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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Sat Nov 08, 2008 6:14 pm 
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I think these terms can be over-reduced, as well. I have always thought of literati as not having branches on the lower 2/3 of the tree, but of course there are always exceptions. Perhaps literati as a classification is more forgiving of exceptions.

Feminine has been used in many ways in bonsai, usually meaning softer in tone or less angular, softer of foliage, etc.

For example, JBP is usually considered masculine and Japanese Red or White pine more femninine. Trident maple is considered more masculine and Japanese maple more feminine. Am I mistaken here? But how do we explain that more fully?


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 12:42 am 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
I think these terms can be over-reduced, as well. I have always thought of literati as not having branches on the lower 2/3 of the tree, but of course there are always exceptions. Perhaps literati as a classification is more forgiving of exceptions.

Feminine has been used in many ways in bonsai, usually meaning softer in tone or less angular, softer of foliage, etc.

For example, JBP is usually considered masculine and Japanese Red or White pine more femninine. Trident maple is considered more masculine and Japanese maple more feminine. Am I mistaken here? But how do we explain that more fully?


You can't; it's all conjecture and opinion. Terms like feminine, masculine, grace, wabi, sabi, and so on are words applied to concepts that we struggle to find words for. In a sense everything we are attempting to do is define the esoteric side of a metaphor, where the meaphor is more important than the object it attempts to describe. So, in a word the Literati style is a bonsai metaphor.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 1:34 pm 
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Vance Wood wrote:
You can't; it's all conjecture and opinion. Terms like feminine, masculine, grace, wabi, sabi, and so on are words applied to concepts that we struggle to find words for. In a sense everything we are attempting to do is define the esoteric side of a metaphor, where the meaphor is more important than the object it attempts to describe. So, in a word the Literati style is a bonsai metaphor.


I don't believe it's all conjecture and opinion. Words mean things, and if the word we are using is insufficient or means different things to different people, we owe it to ourselves and the world to try to achieve, if not common ground, at least common definitions so as to make our differing opinions properly understood. It may take thousands of words (god, I hope not!), but we have to try.

Metaphors are great in that they illustrate an idea. I think we need a better metaphor.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Sun Nov 09, 2008 5:17 pm 
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Last edited by Richard Patefield on Mon Apr 27, 2009 6:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 1:49 am 
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Chris Johnston wrote:
I think we need a better metaphor.


But Chris, the tree is the metaphor....

There is no one thing that typifies literati, there are no numbers, no specifications, no English words. It is an emotion, a feeling. Understand the emotion and you will unserstand the style. Mike is right in that you have to look at literati and feel their 'spirit' before you can either fully appreciate them or successfully create them.

Try defining the sensation of plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. You can't. It is the kind of thing that one might use to describe plonking your foot into something else that's squidgy. Define squidgy: Like plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. Get my drift? To understand fully the sensation, you have no alternative but to experience it!

There are any number of terms that could be used to define literati, some have been mentioned: feminine, grace, elegance. One could use sinuous, lonesome, fluid, sparse or, considering the term 'literati, calligraphic.

To define any of the above in this particular context, you must look at a good literati bonsai. What you see is a visual metaphor for the abstract concepts the words are attempting to describe. The tree defines the words.

It is a particularly western thing to want written definitions, formulae, sizes, numbers, rules. (Never liked any of them much, personally!) Hark back to Peter Warren's explanation of the appeal of Mike's tree to the judges, and you'll see it is highly charged with emotion and rather sparse in the definitions department.

So, when someone asks you to define literati, tell them it's like plonking your bare foot in a bowl of jello.

.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 7:58 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Chris Johnston wrote:
I think we need a better metaphor.


But Chris, the tree is the metaphor....

There is no one thing that typifies literati, there are no numbers, no specifications, no English words. It is an emotion, a feeling. Understand the emotion and you will unserstand the style. Mike is right in that you have to look at literati and feel their 'spirit' before you can either fully appreciate them or successfully create them.

Try defining the sensation of plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. You can't. It is the kind of thing that one might use to describe plonking your foot into something else that's squidgy. Define squidgy: Like plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. Get my drift? To understand fully the sensation, you have no alternative but to experience it!

