Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A unique refraction of a shared experience

Impure Thought from by N Pepperell ...the ways in which my “own” work has been influenced in profound ways by my connections and contacts with others.
I’ve so often been struck by the disjoint between the notion of academic production as an “original” and “individual” effort, and my experience of “my” work as always refracting interactions with others, perpetually deflected by the shock of interaction. So much of my current writing is shaped by the problems that condense and crystallise only from dialogue, the dislocated insights made possible by sliding into perspectives of whose existence I would never have learned, except through others. I view intellectual work - not as necessarily collective, in the sense of a consciously-shared joint project (although it might under certain circumstances be that, as well - but as transcendent of individuals who generate, not a lonely, isolated knowledge, but a unique refraction of a shared experience that each can only partially and incompletely express.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Writing allows one to escape one’s personal history

In spite of what postmodernity’s ubiquitious biographism would have us believe, writing allows one to escape one’s personal history: Spinoza (and Althusser, who followed him very closely in this respect) understood that freedom is only possible once we begin to apprehend the structural determinations that engender our illusion of being naturally autonomous subjects. Spinozist joy arises from a slow, careful dismantling of the self – not a temporary obliteration of the self by the use of intoxicants, but a sober, cognitive detachment from the sad passions that once agitated us. Posted by mark at November 25, 2007 02:45 PM TrackBack k-punk Main

Sunday, November 25, 2007

When you say the most absurd things in earnest there is a certain kind of genius that can be born

That which is in Baudrillard is reducable to All Saints

"The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now;what we shall be has not yet been revealed.We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." from the second reading (1 John)
"To be at the beginning of the world would have been fantastic.But we arrived too late. Only the end remains. Let us therefore apply ourselves to seeing things - values, concepts, institutions - perish, seeing them disappear. This is the only issue worth fighting for." Cool Memories III, Jean Baudrillard
I have been reading Jean Baudrillard's Cool Memories III, I skip over any political parts because politics are admittedly stupid. However, once one cuts off the politiking, we are left with some great brilliance. Granted much is the tongue and cheek approach of Nietzsche which I so adore, but when you say the most absurd things in earnest there is a certain kind of genius that can be born. There are the generally enlightening and amusing, such as:
"Can you devote your existence to an idea which is not yours, or a woman you do not love?"
"The conspiracy of imbeciles is total."
And then there are the truely profound, such as the seeming sophistry of the following four lines which are in isolation within the text:
"That which in the object is irreducible to objectivity. That which in sex is irreducible to sexuality. That which in language is irreducible to signification. That which in the event is irreducible to history."
How is it that things have attributes which are not of the things? In order for an attribute to be of a thing, it must be of a thing, right? This seems obvious, this seems essential. And yet there are attributes of everything which are not of the thing. There is that which is beyond, that which is indescribably identifiable to a thing, but which is not of the thing in itself. Kant, if you will, was mistaken. Things are not in themselves.
So what does this have to do with All Saints? Ahhhh. "What we shall be has not yet been revealed." That which in a human is irreducible to humanity. The Pope today called on us all to become saints, it is not the task of the few. It is an attribute within us all which is outside of our humanity. Our most important attribute is that which is ineffable, the things which make us rise beyond our humanity and brings us closer to saintliness. Posted by mah at Thursday, November 01, 2007

1 comments: chris said... Excellent post!!!! Next you should check out Simulacra and Simulation, especially the section called "The Precession of Simulacra," where B. talks about "the divine irreference of images" and at one point writes: "What if God himself can be simulated, that is to say can be reduced to the signs that constitute faith? Then the whole system becomes weightless, it is no longer itself anything but a gigantic simulacrum -- not unreal, but a simulacrum..."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Harshness and roughness are not merits, but serious faults to be avoided

