August 01, 2012
Moreover, the arts demonstrate prowess, which can raise both the artist and the patron’s social status. In the past, artworks frequently served blatantly to polish their rich and powerful sponsors” reputations: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Even in the more sophisticated modern age, the CIA helped fund the New York school of abstract expressionist painting to boost America’s prestige during the Cold War.
Kirsch, however, doesn”t seem to be acquainted with Wolfe’s status explanations for art’s appeal.
Obviously, unsuccessful artists can have problems getting women, just as unsuccessful warriors often die violently before their reproductive potential is fulfilled. But in the conqueror trade, it’s understood that the genetic losses of the many could be offset by the successes of the few. A 2003 study implied that Genghis Khan was about 800,000 times as successful at passing on his DNA as the average man born in the same era (more than a few of whom Genghis had personally eliminated from the gene pool).
We don”t know if Genghis was actually a frustrated artist or not, but Adolf Hitler was. Mann’s 1938 essay Bruder Hitler brilliantly points out that the FÃ¼hrer possessed an archetypal Romantic artist’s personality:
Must we not, even against our will, recognize in this phenomenon an aspect of the artist’s character?
This suggests that male homosexuality is unlikely to be primarily inherited.
On the other hand, in Mann’s own supremely well-documented family, two of his three sons and one of his three daughters were homosexual like him. (He still wound up with four grandchildren, which is the replacement rate.)
While there is no doubt some correlation between artistic tendencies and male homosexuality, it doesn”t make much sense to argue over art’s biological roots as a proxy for a debate over homosexuality’s biological roots. Mann felt he had to write about his homosexuality indirectly in the guise of his artistry, but unlike Kirsch, we don”t have to blunder down Mann’s misleadingly circuitous path.