There are any number of terms that could be used to define literati, some have been mentioned: feminine, grace, elegance. One could use sinuous, lonesome, fluid, sparse or, considering the term 'literati, calligraphic.

To define any of the above in this particular context, you must look at a good literati bonsai. What you see is a visual metaphor for the abstract concepts the words are attempting to describe. The tree defines the words.

It is a particularly western thing to want written definitions, formulae, sizes, numbers, rules. (Never liked any of them much, personally!) Hark back to Peter Warren's explanation of the appeal of Mike's tree to the judges, and you'll see it is highly charged with emotion and rather sparse in the definitions department.

So, when someone asks you to define literati, tell them it's like plonking your bare foot in a bowl of jello.

.


Thank You, that's pretty much what I was trying to say. Except better.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 8:55 am 
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If I may..... the parts make up the whole and it is these parts that cause us to say "Literati" instead of "Informal Upright."

We have already named some of these parts:

Feminine
Minimalistic
Emphasis is always on the trunk

Since there doesn't seem to be any Literati at all without these aspects, they must be necessary for a bonsai to be perceived as one.


Will


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 10:37 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
the tree is the metaphor....

.


You are using 'metaphor' in a funny way. Metaphors are comparisons, if the tree is a metaphor, what is it being compared to?

Also pretty surprised to see an author shying away from 'hard' words.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:06 am 
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In a sense Bonsai is a metaphor in that this little tree/bush/shrub is being compared to a mature ancient tree growing on the mountain side. The Literati is even more so because it does not fill a niche other than it's own, with the exception of an evidence of age and associated wear and tear. It could be said also that the Literati is the more plausible of forms existing in our imaginations but seldom seen in nature in the ways we perceive them. In other word is should exist, and it could exist most certainly somewhere but does it?

We see the Formal Upright, the Informal Upright, the Slanting, The Wind Swept, the Twisted, the Semi-cascade and even rarely the Cascade. All of the fathomable forms we have learned over the years have there roots in the real and tangible forms we see in nature almost every-where. Though all the bonsai imitating these forms could be said to be metaphorical, it is the Literati that is least definable. It's metaphor is found in another ill-defined term mentioned above---plausible. It is a figment of our imagination. Dare I make so bold a statement as to suggest that the Literati is the manifestation of our deepest feelings about the simplicity of bonsai, less hindered by standards of form, shape, and style, but dependant upon our desire to express an idea for its own sake.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:11 am 
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Vance Wood wrote:
In a sense Bonsai is a metaphor in that this little tree/bush/shrub is being compared to a mature ancient tree growing on the mountain side.


That is straightforward iconic representation - bonsai are representations of trees in the landscape because they look like them. Nothing mystical, arcane or metaphorical about that.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 11:19 am 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Chris Johnston wrote:
I think we need a better metaphor.


But Chris, the tree is the metaphor....

There is no one thing that typifies literati, there are no numbers, no specifications, no English words. It is an emotion, a feeling. Understand the emotion and you will unserstand the style. Mike is right in that you have to look at literati and feel their 'spirit' before you can either fully appreciate them or successfully create them.

Try defining the sensation of plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. You can't. It is the kind of thing that one might use to describe plonking your foot into something else that's squidgy. Define squidgy: Like plonking your bare foot into a bowl of jello. Get my drift? To understand fully the sensation, you have no alternative but to experience it!

There are any number of terms that could be used to define literati, some have been mentioned: feminine, grace, elegance. One could use sinuous, lonesome, fluid, sparse or, considering the term 'literati, calligraphic.

To define any of the above in this particular context, you must look at a good literati bonsai. What you see is a visual metaphor for the abstract concepts the words are attempting to describe. The tree defines the words.

It is a particularly western thing to want written definitions, formulae, sizes, numbers, rules. (Never liked any of them much, personally!) Hark back to Peter Warren's explanation of the appeal of Mike's tree to the judges, and you'll see it is highly charged with emotion and rather sparse in the definitions department.

So, when someone asks you to define literati, tell them it's like plonking your bare foot in a bowl of jello.

.