Inspiration is always a very uncertain thing; it comes when it chooses, stops suddenly before it has finished its work, refuses to descend when it is called. This is a well-known affliction, per­haps of all artists, but certainly of poets. There are some who can command it at will; those who, I think, are more full of an abundant poetic energy than careful for perfection; others who oblige it to come whenever they put pen to paper but with these the inspiration is either not of a high order or quite unequal in its levels. Again there are some who try to give it a habit of coming by always writing at the same time: Virgil with his nine lines first written, then perfected every morning, Milton with his fifty epic lines a day, are said to have succeeded in regularising their inspiration. It is, I suppose, the same principle which makes Gurus in India prescribe for their disciples a meditation at the same fixed hour every day. It succeeds partially of course, for some entirely, but not for everybody. For myself, when the inspiration did not come with a rush or in a stream, — for then there is no difficulty, — I had only one way, to allow a certain kind of incubation in which a large form of the thing to be done threw itself on the mind and then wait for the white heat in which the entire transcription could rapidly take place. But I think each poet has his own way of working and finds his own issue out of inspiration's incertitudes.
2 .
Few poets can keep for a very long time a sustained level of the highest inspiration. The best poetry does not usually come by streams except in poets of a supreme greatness though there may be in others than the greatest long-continued wingings at a con­siderable height. The very best comes by intermittent drops, though sometimes three or four gleaming drops at a time. Even in the greatest poets, even in those with the most opulent flow of riches like Shakespeare the very best is comparatively rare.
All statements are subject to qualification. What Lawrence states is true in principle, but in practice most poets have to sustain the inspiration by industry. Milton in his later days used to write every day fifty lines; Virgil nine which he corrected and recorrected till it was within half way of what he wanted. In other words he used to write under any conditions and pull at his inspiration till it came. Usually the best lines, passages, etc. come like that.
Poetry can start from any plane of consciousness although like all art — or, one might say, all creation — it must always come through the vital if it is to be alive. And as there is always a joy in creation, that joy along with a certain enthousiasmos — not enthusiasm, if you please, but ānandamaya āveśa — must always be there whatever the source. But your poetry differs from the lines you quote. Your inspiration comes from the linking of the vital creative instrument to a deeper psychic experience, and it is that which makes the whole originality and peculiar individual power and subtle and delicate perfection of your poems. It was indeed because this linking-on took place that the true poetic faculty suddenly awoke in you; for it was not there before, at least on the surface. The joy you feel, therefore, was no doubt partly the simple joy of creation, but there comes also into it the joy of expression of the psychic being which was seeking for an outlet since your boyhood. It is this that justifies your poetry-writing as a part of your Sadhana.
I know very well this pressure of a creative formation to express itself and be fulfilled. When it presses like that there is nothing to do but to let it have its way, so as to leave the mind unoccu­pied and clear; otherwise it will be pushed two ways and would not be in the condition of ease necessary for concentration.
On the general question the truth seems to me to be very simple. It may be quite true that fine or telling rhythms without substance (substance of idea, suggestion, feeling) are hardly poetry at all, even if they make good verse. But that is no ground for belittling beauty or excellence of form or ignoring its supreme importance for poetic perfection. Poetry is after all an art and a poet ought to be an artist of word and rhythm, even though necessarily, like other artists, he must also be something more than that, even much more. I hold therefore that harshness and roughness are not merits, but serious faults to be avoided by anyone who wants his work to be true poetry and survive. One can be strong and powerful, full of sincerity and substance without being harsh, rough or aggressive to the ear. Swinburne's later poetry is a mere body of rhythmic sound without a soul, but what of Browning's constant deliberate roughness or, let us say, excessive sturdiness which deprives much of his work of the claim to be poetry — it is already much discredited and it is certain there is much in it that posterity will carefully and with good reason forget to read. Energy enough there is and abundance of matter and these carry the day for a time and give fame, but it is only perfection that endures. Or if the cruder work lasts, it is only by association with the perfection of the same poet's work at his best. I may say also that if mere rhythmic acrobacies of the kind to which you very rightly object condemn a poet's work to inferiority and a literature deviating on to that line to decadence, the drive to­wards a harsh strength and rough energy of form and substance may easily lead to another kind of undesirable acrobacy, an opposite road towards individual inferiority and general deca­dence. Why should not Bengali poetry go on to the straight way of its progress without running either upon the rocks of rough­ness or into the shallows of mere melody? Austerity of course is another matter; rhythm can either be austere to bareness or sweet and subtle, and a harmonious perfection can be attained in either of these extreme directions if the mastery is there.
As for rules — rules are necessary but they are not absolute; one of the chief tendencies of genius is to break old rules and make departures which create new ones. English poetry of to­day luxuriates in movements which to the mind of yesterday would have been insanity or chaotic license, yet it is evident that this freedom of experimentation has led to discoveries of new rhythmic beauty with a very real charm and power and opened out possible lines of growth, — however unfortunate many of its results may be. Not the formal mind, but the ear must be the judge.
Moreover the development of a new note — the expression of a deeper Yogic or mystic experience in poetry — may very well demand for its fulness new departures in technique, a new turn or turns of rhythm, but these should be, I think, subtle in their difference rather than aggressive.
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Beautiful poetry remains beautiful poetry even if it is not in the current style

