Thursday, April 24, 2014
 
"Hamlet" was the play, or rather Hamlet himself was the character, in the intuition and exposition of which I first made my turn for philosophical criticism, and especially for insight into the genius of Shakspere, noticed.
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  • Goethe's 'The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister', a neglected masterpiece if ever there was, is known nowadays for a single line from a ballad sung by Mignon, the daughter of a wandering musician. 'Know'st thou the land where the lemon trees bloom?' begins her mysterious song, describing an imagined world of blue skies, marble statues and thunderous waterfalls, not without a lurking menace beneath its beauty. When Wilhelm asks her where she heard it, Mignon answers, 'Italy! If thou go to Italy, take me along with thee; for I am too cold here.'
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • 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.
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  • Although Charles Kenneth Scott Moncrieff’s translation of À la recherche du temps perdu is considered by many journalists and writers to be the best translation of any foreign work into the English language, his choice of Remembrance of Things Past as the general title alarmed the seriously ill Proust and misled generations of readers as to the novelist’s true intent.
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  • I just finished reading a fascinating appetizer to John Carlin’s new book on Nelson Mandela, Knowing Mandela, and it set me wondering what might be the place of solitude in the narration of South African history. Some of the details of the failure of Nelson’s marriage to Winnie are public knowledge while others are revealed for the first time by Carlin: she a 22-year-old social worker meets him, then 38, and “strikes him with lightning”, as he wrote in one of his many letters to her.
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  • Three of America's most famous poets announced today the immediate availability of new, moderately priced "diffusion lines" based on their celebrated high-end works to be sold online and at mainstream retail outlets such as Walmart, Costco, Sam's, Target, and Barnes & Noble. Representatives of K2 by Kay Ryan, Frederick by Frederick Seidel, and JohnT by John Ashbery (for Target) announced the move at a joint news conference on the sidewalk outside of Century 21 in lower Manhattan.
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  • On May 31, two weeks after his death, and the day before Orlando was sent to the printer, Woolf noted his death as follows: “Gosse is dead, & I am half reconciled to him by their saying in the papers that he chose to risk a dangerous operation rather than be an invalid for life. This kind of vitality always gets me”. The comment is atypically generous, as, of all his detractors, Woolf was one of the strongest, both in public and in private.
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  • When word came again, last week, that Knott had died, no one knew quite whether to believe it. Death makes deniers of us all, but in Knott’s case we had good reason to trust our instinctive disbelief. This time, unfortunately, the facts were unrelenting: on Wednesday, Knott died of complications from heart surgery. He was seventy-four.
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  • We are likely to hear a lot more of this woman. Some October, perhaps, from the Nobel Prize committee. She certainly has the stature. Translated into many languages, the winner of multiple major awards, not only is she Russia’s leading dramatist by wide agreement, she is also its leading author of fiction, the mother of contemporary women’s writing in the country.
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  • There is an oft-ignored detail about Nietzsche’s story of the madman in the marketplace: the good townspeople who aren’t ready to receive the news of God’s death aren’t Christians — they’re atheists. Today’s marketplace is no longer the town square; it’s the hyper-connected virtual world of global commerce.
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  • For many the term postfeminist might call to mind the vanilla pleasures of metrosexuality, webcams, online soaps, and blog culture, but, for me, a 40-something cyberfeminist scholar, curator and some time activist, the politically-minded feminist texts I work with are in fact dyed-in-the-wool postfeminist ones that occupy a different place on the postfeminism continuum from those more loudly-lauded, lighter confections.
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  • Elizabeth Bishop’s most impactful letter of the summer of 1947 was the first substantive one she ever wrote to Robert Lowell. Written from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia on August 14, that first real letter of the poets’ storied epistolary friendship begins with a parenthetical aside that nods to their new familiarity: "Dear Robert, (I’ve never been able to catch that name they call you, but Mr. Lowell doesn’t sound right, either.)”
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  • In 1980, Lady Isobel Barnett was found guilty of stealing a can of tuna and a carton of cream and fined about £75. Barnett was a very public figure. For a decade or more, from the early nineteen-fifties, she had been a regular on the English version of “What’s My Line?” and on BBC Radio’s “Question Time.” Often assumed to be an aristocrat (actually, her title came from her husband, who was the mayor of Leicester), she was a quintessential lady — fine-featured, well dressed, and always with sensible, moderate opinions about the world and its doings. She embodied British deceny, uprightness, and charm.
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  • It was June of my freshman year in college, in the middle of final exam week, when I received an early-​morning call. My mother had been killed, gunned down in a parking lot by her second husband—​her then ex-​husband—​a troubled Vietnam veteran with a history of mental illness. Grief set in quickly. I must have been in shock.