With all due respect, Colin, we are not seeking formulas and rules, sizes, etc. I know the title of this thread is "defining literati" and that is our context. But I much prefer the idea of describing literati, because that is what definition really is. The dictionary does not (popular opinion notwithstanding) regulate what a word can mean. It describes the usage common, uncommon, and archaic. My point is that if the words being used to describe the literati are insufficient, we need better words.

The fact is, that most Americans may never see a truly great literati tree, or even a pretty good one. Insofar as what we do is separated geographically, words and images are about all we have to work with a great deal of the time. It's why we are on the web.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 2:07 pm 
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Richard Patefield wrote:
You are using 'metaphor' in a funny way. Metaphors are comparisons...


Richard, I think you are refering to simile, not metaphor.

To say A is like B is a simile, a comparison. To say A is B is a metaphor.
If, metaphorically, A is B then B must also be A - metaphorically.

All bonsai styles have descriptive titles that tell you what they look like - all except one: literati. This title is metaphorical of necessity since a concise descriptive title is all but impossible. Given that metaphors are used where other means of definition or description fail, we must accept that to comprehend the metaphorical description (B) we must look at the object itself (A) for definition. Thus, in this case, the tree becomes the metaphor for all we are trying to say about it.

Richard Patefield wrote:
Also pretty surprised to see an author shying away from 'hard' words.


I have absolutely no idea what you refer to here. In any case, the words are not hard, Richard, but comprehending the abstract concept apparently is.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 3:15 pm 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Richard Patefield wrote:
You are using 'metaphor' in a funny way. Metaphors are comparisons...


Richard, I think you are refering to simile, not metaphor.

To say A is like B is a simile, a comparison. To say A is B is a metaphor.
If, metaphorically, A is B then B must also be A - metaphorically.



Simile and metaphor are related.

'A SIMILE is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y , using the words AS or LIKE .'

'A METAPHOR is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, and where X is said TO BE Y. A METAPHOR says that X IS Y.'

http://www.newi.ac.uk/englishresources/workunits/ks3/langmedia/all/simandmet2.html

English is my thing - you won't find much profit in bandying words with me.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 4:58 pm 
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Richard Patefield wrote:

'A SIMILE is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y , using the words AS or LIKE .'

'A METAPHOR is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, and where X is said TO BE Y. A METAPHOR says that X IS Y.'


Er - i think that's more or less what I said.

Quote:
English is my thing - you won't find much profit in bandying words with me.


I have no desire to bandy words with you or anyone else, it is you who seems intent on bandying words with me. You seem so intent on scoring points that you attempt to disprove a statement of mine by repeating it almost verbatim, and to prove a statement of yours by citing three dictionary definitions none of which coincide precisely with it. Furthermore, please don't construe as timidity my desire not to appear sesquipedalian.

English may be your thing, but art and bonsai in particular is very much mine. When I make a statement like "the tree is the metaphor", try to comprehend the statement first. If you can achieve that, whether or not you agree with it, you will find no need to question the words chosen. Let me help: Rimsky-Korsakov's Flight of the Bumble Bee is a musical simile - the violins sound like a bee. On the other hand, Debussy's Girl With the Flaxen Hair is a musical metaphor whereby the listener experiences via the sound the emotional response to the abstract concept.

In the same way, some may see a literati as looking like a particular form of tree in nature (a visual simile), others may see a visual metaphor for the emotional response that words fail to define when viewing such a tree in nature.


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 Post subject: Re: Defining Literati Style
PostPosted: Mon Nov 10, 2008 5:39 pm 
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Colin Lewis wrote:
Richard Patefield wrote:

'A SIMILE is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y , using the words AS or LIKE .'

'A METAPHOR is a figure of speech where X is compared to Y, and where X is said TO BE Y. A METAPHOR says that X IS Y.'


Er - i think that's more or less what I said.


No, the important bit is that they are both comparisons.

I still think you are using 'metaphor' in a funky, nonstandard way.
A metaphor is not a mystery, it must be possible to say what things are being compared and the grounds of that comparison or it has no meaning.

What you are referring to is more akin to the 'objective correlative' of T.S. Eliot.

'The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative"; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.'


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