Realism Public Seminar
and Criticism: Is There Any Relation?
Given April 5, 2001 at the Aesthetic
Realism Foundation, 141 Greene Street, NYC 10012
In an Aesthetic Realism class when I was 28
years old, Eli Siegel asked me a question concerning a man I was in
about that every woman interested in love can usefully ask herself: “Do
you want to conquer him, or understand him?” I said, “Both,” and Mr.
asked, “Which is predominant?” I answered "I'm not sure" -- but the
was that my desire to conquer was predominant. “Has it torn you apart?”
he asked. Yes, it had.
And this is why I was in such pain about the
men I’d had to do with. Studying Aesthetic Realism enabled me to
to see how grand, cultural, wonderful it is to understand a man, and
to be a true critic of myself and of him.
“Contempt is what ruins love,” explains Ellen
Reiss in The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known,issue 1447,
titled “The Desire for Criticism”:
We want criticism of our
criticism that enables us to understand it so we can choose not to have
it!...A friend is someone who cares enough for our life so that he
butter us or collaborate with us, but really wants what is hurtful in
to be less.
Need to Be
Critics of Our Purpose
In my teens and twenties, while attending high
school and college, I spent most of my time, like other girls I knew,
how best to dress and use make-up, and being in the right place at the
right time to have a big effect on a young man. What Ellen Reiss
describes in another issue of The Right Of is right on the
“The nature of a woman’s thought about a man, has mainly been: how to
him, how to manage him, how to keep him liking her.” This ever-so
procedure is contempt, defined by Mr. Siegel as “the addition to self
the lessening of something else.” Miss Reiss explains:
Because men and women have
world itself as something to manage, not know, they have wanted to
another human being....Women have wanted a man to make them
And if our being made important is our purpose with another human being
...we will not be interested in knowing that person. The two purposes
mutually exclusive. [The Right Of #1252]
The first time I met Matthew Morrison, I was 22
years old and lounging on a couch, and Matt made a teasing remark about
my being lazy. I leapt from the couch and punched him in the
plexis. I felt he’d hit a sore point in me--I was ashamed of how lazy I
was, but angered he would question me. I was also affected by his
looks, energy, and down-to-earth manner, and this was the beginning of
what I thought was the love of my life.
Two years later, though, I sat at an oak table
in the antique store which Matt and I had opened together, my limbs
heavy as lead, worried, and angry, saying to myself, “He’ll never
me!” Yet, as I felt I was the hurt one, I was uninterested in the
Matt had--what he felt about his mother who had died a few months after
we met; the “block” he’d had for weeks, unable to design his senior
in architecture school.
And the energy I had liked so much in him, I
now resented. I felt he was a constant criticism of me and my lethargy,
and that I didn’t have him securely enough--he was too busy with other
people and things. This is the sheer contempt and ill-will that is in a
woman wanting to conquer and own a man. Mr. Siegel would later ask me:
Yes, it was! I felt my whole life revolved around
having him “safe and sound”; we fought increasingly, and I felt
It was then that I’m so grateful I met the kind, critical understanding
of Aesthetic Realism!
Where was he suspicious of
greatest suspicion of men is that in some way they don’t understand, a
woman is trying to make them weaker. Was you purpose to have him
I was asked this question in my first consultation,
central to our subject tonight: “Do you think you can know Mr. Morrison
just by himself?” Yes, I thought I could! But they explained: “Women
the big mistake of thinking they can know one person out of the
and not have to know anyone else deeply.” In his great lecture, Aesthetic
Realism As Understanding, Mr. Siegel explains:
There is no such thing as a
to understand which is only centered about one thing or a few
we understand ourselves without understanding all that we are connected
with? Aesthetic Realism says no, we cannot.
I learned that day in April that I needed to know
and be a just critic of the world to love a man, because it is
outside world that every man comes from and represents. It was, in
my attitude to the world which interfered in my caring for any
My consultants asked: “Do you think the world
you are in is good enough for you?” No, I answered. A man’s job was to
provide an exclusive haven where I was supreme and didn’t have to be
to him or to anything.
As I saw how hurtful my scorn and aloofness
were and began to be a critic of myself--and learned that the world and
other people were, as Mr. Siegel described, the “outside explanation”
myself, my fatigue left. I began to be interested in understanding
and things, and I felt alive!
In Aesthetic Realism classes I had the honor
to attend with Mr. Siegel, I was seen truly, with critical depth,
and cultural largeness. In one class, Mr. Siegel asked me: “What
did you condemn yourself most for at various times?”
Nancy Huntting: For wanting to
Eli Siegel: Have the read the poem
“The Lotus Eaters” of Tennyson? Were they Hunttingish? [And] the desire
not to be bothered is in Keats’ “Ode to Indolence.”
