December 9, 2011
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Ideas and Media

Over at HtLit, Stacey Mason discussed an Alan Bigelow interview. Bigelow reminds us that no idea can only be conveyed through an electronic medium.

Is this a sensible question? What idea can only be conveyed, for example, through opera? If there’s an idea in Brancusi’s “Bird In Space” then, yes, it’s probably specific to sculpture and you can’t really convey it through another medium. But is the thing that the Bird In Space expresses an idea, precisely?

Don Giovanni is a swell show and there’s nothing like it, but there are plenty of other ways to talk about its ideas. Same thing for The Odyssey, or “All Along The Watchtower,” or “Impression,” or PV=nRT. Indeed, the set of ideas that really do seem to be limited to a medium are precisely those we can’t discuss here! Things we can only convey in one medium are things we can’t talk about, since things we can talk about can surely be conveyed in prose, poetry, song, or drama.

But are things of which we cannot speak “ideas”?