I read Cynthia Ozick‘s essay on Public Intellectuals four times. I devleoped a clearer understanding of her argument by the final reading. She is arguing is that a claim of creating art for arts sake rings hollow and callus in time of national or international crisis or peril.
Forster’s statement that art for art’s sake as the issue of his time was at odds with what was going on in 1941 when the world was in the middle of a war and a depression.
Drawing still lifes, writing love sonnets or writing profiles on the latest pop culture sensation appeared trivial. Still, I find Ozick’s argument limited. She implies that it’s appropriate to create art for arts sake only when the world is not confronting crisis or peril. To which I respond when is that?
There is always a war or rumor of war or a famine, plauge, natural or man made disaster somewhere. Those disasters might not always rise to the level of World War II or the Nazi Holocaust. Who determines what crises require public intellectuals and the artists turn from their other pursuits and create art to raise money or awareness?