Not only are there no boundaries left in some arts (like poetry of the ultra-modern schools or painting) but no foundations and no Art either. I am referring to the modernist painters and to the extraordinary verbal jazz which is nowadays often put for­ward as poetry.
Modern Art opines that beauty is functional! that is, what­ever serves its function or serves a true purpose is artistic and beautiful — for instance, if a clerk produces a neat copy of an official letter without mistakes, the clerk and his copy are both of them works of art and beautiful!
March, 1935
The latest craze in England is either for intellectual quintessence or sensations of life, while any emotional and ideal element in poetry is considered as a deadly sin. But beautiful poetry remains beautiful poetry even if it is not in the current style. And after all, Yeats and. A.E. are still there in spite of this new fashion of the last one or two decades.
There is room for sex poetry if it is felt as truth and rendered either with beauty or power, but this crude braggadocio of the flesh is not telling nor attractive. The diabolism and cult of the bizarre in the nineties had a certain meaning, — it was at least a revolt against false conventions and an attempt to escape from the furbished obviousness of much that had gone before. But now it has itself become the obvious and conventional — not it exactly in its old form but the things it attempted to release and these are now trying to escape from their own obviousness by excess, the grotesque, the perverse.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

King James being the literary guiding light of Cooper, Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson

As Camille Paglia (among others) has correctly pointed out the King James Bible was the fount for two springs of American art: music via the Psalmic hymnals of the Puritan era leading through revivalist call and response, through gospel, to jazz, blues, rock, funk, and now hip-hop/rap; writing, via the King James being the literary guiding light of Cooper, Whitman, Melville, and Dickinson.
Theologically there are serious issues with the King James Version. Particularly in its translations of the Psalms. It reads them as Christian documents, which they are not. The translation is suffused with a Christian-reading of non-Christian texts. Theologically this is called supersessionism and has had horrific historical and moral consequences on the Jewish community. [Sidenote: The New King James Version is the worst of both worlds incidentally. It’s non-artistic and piss poor theologically.] (more…)

The blogosphere often seems to be an excuse to avoid cultivating deep relationships

The problem is that over the Internet, and especially in the blogosphere, the potential for misunderstanding each other increases almost exponentially, partially because of the absence of visual and auditory cues, and partially due to the absence of someone’s physical presence. In any event, you cannot really understand who someone is or where they are coming from until you have an actual relationship with them. The blogosphere, to me, often seems to be an excuse to avoid cultivating deep relationships and just waste time in mental-vital arguments. I really wish people would actually talk to me, and engage in meaningful dialogue with me (where both sides let go of egoic fears and anxieties and act from the psychic), rather than jump to conclusions about what I think or what I am doing...
The only thing that is meaningful is touching the soul of another — the rest is just the lower nature indulging itself. All we can do is wait for the irrevocable spiritual transformation, and in the meantime, be aware of our drama. I guess even this post exemplifies my many neuroses — because I don’t really owe anyone an explanation anyway. All this business of needing to constantly explain ourselves is egoic. Often the best response is just silence.... A Brief Note on this Blog from The Stumbling Mystic by ned 3:50 AM, November 17, 2007

