Claudia Moscovici

Advance Praise for The Seducer

 


Advance Praise for my new novel about psychopathic seduction, The Seducer:

Like the best, most delicious novels, Claudia Moscovici’s psychological thriller, The Seducer, grips you in its opening pages and holds you in its addictive clutches straight through to its dramatic, remarkable conclusion. This is a fascinating novel, on every page of which Moscovici’s intimate understanding of the psychology of psychopaths and their victims gleams with a laser’s concentrated brilliance. The result is a narrative that builds with a patient, yet propulsive, force; a narrative whose intensity and suspense, in tandem, leave the reader eager to know, at every step of the way, what happens next? I encourage the reader to start this novel with a full set of nails, because it’s a nail biter in the most literal sense.

Steve Becker, MSW, LCSW LoveFraud.com feature columnist, Expert/Consultant on Narcissism and Psychopathy

What is love in this seductive new novel? Hypnotic attraction or deadly trap? A dream come true or a world filled with obsessions in the absence of genuine feelings? The Seducer probes the chilling depths of alienation and selfishness as the heroine, Ana, is caught in the spider’s web of her narcissistic lover, Michael. No magic, just cruelty. Claudia Moscovici wrote a powerful novel about an unfortunate reality many women face: the unraveling of their romantic dreams as love turns into a cold and calculated game of chess.

Carmen Firan, author of Words and Flesh

The Seducer offers a thrilling look at the most dangerous men out there, that every woman is warned about and many encounter: the psychopathic predator. We’ve seen these men featured in the news for their gruesome crimes. But few would expect them to be the charming, debonair, romantic seducers that love stories are made of. When the heroine of the novel, Ana, met Michael, she was in for the roller-coaster ride of her life. In her exciting second novel, The Seducer, Claudia Moscovici depicts with talent and psychological accuracy the spellbinding power of these charming yet dangerous Don Juans.

D. R. Popa, author of Lady V and Other Stories (Spuyten Duyvil, 2007)

Claudia Moscovici’s new psychological thriller, The Seducer, reminds us of classics like Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but with a  contemporary twist. The new seducer is a psychopath, a dangerous predator without genuine emotion. And yet, we remain fascinated as he charms two women: one of them utterly dependent, the other seduced but autonomous. The reader’s outrage toward the reprehensible Michael may feel neutralized by the author’s meticulous studies of the psychopath in action and by what I call “ethical irony,” an often hidden moral perspective. Moscovici’s epic of betrayal and self-deception draws the reader into the convoluted mind of sexual predators and their victims. The narrative is bold, vivid and lucid.

Edward K. Kaplan, Brandeis University

You can view The Seducer online on the links below:

Claudia Moscovici, Notablewriters.com


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December 22, 2010 Posted by | abuse, Advance Praise for The Seducer, bitlit, Carmen Firan, Claudia Moscovici, D. R. Popa, domestic abuse, Edward Kaplan, fiction, literary criticism, literary fiction, literature, literature salon, literaturesalon, love story, passion, psychological fiction, psychopath, psychopathy, Radu Popa, social predators, sociopath, sociopathy, Steve Becker | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Advance Praise for The Seducer

The Postromantic Manifesto

Some artistic movements happen organically. The Impressionist and Fauve movements, for example, emerged naturally from the artists’ friendship and practice. The name and the aesthetic philosophy of Impressionism came almost as an afterthought, accidentally. Yet both the name and the concept stuck. An insulting word cast by an art critic about Monet’s painting Impression, Sunrise became the seed that eventually gave this group of artists a recognizable image. Other artistic movements happen prescriptively. The Surrealists could not have been what they were without the philosophical structure and sometimes dogmatically narrow focus that the writer André Breton gave to their art. Today movements can come together in virtual space. The Internet connects artists from all corners of the world who would never have met, created together, seen that they share the same vision, become friends. This is how postromanticism happened. Before I met any of the artists, I had written about the aesthetic values contemporary art had lost and should attempt to recapture. I called that aesthetic “postromanticism” and posted it on the internet. Postromanticism as a movement, however, didn’t come into being until 2002, when one artist, the Mexican sculptor Leonardo Pereznieto, saw his art reflected in my words. Since then we have discovered dozens of artists who identify their art with our aesthetic vision. My book, Romanticism and Postromanticism (Lexington Books, hardcover 2007, paperback 2010) introduces some of these artists and the postromantic movement. This brief essay will describe how it originated.

