‘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.
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
You may also like :
It began when she was a child. The first time a child got a paper cut: a little bit of red leakage, then a lot of reaction from the adjacent adult. When you are a child any adjacent adult is an adjoining adult, a demanding point refusing to be sparse to your experiences. You just can’t seem to get your own space from which to investigate and make your own decisions about your body, about where your body is contiguous to and impacting or garnering the world.
Today because I am sufficiently connected here in my book-glutted home in Boston I have decided to make my little room an everywhere. As it so happens, I am hovering now above an area of greater London known as Mitcham that four-hundred years ago was an outlying village backwater away from the teeming intrigue and bustle of King James’ city and his court.
To read George Eliot attentively is to become aware how little one knows about her. It is also to become aware of the credulity, not very creditable to one's insight, with which, half consciously and partly maliciously, one had accepted the late Victorian version of a deluded woman who held phantom sway over subjects even more deluded than herself.