I was learning that through studying these works
I could understand myself and others! And then he asked something which
surprised me very much -- ”Did you also get very angry?” I had
a quiet manner, and didn’t like seeing myself as angry, but what
came to my mind was the time I threw a book at Mr. Morrison, and the
times I yelled cruel things at my mother. How did Mr. Siegel
He explained: “People who have indolence can also tear up the place.”
composed this bold, dignified, humorous couplet I love, enabling me to
have pleasure seeing the relation of two things that so troubled
Something like the relation of indolence and anger
that was in me is in the young wife, Alison Porter, in John Osborne’s
“Look Back in Anger.” This play is courageous in showing how unkind a
can be when she’s after her own importance with a man, and doesn’t give
a damn for understanding him or encouraging what is best in him.
Our Anger in
Behalf of True Criticism--or Ourselves Narrowly?
Excessive indolence and a
That is what Nancy Huntting
Mr. Siegel said in a 1972 lecture, “Anger is
of two kinds: anger that is large, or an anger for yourself” -- and he
commented then on the term “the angry young men” -- used first about
in plays and novels, including this play by John Osborne -- in relation
to an anger he described as increasing all over the world because of
contemptuous use of people’s lives and labor to make profit.
Jimmy Porter is 25 years old and from a working
class family; his father died when he was ten as a result of wounds he
got fighting against the fascists in the Spanish Civil War. Alison’s
is well-to-do, her father a retired colonel who served the British
in India, and her parents tried to stop the marriage, because they felt
Jimmy had neither the money or background to be good enough for their
But Alison liked Jimmy’s energy -- ”everything
about him seemed to burn,” she says, “his eyes were so blue and full of
sun.” He affects her very much--shakes her up, demands she think,
her snobbish aloofness -- but she is angry that he does. Though she
her parents to marry him, she is now using them to justify her being
of her husband and his lack of an impressive job; she dismisses his
for music and his trumpet playing, and it makes Jimmy furious.
The stage directions describe Alison as having
a “well-bred malaise”-- which, like my indolence, comes from
looking down on people. She has the ugly duality Mr. Siegel once kindly
criticized in me when he said: “I see you as a person who wants to love
something securely, and at the same time not give up your disdain.”
As the play begins, Jimmy and Alison have been
married for a few years and it’s clear Alison has thrown cold water on
her husband’s enthusiasm for some time, and stonewalled his criticism
cool silences and acting injured. Jimmy doesn’t know what to do, but he
hasn’t given up on her.
The stage directions tell us Jimmy has “a
mixture of sincerity and cheerful malice, of tenderness and freebooting
cruelty.” Sincerity and malice, tenderness and cruelty are
and John Osborne’s play shows, as, I have learned all drama does, that
to understand a self is to understand the opposites in that self. Jimmy
Porter can be criticized, but he is not smooth, and the desire in him
be a true critic of things and people -- to put together where he’s for
the world and against it -- can be respected very much.
It is a cool, cloudy Sunday evening in April,
and in the Porter’s flat, Jimmy and his friend Cliff, who lives across
the hall and works with him during the week in an open market stall,
reading the papers while Alison irons. Throughout the first act, Jimmy
is the person who does nearly all the talking -- he has an interest in
things and people that is deeply likable.
As Jimmy reads the newspapers, he objects to
phony, obscure writing in them, and, making an effort to get Alison’s
Jimmy: “What about you?...Do the papers
make you feel you’re not so brilliant after all?”
Alison: [absently] “Oh--I
Jimmy: “I didn’t ask you
Alison: “I’m sorry. I wasn’t
This is clearly not the first time this has
happened, and Jimmy shows how much he is hurt that his wife can just
him out, as if what he says doesn’t matter.
Jimmy. "Old Porter talks, and everyone
turns over and goes to sleep. And Mrs. Porter gets ‘em all going
with the first yawn."
Cliff. "Leave her
Jimmy [shouting]. "All
Go back to sleep. It was only me talking. You know? Talking?
toward her] Remember? I’m sorry."
There are painful situations like this occurring
all over America now in kitchens and living rooms, and couples don’t
why. We asked Melanie Ward, a young wife who is having Aesthetic
consultations, “Does David Ward ever say --’You don’t listen-- I didn’t
say that?’” “Yes,” she answered, “He said something just like that to
the other day.” In TRO #1320, Ellen Reiss writes about this, and what
says is criticism everyone needs to take seriously if they are going to
be successful in love:
[O]ne of the most frequent
contempt is the ...putting on a show of listening while one’s mind is
superior company, the company within oneself. Further...there
often is not full listening: the wanting to have another’s words really
matter to one and to give those words the deepest thought possible.
Purpose of Love and Criticism: To Like the World
© Aesthetic Realism
Nancy Huntting. All rights reserved