A logical way to explain the nature of postromantic art is to begin with its name. Surely with a name like postromanticism, this movement has something to do with Romantic art. Yet since we put the post- in there, it must also come after Romanticism and be contemporary in some way. Postromanticism is, indeed, primarily, but not exclusively, inspired by nineteenth-century Romantic art. Postromantic painters admire the art of Bouguereau, whose sensual, palpable images of angelic women and shepherd girls were eventually displaced by the less idealized style of the Impressionists. They also find inspiration in the paintings of the Pre-Raphaelites, which shocked Victorian society only to stand the test of time as one of the period’s most interesting artistic legacies. Postromantic sculptors identify with the art of the sculptor Rodin, who revolutionized sculpture as the expression of passion, sensuality and emotion.

When I spoke to a journalist about postromantic art to offer an introduction to one of our collective exhibits, she raised several questions that were crucial to explaining this movement. She asked me: where is the “post” in postromanticism? What makes postromantic art original? What makes this group of individual artists scattered all over the world a movement? Here I will answer these questions.

1. Romantic in Inspiration

It’s relatively easy to point to the continuity between the Romantic and Postromantic movements. Like Romantic artists, the Postromantics capture human passion, sensuality and beauty in their works. They mirror and at the same time idealize visual reality. When you look at the sculptures of Leonardo Pereznieto or Nguyen Tuan, you immediately detect the influence of Rodin. Similarly, Edson Campos’ paintings evoke the sensual purity of Maxfield Parrish and the allegorical narratives and elegance of the Pre-Raphaelites.

The postromantic artists, however, also incorporate other styles of art into their own. Which is why what renders them postromantic is not only the inspiration they find in the Romantic movement, but also the fact that like the Romantics, they privilege the expression of beauty, passion and sensuality in their art.

2. Original in Creation

The issue of originality is rather complicated. One might legitimately ask, how are these artists original when they clearly imitate styles of art that are at least two hundred years old? Moreover, haven’t modern styles of art—abstract expressionism, pop art and postmodern installations, ready-mades, pastiches—displaced the tradition of art that imitates and idealizes reality? To explain why and how postromanticism is original, let’s see first what originality means. What makes art be original? As opposed to new? As opposed to a passing fad? As opposed to something that has mere shock-value?

The whole notion that art had to be above all else original began in the nineteenth-century, with the Impressionist movement. Artists such as Manet and Monet staked the value of art on its ability to go against the norms established by the Academy and the Salons. They presented reality in an entirely new way. As the famous French novelist Emile Zola explained, Manet and the Impressionists set the new standard for what makes art be artistic: originality, which implies not mere newness of style, but a relevant and revolutionary newness. A novelty, in other words, that is important to society. After Impressionism, modern art was perceived as provoking thought rather than only stimulating pleasure or emotion. And so art became, as the critic Arthur Danto puts it, increasingly conceptual.

Modern art—the trends of cubism, abstract expressionism, pop art and postmodern art—stakes its worth on establishing this relevant newness. However, contemporary art that continues the trends that began during the early twentieth-century can no longer take it for granted that they’re being new and relevant to their society. When Duchamp placed his urinal on exhibit in New York during the early twentieth-century, he was certainly shocking, not fully serious and arguably original. But anybody who does postmodern ready-mades and installations today will need to think critically about how his or her art is original. Doing what Duchamp did eighty years ago cannot be assumed to be cutting-edge nowadays. Similarly, when Jackson Pollock splattered paint on a canvas and helped establish New York as the epicenter of international art, he was controversial and original. Now the tradition of abstraction is eighty years old. Any artist who paints in an abstract style cannot automatically present his or her work as original, fresh and modern.

