‘Iago as much as Imogen’
|December 20, 2012|
Moby Dick Arises from the Deep, Gilbert Wilson
From The Chronicle Review:
The poet most likely to practice and evoke ethical imagination is not “poetical,” in the sense of flamboyant or opinionated. Thinking of Shakespeare, Keats, who was Shelley‘s contemporary, claimed that the most powerful versifier “has no identity” at all, for “he is continually … filling some other body.” He inhabits shade as much as light, Iago as much as Imogen.
The chameleonesque Keats had a preternatural talent for this “negative capability,” his phrase describing the ability to be “in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” Adept at suspending the prejudices that so often accompany dogmatic surety, especially in moral contexts, he could adapt to myriad perspectives, and relished doing so.
As a close friend once reported, Keats, while describing his appreciation of Spenser’s description of a whale, “hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said, ‘what an image that is—sea-shouldering whales!’” Keats could expand into a leviathan; he could also contract, telling another friend that he was able to imagine a billiard ball delighting in “its own roundness, smoothness and rapidity of its motion.” He felt himself transmuted in other instances into a tormented bear, a sparrow picking at gravel, and a woman whose leopardlike seductiveness caused him to “forget [him]self entirely” and “live in her.”
Neither Keats’s nor Shelley’s ethics of identification justifies nefarious behavior, of course. True, the empathetic imagination, as Keats claims, can shock the “virtuous philosopher.” But just because a poet occupies an Iago or a Robespierre doesn’t mean that she endorses the villain’s actions. The purpose of suspending stereotypes is to make one more sensitive to the irreducible intricacies of the real, and so be better able to forge informed judgments about what is right and wrong.
Not long ago, my husband was working on a plaster sculpture, and when he removed his rubber gloves, he saw that his gold ring had disappeared. I came to pick my husband up at his studio and discovered him pale, bleary-eyed, babbling. I found the ring, camouflaged on a patch of beige carpet, and my husband cried with relief.
Teleology Rises from the Grave
Stephen T. Asma
It turns out that there are a few different teleology traditions, but the Anglo-American conversation has been blithely unaware of all but the simplest. The simple and loud version is the “natural theology” tradition, which claims that adaptation in nature must be the result of a supreme Designer because chance alone cannot account for gills in water, lungs on land, complex eyes and cell flagella.
The Death of Romance in the Shadow of the Colossus
These are the two modalities through which you engage the world of Shadow of the Colossus: In the journey, you are the lost soul; in the encounter, you become the lover and the warrior, carried by your passions into mortal struggles with the Colossi. These guardian monsters, your adversaries, fill in the emotional frame established by your travels through the Forbidden Land.
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