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Kuspit, D. (1997). Replies. J. Amer. Psychoanal. Assn., 45:317-320.

(1997). Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 45:317-320


Donald Kuspit

August 7, 1996. Let me explain, more than I was able to within the confines of my book essay (a review of sixteen books and a number of articles), why I characterized as “bourgeois” and “philistine” Sass's view of “modernist art” as having—to use his words—“certain off-putting characteristics … reminiscent of schizophrenia: a quality of being hard to understand or feel one's way into.” There is a tradition that regards the modernist artist as “mad” and an even longer tradition that conceives of the artist in general as “mad.” While Sass qualifies this reading as phenomenological, his book nonetheless belongs—rather conspicuously—to this tradition.

Thus, when Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal appeared in 1857, one contemporary reviewer attacked the book in the following terms: “There are moments when one has doubts of the sanity of Monsieur Baudelaire, but there are others, on the contrary, when no doubt is possible! … Never, in the space of so few pages, have I seen so many breasts bitten—nay, even chewed—never have I seen such a procession of devils, of foetus [sic], of demons, cats and vermin. The whole volume is an asylum full of the inanities of the human mind, of all the putrescence of the human heart. All this would be permissible if the object was to cure them, but they are incurable” (quoted in Enid Starkie, Baudelaire, New Directions, 1958, p.

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