I haven’t yet established the originality of postromantic art, but I have shown that its competitors haven’t either. We’re all in the same boat. In fact, it’s arguably more new and different to find inspiration in styles of art that are three hundred years old than to imitate those that are fifty years old. Modernist trends are much more common and accepted by today’s artistic establishment. Does this mean that we should abandon looking for originality in contemporary art?

Absolutely not. Art today can still be original if it puts a new twist on whatever tradition in the history of art it follows and if it shows that this twist is still interesting and relevant to the society and culture of its own times. For art is even more about the public—promotion, sales, influence, consecration—than it is about the creative process and the individual artists.

To illustrate this point, I’ll borrow an analogy from the novelist and paradox-maker, Borges. Borges once wrote a story about an author, named Pierre Menard, who tried to rewrite the novel Don Quixote in the twentieth-century. Menard reproduced Cervantes’ text word by word. Yet from a certain perspective his novel was entirely different. When you transpose fiction into a whole new context, Borges illustrates, everything changes.

Cervantes was creating a whole new lay Spanish language that was unpretentious and easy to understand for his times. Writing in the same prose several centuries later, Menard, however, sounded stale and quaint to his readers. Furthermore, the social and religious assumptions Cervantes could take for granted, Menard had to learn with great effort by reading biography, history and learning the classical languages. Last but not least, while Cervantes’ novel fit with his context and established the tradition of novel writing, Menard’s Don Quixote stuck out like a sore thumb in the context of twentieth-century literature. By then readers were used to the train of thought style and fragmentation of modern fiction. In this context, a novel like Don Quixote seemed glaringly traditional. Borges’ story shows that art is never just its content, but is in large part a product of its social context. Writing and readers, art and the public, are inextricably intertwined. Which is why one can’t bring back the past exactly as it was even if one reproduces older styles down to their smallest details.

3. Sticking Out

Much like Menard’s twentieth-century version of Don Quixote, postromantic art deliberately sticks out against the background of contemporary art, so heavily dominated by modern and especially postmodern art. But postromantic art is not reactionary. Postromantic artists realize, as Borges’ parable illustrates, that bringing back nineteenth-century Romanticism intact would be an impossible goal. We do not wish to freeze any art movement in time.  Instead, postromantic artists preserve the best of tradition—by placing emphasis upon technical skill, beauty and passion—while still keeping up with the times—by using new media, being sensitive to our contemporary public and creating new styles.

I consider artistic movements to be not only chronological, or following one another in art history and then dissipating and dying forever. Rather, art is also, at the same time, “chronotopic” (to use Bakhtin’s famous formulation): new art is constantly fertilized by various former styles and movements, which it renews for its own context. Which is why you will discover postmodern pastiche mixed with a traditional techniques in the paintings of Edson Campos and David Graux and the use of new media—acrylics and fiber optic illumination—in the Rodin-like sculptures of Leonardo Pereznieto. Not to speak of the exquisite photography of Guido Argentini, which endows modern images with the beauty, immobility, expressivity and endurance of Romantic and modernist sculpture. In this balance between old and new lies our originality. We are new in our unique and harmonious combination of modern and traditional techniques. We are relevant in providing the sophistication critics seek with the beauty, passion and accessibility that the public prefers.

4.  The Postromantic Movement

Does the fact we’re original in some ways make us a movement? More generally, what makes something be an art movement? First, a movement has to include a significant number of artists, a group. Such a group needs to be formed by artists who have a reputation on their own, as individuals. Our movement, which has just begun to form, already includes dozens of artists from several countries, including Mexico, Brazil, the United States, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Romania and Italy. And we’re growing rapidly as more artists see the appeal of postromantic art.

Second, to be a movement, a group of artists has to propose some shared techniques and a cohesive vision. The postromantic artists do have that in common implicitly. My job as a writer is to help render what they have in common more obvious by articulating an aesthetic vision.