Monday, November 12, 2007

Deleuze repeatedly praises works of art and literature in almost rhapsodic terms

The "Wrenching Duality" of Aesthetics: Kant, Deleuze, and the "Theory of the Sensible"
Steven Shaviro November 10, 2007
In this way, the problematic of beauty pertains not just to the creation and reception of works of art, but to sensible experience more generally. Acts of sensible intuition and judgments of beauty alike involve feelings that are receptive and not spontaneous, and for which there can be no adequate concepts. Neither the attribution of time and space to phenomena, nor the attribution of beauty to phenomenal objects, can be justified on cognitive grounds. And yet neither of them is simply arbitrary. In both cases, there is a certain act of creative construction on the part of the subject; yet this construction is responsive to the given data, and cannot be described as the imposition of form upon an otherwise unshaped matter. For if feeling, or being-affected, rather than active cognition, is the basis of experience, then the only way of organizing and ordering this experience must be an immanent one, from within subjective feeling itself, or from within what Kant calls the receptivity of sensible intuition. This problematic of aesthetic singularity, or of a sensible intuition to which no cognition is adequate, is what allows Deleuze to overcome the "wrenching duality" at the heart of aesthetics, and to reunite the two senses of aesthetic experience. What the "Transcendental Aesthetic" in the First Critique shares with the "Analytic of the Beautiful" in the Third, is that they both give an account of non-cognitive, or pre-cognitive, sensible experience.
For Deleuze, the reuniting of the two domains of aesthetics is itself singular and not generalizable; which means that this reunion cannot be accomplished in theory, but only in practice, through actual, singular processes of actualization and individuation. Deleuze often credits modernist art works, like Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and Gombrowicz’s Cosmos, as instances in which "the conditions of real experience and the structures of the work of art are reunited" (1990, 261). But beyond the choice of particular works, I think that Deleuze’s view implies a more general attitude of aestheticism. It must be in the world of everyday experience, and not just in works of art, that we dance the dance of counter-effectuation, converting Kant’s transcendental conditions of possibility into generative conditions of actualization.
I think that this aestheticism is the biggest stumbling block to any appreciation of Deleuze’s thought. Both in his own writings and in those co-authored with Guattari, Deleuze repeatedly praises works of art and literature in almost rhapsodic terms. Works of art are expressions of the virtual, of becoming, and of transformation. When we experience them, "we are not in the world, we become with the world; we become by contemplating it. Everything is vision, becoming. We become universes. Becoming animal, plant, molecular, becoming zero" (Deleuze and Guattari 1994, 169). Such aesthetic contemplation is explicitly opposed to action. Great films, for instance, paralyze the viewer. They leave him or her suspended in what Deleuze (1989) calls "a pure optical and sound situation," one that "does not extend into action, any more than it is induced by an action" (18). That is to say, they interrupt the sensori-motor circuit that is the basis of the "normal" situation of perception and action. This interruption involves both a heightening of affect, and the sort of detachment from immediate concerns that Kant called "disinterest." To have an aesthetic experience is many things; but at the limit, it is to feel – and perhaps thereby to cry, to laugh, or to scream. As Deleuze says, "it makes us grasp, it is supposed to make us grasp, something intolerable and unbearable" (18). But the intolerable and unbearable is also the unactable and the untenable: that which we cannot affect or act upon.
Describing works of art as he does in this way, Deleuze never looks at them as ideological formations subject to critique. This cannot fail to disconcert postmodern, or even just post-Frankfurt School, theorists, haunted as we are by Walter Benjamin’s warning about fascism as the aestheticization of politics, and his counteradmonition as to the necessity of polticizing art. At most, we may wish to follow Adorno in grasping the autonomy of art as its radical negativity; many postmodernists would not even want to go that far. For instance, I think that an (entirely understandable) uneasiness with Deleuze’s aestheticism is what really lies behind Peter Hallward (2006) criticisms in his brilliant and controversial recent book on Deleuze. Hallward concludes his reading of Deleuze by saying that, although Deleuze’s work may be inspiring, it is so otherwolrdly that it cannot possibly be useful: "those of us who still seek to change our world and to empower its inhabitants will need to look for our inspiration elsewhere" (164).
I would suggest that otherwordliness here can really be read as aestheticism, with its corollary of a paralysis that (Gene Holland to the contrary) cannot be read merely as a pause for reflection... Deleuze’s Aesthetics from The Pinocchio Theory by Steven Shaviro 1:18 PM

Friday, November 09, 2007

Pop culture can never be called quiet, yet the echoes immortal require quiet to be heard

