mean that each possible side is considered however. It should be noted that Lessing mostly defines 'beauty' in a way that we might describe as emotionally moving, and 'ugly' as art that makes us uncomfortable. However, he also uses those terms to rate and describe physical beauty. There are three big problems with Lessing's essay, however: 1. He conflates sculpture and painting into the same thing: A visual art. So he uses both to contrast with poetry, ignoring that sculpture and painting are totally different art forms and as such have different strengths and weaknesses. A comparison of the strengths of all three separately, that is painting v. sculpture v. poetry would be an interesting follow up. 2. Similarly, Lessing conflates poetry and prose into the same thing. Ironically, he is generally disparaging of prose. Again, this totally ignores the differences between poetry and prose. 3. He is a white guy from the 18th century in northern Europe, and so his definition of physical beauty is narrow and...unfortunate, shall we say. While people within the body positivity movement might find his acceptance of different body types okay, he largely only supports fat up to a certain point. White is the only skin color that's beautiful. Perfectly symmetrical faces, long hair, voluptuous breasts, simple metal adornments, and luminous eyes are requirements for beauty in women. Men, too, have to fit certain criteria of fitness and attractiveness. Art that does not depict subjects this way are lesser in Lessing's writing. On a related note, he does argue that an early version of photoshopping might have been happening in statuary, however: He believes that early statues made their subjects more beautiful in order to accentuate their importance. Of course, this belies his belief that beauty = good morality and ugliness = bad morality, a logical fallacy we're really only getting past today. Unfortunately, Lessing never finished this project. He intended to write two or three more volumes, but died before he could. It would be fascinating to hear where he intended to go with this, and to see a further treatment of his opinions on music, plays, and performances, which he mentions only in passing in Laocoön. This copy is the ideal one--it is a definitive translation of Lessing's writing and contains a lovely biography of Lessing and his education. It also includes biographical information for people mentioned, long chapter notes to illuminate the references Lessing makes (which probably would have been easily understood by an eighteenth century audience), and translations of the long sections of non-English and non-German writings that he quotes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    I have recently taken a renewed interest in German literature, of which I was briefly obsessed in my mid-twenties, so I'm revisiting some texts from Lessing that I browsed years ago, now with a better understanding of both his place in late Enlightenment critical discourse and in German literary history. I had read portions of Laocoon previously in my years doing media studies, but this is first time I've read the entire book. Lessing's book-length essay, which he rather humbly describes as a collectio I have recently taken a renewed interest in German literature, of which I was briefly obsessed in my mid-twenties, so I'm revisiting some texts from Lessing that I browsed years ago, now with a better understanding of both his place in late Enlightenment critical discourse and in German literary history. I had read portions of Laocoon previously in my years doing media studies, but this is first time I've read the entire book. Lessing's book-length essay, which he rather humbly describes as a collection of "notes," is one of the first modern examinations of ekphrastic theory, setting in motion discussions of media specificity that continue into the 21st century, even as the lines between the verbal and the visual continue to blur in the digital age. Lessing himself opens the door for his work to be read in these terms, as he claims that his ideas apply not only to words and images, but all things beautiful -- that is to say, any artistic aesthetic. His ultimate goal is not to rob the verbal (i.e. poetry) of its power to express, but rather to suggest that as an art, it has certain modes of expression that are exclusive to its medium, and that its power (like that of any art) lies not in its imitative ability, but in its unique formal constraints. In that sense, Lessing's theory looks ahead to everything from Oulipo to New Criticism to digital art. It's an essential text for understanding the written word in its relation to visual theory.

  9. 4 out of 5

    James Violand

    This is far more interesting than I had expected. Lessing begins this dissertation with examining the renowned statue of Laocoon – an event frozen in time – with Virgil’s description of the event during the Trojan War from the The Aeneid. Each art has its strengths and weaknesses. Then he compares the Iliad of Homer and Philoctetes of Sophocles with sculpture and painting to establish a foundation in criticism. The distinctions and advantages found in these arts are lessons for any lover of the This is far more interesting than I had expected. Lessing begins this dissertation with examining the renowned statue of Laocoon – an event frozen in time – with Virgil’s description of the event during the Trojan War from the The Aeneid. Each art has its strengths and weaknesses. Then he compares the Iliad of Homer and Philoctetes of Sophocles with sculpture and painting to establish a foundation in criticism. The distinctions and advantages found in these arts are lessons for any lover of the humanities.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Stefán Þór

    ég veit ekki alveg hvort mér fannst efni bókarinnar sem slíkt eitthvað sérstaklega áhugavert eða relevant - en það gefur mér samt svo mikla ánægju að lesa svona old school mælskulist og fræðimennsku.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Theelmo26

    excellent book the truth is that you have a structure in the book that goes out of the ordinary