Third, and most importantly, a movement has to move. An art movement affects the public; is discussed by art critics and the media; adapts to society; is challenged and reacted against (otherwise it becomes complacent and stale); it spreads and mutates; is imitated or followed by other artists. We’re starting to meet this much tougher standard as well. The postromantic artists have had articles written on their art all over the world. They had several collective exhibits, including at the Biennale di Firenze, the art expo in Florence, Italy, where a section of the museum was devoted to postromantic art. However, what ultimately will make this movement move is you—our public and readers—for whom we paint, sculpt, photograph and write. It’s to you that we devote postromanticism, the art of passion.

Claudia Moscovici

Postromanticism.com


October 29, 2010 Posted by | aesthetics, art criticism, Claudia Moscovici, literature salon, literaturesalon, passion, postromanticism Claudia Moscovici, Romanticism, Romanticism and Postromanticism, The Postromantic Manifesto | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Love Got to Do With It? Passion as the Key (Post)romantic Trope

Seduction and romantic love are often viewed as interchangeable.  But, in fact, they can be polar opposites. In the past two blog entries on psychopathic seduction, I introduced what love is NOT. Love is not a game; it is not a dominance bond; it is not based on deception; it is not a form of conquest of another. Today I’d like to offer a more positive reflection on love, and in particular, of one of the key tropes of Romantic love: passion.

Passion was the core of the Romantic movement. It is also, along with sensuality and the appreciation of beauty, the focal point of the contemporary aesthetic movement I co-founded with the artist Leonardo Pereznieto in 2002, postromanticism.com. Sensuality and passion hardly seem separable since we tend to experience them together. It’s nearly impossible to imagine passion without the excitement, agitation and upheaval of the senses and emotions that we associate with sensuality. At the same time, however, sensuality and passion are opposites. Sensuality is the acute sensibility to beauty and to the myriad of potential delights it promises. It’s a way of seeing beauty in the world, in both human beings and objects. Such beauty is so vast and all-pervasive—kalon, or sea of beauty as Plato’s prophetess, Diotima had depicted—that it’s not necessarily anchored by any preference or bound by any attachment. Every week we may gaze at dozens of attractive persons, inspiring scenes and beautiful paintings or sculptures. Sensuality moves our eyes from object to object, stirring our desires, dreams and solipsistic emotions, but not necessarily capturing our devotion.

Much as sensuality, in its link to perception, evokes the aesthetic and epistemological dimensions of postromanticism, passion constitutes its ethics. This doesn’t mean that postromanticism mandates that human beings should not appreciate a multitude of objects or beings. But it does unabashedly declare: love is special. Many of us fall passionately in love and such feelings are so miraculous that they seem to defy explanation. Yet, at the same time, they are so important that they have inspired thousands of writers, poets, philosophers and artists throughout human history to depict passionate love. Not everyone does or should fall deeply in love. But those who do, we tend to believe, are very fortunate. If passionate love is a privileged form of human experience that has intrigued us for millennia, then it’s certainly worth valorizing it in our times.

Like Romanticism, postromanticism focuses above all on the expression of passionate love. Yet, in our day and age—an age so imbued with feminine and feminist sensibilities—one can no longer speak of the asymmetrical love between a male poet or artist and his ethereal muse, which has long been the dominant cliché of Romanticism. Postromantic love is reciprocal and symmetrical. Nor does postromanticism preserve the instrumental view of passion as a means of reaching something higher than human experience; of moving from the human to the divine, as we see in idealist traditions of love from Plato, to the Renaissance neoplatonists, to the Romantics. In Postromantic poetry, literature and art, passion begins with earthly existence and never transcends it.

Definition: So what is postromantic passion? Above all, passion is a focalization of the senses, thoughts and emotions upon one primary subject. I call it an ethics because it implies considering at every step one’s attitude and actions towards the beloved and, conversely, his or her actions and feelings towards oneself.

