I wanted to preface by saying that I really enjoyed this essay. Not only did it raise more than a few questions I don’t have a personal answer to, but it also strung me along answering the questions I was raising as I continued. I’ll share a few thoughts I was interested in getting responses to.

First, can artistic intention really be analyzed when the intent of the piece has been determined to be purely aesthetic in nature? Structuralist and formalist analysis aside (243-245), when the artist claims that the piece is meant to be purely artistic critics will still ascribe whatever beliefs they feel onto that piece, no matter how objectively they may view the work. Devereaux argues for this. I believe that Triumph of the Will is really a rare–but poignant–example of when underlying motives can clearly and faithfully be derived from analysis of an artistic work. From there, outside factual historical perspective, critique falls into speculation. In this example, history has revealed the intent of the film. The true vision of the film, moving the audience to support fascism and National Socialism (248) was likely not as widely realized in 1935, especially to the primary audience. Hindsight is one thing, but how many pieces of art that would otherwise be considered masterpieces never came to be viewed as such because their original intent followed a different path in history that was never fully realized? Would the film still be considered beautiful and evil upon its release in 1935?

All works are contextually situated, and I would agree with Devereaux’s take that (sophisticated) formalism cannot be used for a pure evaluation of any art. I don’t agree, as she hints at, that critique of the work can be applied under only a single lens of evaluation. Triumph of the Will is evil in the context of history that we understand. But it is also a work of art. It is one of the finest examples of media propaganda in history. It is also viewed as a significant part of a historically important cultural movement. Maybe I’m just overdetermining things, but I agree with Eldridge’s view that critique must be overdeterministic (148). And yes, I may have just made that word up. Devereaux’s historical perspective is still just one perspective, even if it shows that the work is, in fact, evil. I couldn’t help but feel that Devereaux was subtly offering an argument here that formalist understanding is evil or amoral, not an actual critique of Triumph of the Will.

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