  12. 4 out of 5

    Tinka

    „Der Endzweck der Wissenschaft ist Wahrheit. Der Endzweck der Künste hingegen ist Vergnügen.“ Ein weiteres Buch auf der langen Liste der „Die Uni wollte es so“ – Bücher. Trotz eines Ratings von gerade mal zwei Sternen muss ich sagen ich fand Laokoon an sich nicht wirklich schlecht, ich hab ganz einfach nur nicht alles so richtig verstanden. Lessings Schreibstil ist recht flüssig und angenehm, ins Besondere für ein Sachbuch und es hat sich recht schnell gelesen, besonders im Vergleich zu so manc „Der Endzweck der Wissenschaft ist Wahrheit. Der Endzweck der Künste hingegen ist Vergnügen.“ Ein weiteres Buch auf der langen Liste der „Die Uni wollte es so“ – Bücher. Trotz eines Ratings von gerade mal zwei Sternen muss ich sagen ich fand Laokoon an sich nicht wirklich schlecht, ich hab ganz einfach nur nicht alles so richtig verstanden. Lessings Schreibstil ist recht flüssig und angenehm, ins Besondere für ein Sachbuch und es hat sich recht schnell gelesen, besonders im Vergleich zu so manch anderen Büchern die ich bereits von der Schule oder Uni aus lesen musste. Mein wirkliches Problem liegt in der Thematik, die so gar nicht meinem Interesse entspricht. Es geht um einen Vergleich zwischen Malerei und Poesie, angefangen in der Antike. Nun, ich hatte zwar Kunst in der Schule, aber dieser Unterricht bestand mehr aus Bilder malen und Wasserfarben mischen, sprich von Malerei hab ich so überhaupt keinen Schimmer. Poesie ist in gewisser Weise ein Teil meines Studiums, wohl bemerkt ein sehr kleiner Teil, aber auch hier handelt es sich nicht gerade um eines meiner Spezialgebiete. Ich konnte zwar Ansätze von Lessing nachvollziehen und hoffe doch sehr dass ich einigermaßen verstanden habe was der Mann genau sagen wollte, aber sicher bin ich mir nicht. Das ganze Thema war also einfach ausgedrückt so gar nicht meins und ich glaube ich hätte eine bessere Bewertung abgegeben wenn mein Interesse größer gewesen wäre. Ich bin nur froh, dass ich mich für griechische Mythologie interessiere und wenigstens die meisten Verweise diesbezüglich verstanden habe. Fazit: Nicht mein Thema, sorry. Empfehlung: Klar, wenn man sich gerne mit dem Thema befasst ist es bestimmt interessant.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

    Very clear, accessible presentation of a worthwhile argument. Laocoon might seem a little obsolete in its eponymous subject, drawn from ancient Greek statuary, and Lessing’s distinction between painting and poetry uneventful in light of today’s (mixed) media – with Lessing’s expository voice an artifact in its own right, – but contemporary thought has rather fostered than outgrown the spatiotemporal dialectic in art. I will admit that Lessing straggles occasionally over the course of 29 chapters; Chapt Very clear, accessible presentation of a worthwhile argument. Laocoon might seem a little obsolete in its eponymous subject, drawn from ancient Greek statuary, and Lessing’s distinction between painting and poetry uneventful in light of today’s (mixed) media – with Lessing’s expository voice an artifact in its own right, – but contemporary thought has rather fostered than outgrown the spatiotemporal dialectic in art. I will admit that Lessing straggles occasionally over the course of 29 chapters; Chapter 16 is really the pith of the text, and some passages read discursive, or at least arbitrarily long.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Martin

    A fascinating disquisition on the practices of visual and verbal arts and in what ways their capacities for representation differ (if you're not interested in the intricacies of the dating of the specific Laocoön statue, though, take my advice and skip the last couple of chapters - the aesthetic essay that makes up the rest of the book stands on its own perfectly well without it).

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    This isn't a light read, babies. But I highly recommend this for those who study the Greek classics, poetry, art history or any happy combination of the few!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    For people interested in aesthetic theory this is a must read. People who aren't will still find this essay engaging and easy to read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Chin

    I liked this one. But I suck at philosophy (who knew it was possible).

  18. 4 out of 5

    PMP

    Michel Chaouli taught us about the silent scream, which can also be seen in _The Godfather III_, using Laocoon.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    Ok, so I only had to read chapters 1-17, but still. It's crossed off the Master's list, it's crossed off of Goodreads...

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lollita Christina

  21. 4 out of 5

    Dheeraj

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eveliene

  23. 5 out of 5

    Man

  24. 5 out of 5

    Itzel Marion

  25. 4 out of 5

    Christian Plaul

  26. 5 out of 5

    CLHEAR ANN

  27. 4 out of 5

    Alina Bu

  28. 5 out of 5

    Azrael

  29. 4 out of 5

    Custom Caterers

  30. 4 out of 5

    Grace Nekesa

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