 The transcendent in the contingent: The beloved is not randomly chosen. Even if meeting him or her occurs by accident—as do most human encounters—the fit between the lovers feels so right that it appears to be determined by a higher force. The intervention of that higher force cannot be proven. Nonetheless, it has a certain metonymic logic similar to the one described by the Stoics, who perceived the imprint of divine will in the beauty and harmony of the universe. Postromanticism thus spiritualizes, but only gently and lightly, passionate love. It doesn’t necessarily express a belief in divinity, but rather an elevation of emotion and humanity. Passionate love is that which uplifts one’s creative and life energies, as if by force of destiny, with the elegance, sense of wonder and inevitability of something that appears to transcend human experience.

The artist and the muse: With so many successful female artists in the world and, more generally, with so many women encouraged to pursue their talents, it’s impossible nowadays to retain the Romantic idea of the artist as male and the muse as female. When the passion is shared, both members of the couple can inspire and engage in creativity.

Idealization and lucidity: While Romanticism tends towards the idealization of the beloved, postromanticism claims that the beauty of love and of the beloved often lies in his or her imperfection. For the Romantic poets the muse was otherworldly. Only through her nonexistence could she embody aesthetic ideals. She wasn’t a woman, but a fantasy, a dream. In postromanticism, however, the source of inspiration is not a “crystallized” or idealized object of the imagination—as the novelist Stendhal had described love—but a contingent person who is known in the smallest details of his or her reality. Which is not to say that postromanticism follows the legacy of realism or naturalism. In postromanticism, unlike in naturalism, the mundane aspects of the lovers and of love itself never become scientifically predictable, mythical or grotesque, as they do, for instance, in Zola’s naturalist fiction. Postromanticism declares: real love is endearing and unique; a product of a rare fit between two individuals who, through their mutual devotion, create lasting values in an ephemeral life.

Focalization: We tend assume that the Romantic life is synonymous with the adventurous life, the life of an emotional tourist: traveling everywhere; having a multiplicity of relationships; experiencing each type of woman or man as one samples exotic dishes from distant parts of the world. Yet when one glides only on the surface of human existence, it’s difficult to be immersed in passion. For passion requires time to become deeper, richer and more intimate; it requires focalization so that it will not disperse and become a flash of intensity that’s one episode among a hundred others. In losing focus, passion also loses intensity and significance. It ceases to exist.

Energy: Passion is a mutual consumption that gives rather than depleting energy. Like a windmill, like any rhythmic movement, it generates while absorbing energy, but not all by itself, but from the external impetus of two individuals’ continual efforts to live for and with each other.

Symmetry: Passion is constantly reinforced by symmetrical dialogue. The lovers negotiate everything and feel equal in the relationship. Which doesn’t mean that they’re identical. In fact, often passion becomes more exciting when the lovers share differences in temperament, point of view and opinion. Yet there are no conventional gender roles in postromanticism. One person is not necessarily more submissive, the other more authoritative; one person is not necessarily more emotive, the other more rational. The differences are unique to each couple, not necessarily polarized. They are diffused, varied and less predictable than in the Romantic complementarity between masculine and feminine roles.

Reciprocity: Reciprocity, which was largely ignored by the Romantic movement, is the pillar of postromanticism. Passion that is mostly solipsistic—one human being’s dream or projection upon an idealized person—is not real. It may represent desire or even a strong infatuation. But only once feelings, thoughts and desires are shared, do we enter the realm of passionate love.

Proximity and distance: The Romantic male artists and their muses, even when they coupled in real life, appeared infinitely distant in art because the descriptions of women were so often veiled and disguised. The Romantics privileged the metaphors of woman as muse, angel, Salomé or femme fatale; of woman as all the more desirable because mysterious, multiple, changing and unattainable. In this tantalizing play and disguise of feminine identity, the difference between Romanticism, modernism and postmodernism is almost effaced. Postromanticism doesn’t need feminine mystery and masquerade to cultivate desire and love. Which doesn’t mean that it assumes love to be transparent. Postromanticism trusts that passionate love can generate its own dynamics: a constant movement between elevating and lowering barriers which, unlike the Romantic vision of the femme fatale who fans desire through strategic advancements and withdrawals, is reciprocal, genuine and spontaneous.