While I revere her work, the one major divergence I have with Camille Paglia is that I do not share her view that American pop culture is the modern incarnation of “high art”, or pinnacle cultural achievements in experiential aesthetics. I simply don’t see any concrete trend that would allow one to reasonable conclude that. Sure, certain of Duke Ellington’s works will probably last the ages. Certain of the Romantic literati — including Poe, Emerson, Dickenson, perhaps Whitman — will, too. One could add more to the list, but “high art trend” none of that makes. Mind you, I don’t see any problem whatsoever with that fact, nor am I bothered. Why? Because I see rather a challenge posed, to help foster a genuine high art in America, a challenge that, as an artist, I take on for myself and invite others to, as well. And I think the emergence of high art in America will only happen after several decades, if not several hundreds of years, of classical education in at least some decent-sized segment of the population, through several generations. On this larger point, I would be surprised if Camille Paglia would disagree. After all, the seeds for the 15th century Renaissance were planted when liberal arts education — the trivium, quadrivium, via Latin and Greek and more — was perfected in Medieval times.
This is why the growing movement of American classical homeschooling is so important. It is preparing soil. Parents and independent curriculum providers are leading the way in this. This grassroots movement has the potential to replenish Americans with both classical learning, and knowledge about America’s own founding. (And, incidentally, that Fred Thompson has focused so much of his presidential campaign on discussing founding principles such as federalism is a large part of his appeal to me.)
My view on pop culture is that it contains seeds, or potential seeds, for a high art tradition, but that plenty of planting, tending, growing, harvesting, and replanting is necessary for genuine high art to flourish. Pop culture allows for hybridity, which further requires time to restabilize. From a certain perspective, in other words, high art grows out of popular art. Take Bach as an example, where he took popular dance rhythms, out of fashion to some extent by his time, and made them immortal. Or witness Grand Opera, taking popular themes of love and loss and raising them to eternal heights. Or witness stone sculptures of the nude (see Kenneth Clarke’s, The Nude): the ultimate pagan symbol, the naked human body, made sacred.
No, attention to pop-culture ideals, and some degree of participation in it, has its place. But the artist, not to mention the young classical learner, must be able to separate from it. Pop culture can never be called quiet, yet the echoes immortal require quiet to be heard. Boiling popular culture can provide learning, as can different types of “discovery learning”, but never can either offer classical learning. I don’t see why this can’t happen in today’s America, a country filled with innumerable open spaces, and with innumerable quiet places.
Practically speaking, the classical curriculum suggested by Andrew Campbell in The Latin-Centered Curriculum is, I think, perfectly in tune with today’s America, and its vibrant (and too-vibrant) popular culture. He captures this best the chapter, “Multum Non Multa” (available online here), exemplified by this moment...

Friday, November 02, 2007

The new plenitude of culture but humanities “in trouble”

by Joseph Kugelmass (x-posted to The Valve)
Adam, by contrast, writes that bloggers seek each other out of loneliness. He writes, “I know that my interest in blogs peaked when I was living in the rural town where my undergraduate institution was located. I was fortunate enough to find a vibrant intellectual community in Chicago, so that I frankly don’t need blogs as much as I once did.” I think he is right to an extent. One’s interest in blogging is intensified by periods of isolation, and many blogs go under once their authors become sufficiently comfortable — a partner, enough friends, the right job, more concrete hobbies.
While that may appear to be a natural fate for a blog, it is also true that many would-be artists let go of those ambitions when they reach a certain age. Loneliness, sexual frustration, boredom, and even poverty have been fuel for incredibly successful works of art, and we recognize both that art can be poor compensation, and also that it exceeds its sometimes banal origins. Given the political potential of intellectual debate, the democratic possibilities of online media, and the uncertainty and dispersal that afflicts the humanities, there are professional, political, and disciplinary reasons to go on blogging, as indeed Adam has.
Paradoxically, the humanities are universally perceived as “in trouble” at a moment when culture and criticism are thriving: new journals, new novelists, a whole new era for television serials, an explosion of independent music and film, and new homes on the web for criticism (Pitchfork, Slate, Salon) and imaginative work (YouTube and other video hosting, webcomics, hypertext fictions, etc). Humanistic blogs are one way of restoring the connection between scholarly tradition and the new plenitude of culture...
Bloggers deal with institutional power every day; the Chronicle of Higher Education is almost exclusively for and about institutions of higher learning. If blogging itself is to become a valuable resource for a broad group of readers, and a force for change within the academy, bloggers must embrace the power that organization and collectivity confers. The alternative is innovation in a vacuum. The fact that, at certain times, collaboration produces turf wars, is evidence of the fact that something emerges therein worth fighting for. Readers do not, as we sometimes imagine, flee in horror from fierce debates across blog lines; instead, that is often precisely what engages their interest, skeptics and enthusiasts alike.
De-centered blog conversations are often stepping-stones to mainstream work: ironing the kinks out of a journal article, gathering sources for a dissertation, drafting a keynote address or the chapter of a book. They are adjunct to academic institutions. But the opportunity exists to turn blogging into something more than an interstitial occupation, for the lonely times, and the idle times. It can be the practice, as vital in scholarship as in friendship among equals, of discovering a voice.