William S. Burroughs & James Joyce’s Ulysses
In 1991, William S. Burroughs took part in an informal documentary called Commissioner of Sewers in which he discussed literature and other aspects of society.
During the interview Burroughs explained:
“One very important aspect of art is that it makes people aware of what they know and what they don’t know that they know,” Burroughs said. “This applies to all creative thinking. For example, people on the sea coast in the middle ages knew the Earth was round. They believed the Earth was flat because the church said so. Galileo tells them the Earth was round, and nearly was burned at the stake for saying so.”
Burroughs summons as examples Cézanne, whose studies of what “objects look like seen from a certain angle and in a certain light” at first made viewers think “he’d thrown paint on canvas,” and Joyce, who “made people aware of their stream of consciousness, at least on a verbal level,” but “was first accused of being unintelligible.”
Yet Burroughs found he lived in a world where, this art already having expanded humanity’s consciousness, “no child would have any difficulty in seeing a Cézanne” and few “would have any difficulty with Ulysses. Once the breakthrough is made, this becomes part of the general awareness.
With thanks to the Open Culture Web Site (www.openculture.com)