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  • James Parker begins his review of Inherent Vice with the quip, “If Thomas Pynchon were a stand-up comedian, and Inherent Vice his newest routine, the heckling would start around page 10. ‘So Doc,’ relates a character called Denis (whose name, we are informed, is commonly pronounced to rhyme with — heh, heh — ‘penis’), ‘I’m up on Dunecrest, you know the drugstore there, and like I noticed their sign, “Drug”? “Store”? Okay? Walked past it a thousand times, never really saw it — Drug, Store! man, far out, so I went in and Smilin Steve was at the counter and I said, like, “Yes, hi, I’d like some drugs, please. . . .”’”
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  • While living in Kyoto, I would ride my motorcycle downtown in the afternoon and work on my translations of César Vallejo’s Poemas humanos in the Yorunomado (“Night Window”) coffee shop. I had determined that a publishable version of this 1989 poem collection would constitute my apprenticeship to poetry. As I struggled to get Vallejo’s complicated Spanish into English, I increasingly had the feeling that I was struggling with a man more than with a text and that the struggle was a matter of my becoming or failing to become a poet.
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by Albert Rolls
The pun on “drugs,” in a somewhat obvious way, calls attention to and undermines the division between substances that contribute to the formation of the freak community and those prescribed by doctors, as does Pat Dubonnet’s disappointment with a career reduced to “penny-ante collars, kids under the pier dealing their moms’ downers”.
by Kristen Zipperer
There are very few Urdu writers who have written about these despondent days in Pakistan’s history, with perhaps one notable exception. Intizar Husain is a novelist and short story writer whose work takes an unrelenting look at man’s attempt and ultimate failure to keep his humanity during the post-Partition period.
by Daniel Bosch
Even before the camera slowly swings upward from her mouth to her eyes, even before we realize that those are not opaque black pits but irises, the first frames of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo have made us conscious of how a camera and a screen limit and fix visual perception — even with all their jump cuts, films concentrate better than we do. And so it is strangely a relief to fall as we do into the pupil of the eye that Hitchcock’s camera enters.
by Stephen T. Asma
In his 1790 Critique of Judgment, Kant famously predicted that there would never be a “Newton for a blade of grass.” Biology, he thought, would never be unified and reduced down to a handful of mechanical laws, as in the case of physics. This, he argued, is because we cannot expunge teleology (goal-directedness) from living systems. The question “what is it for?” applies to living structures in a way that has no corollary in physics.
by Eric Schneider
Were Philadelphia police different? In some ways, yes; in other ways, no. City police may not have exchanged their badges for the white hoods of vigilante groups, but a nearly completely white police force held the same racial prejudices of the Philadelphia neighborhoods from which they were recruited.
by Russell Bennetts
Wittgenstein certainly regarded himself as a philosopher, and certainly believed in the fundamental truth of what he was saying. So it would be a misleading oversimplification to maintain that he was “against philosophy” or against “the possibility of philosophical truth”. More accurately, what he criticized was a certain kind of philosophy – perhaps the dominant kind in the West.
by Michael B. Katz
The biological definition of poverty reinforces the idea of the undeserving poor, which is the oldest theme in post-Enlightenment poverty discourse. Its history stretches from the late eighteenth century through to the present. Poverty, in this view, results from personal failure and inferiority. Moral weaknesses – drunkenness, laziness, sexual promiscuity – constitute the most consistent markers of the undeserving poor.
by Volker M. Welter
Following a map for a driving tour along Palm Spring’s mid-twentieth century Modernist homes and buildings, I had just peeked at Richard Neutra’s Kaufmann House, the rebellious sibling from 1947 of Frank Lloyds Wright’s Fallingwater House in Pennsylvania, which was begun for the same client in 1935. Figuring out on the map where to drive to next, a house whose owner was identified as Dr. Franz Alexander caught my attention.
by Albert Rolls
Consider, for example, the Pynchon anecdotes told by the television producer Deane Rink — who attended Cornell a few years after Pynchon and studied creative writing under Walter Slatoff, with whom Pynchon had also studied. Rink tells his stories as part of an early Web exercise in which he sent emails for publication to the B&R Samizdat Express at the end of 1996, when he was in McMurdo, Antarctica, to work on Live from Antarctica (1997) for PBS productions.
by Cain Todd
In an effort to be interdisciplinary, and to keep up with the current trend for all things neuroscience, I recently attended a conference in Berlin on neuroaesthetics. One of only two philosophers in the room, I found myself on the receiving end of an incredibly hostile attack after asking a question of the founding guru of the discipline, the neuroscientist Professor Semir Zeki of University College London.
by Frank R. Stockton
In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king, whose ideas, though somewhat polished and sharpened by the progressiveness of distant Latin neighbors, were still large, florid, and untrammeled, as became the half of him which was barbaric. He was a man of exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done.
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