Breathing: Passion is nourished by a proximity and intensity of communication so strong that it seems as if the lovers are breathing each other’s air. Without suffocating. The withdrawals are themselves part of the process of breathing. They are periods of inhaling air, of absorbing life experience and knowledge, in order to exhale it back to one another; to have a renewed life energy to offer one’s beloved.

Thinking: Postromantic passion is characterized by a rhythm and emotion which are genuine and spontaneous yet thoughtful at the same time. In this respect, it resembles Wordsworth’s Romanticism, which described passion as a processed and thoughtful rather than immediate and visceral emotion. Without the mediation of thought, passion risks being just a passing fancy; a gust of wind. And winds quickly change direction. Passion is a symbiotic relation between two individuals who enable each other to interconnect the important aspects of human life, including sensation, emotion and thought. Passion engages all of our human faculties.

Devotion: Passion is an enduring devotion. It’s not necessarily a commitment or responsibility in the way more institutionalized relations are, where the primary connection is external to the relationship. In other words, in passion the connection is not made by conventional morality and law. But the result is even more spectacular. Because devotion, a term evocative of religious experience, has transcendental dimensions. Passion is a secular form of adoration.

Fidelity: We tend to believe that virtue is a more reliable foundation for fidelity than passion, but postromanticism says that’s not the case. Virtue is often tested in the face of temptation and experienced as a tension between conscience and desire. All too often, the desire is more immediate, easier to satisfy and stronger. Passion reduces that tension and alleviates its pangs. In passion, the obsessive desire and focus upon a primary object is so strong that the energy left for others is weaker and more superficial, thus not posing a real threat to the relationship.

Jealousy and Possessiveness: If philosophers from Plato to Kant cautioned against passion, it’s largely because they associated it with negative emotions such as jealousy, possessiveness and hatred, which occur when love turns full circle and collapses upon itself. The Romantics, from Goethe to Constant, often confirmed this negative impression in describing how the force of passion leads to madness, murder and suicide. It’s undoubtedly true that passion is often accompanied by feelings of jealousy and possessiveness. Yet that’s not necessarily a bad sign. In moderation, jealousy and possessiveness may constitute a declaration of love. They can express: I know you desire others and that others are desirable to me, but I need and am grateful for the uniqueness of our attraction and feelings. Jealousy, in moderation, rekindles the flame of passion. It suggests: out of all the desirable persons we meet, I still chose you and you me. Jealousy in excess snuffs out the flame of passion. It suggests: I don’t trust you; you’re not freely mine. Rather than loving you, I possess you.

Ritual: Passion is a cherished ritual rather than a habit. A repetition of activities that appear always new, always exciting, because they’re primarily motivated by emotions and desires. In lasting love, one needs the repetition of activities as one needs to breathe air or eat regularly, rather than going through the motions today out of inertia, because one did it yesterday. In its rhythm and intensity, the repetition of acts in passionate love—going to a movie, dining out—resembles the repetition of religious rituals.

Erotism: Postromantic passion is erotic in a way that’s intensely sensual and at the same time different from diffused sensuality. In passion, the physical longing for someone is stimulated by knowledge and love of that person, rather than the love being motivated primarily by desire. That’s what makes passion different from the multiplicity of human attraction. While sensuality is a feast for the senses, passion offers food for the soul. Postromanticism places passion at its center, declaring: life and art would be emptier and more impoverished without such exquisite nourishment. 

Claudia Moscovici

postromanticism.com

September 15, 2010 Posted by | Claudia Moscovici, literary criticism, literature, love, modern art, passion, Romantic literature, Romanticism, Romanticism and Postromanticism, thoughts on love, thoughts on passion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on What’s Love Got to Do With It? Passion as the Key (Post)romantic Trope