Exhaustive Dante reference guide free to read online
Also at A Piece of Monologue:
|King Lear (directed by Peter Brook, 1971)|
|William Faulkner's bedroom|
|W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn|
Winfried Georg Maximilian Sebald was already in his fiftieth year, and his third decade of residence in East Anglia, when he began to write of the walk he had taken two years before in the Suffolk country to dispel, he tells us, the strange emptiness which had come to fill him suddenly. Ironically enough, however, the walk soon became distressing as he took in, with ever-growing uneasiness, the traces of destruction reaching far back into the past that locked his gaze wherever he turned. Such was his horror upon return, he would have us believe, that, in due course, he had to be rushed to a hospital in a state of near paralysis. But once there, what the body had lost the mind gained, and before long it was soaring higher and higher with each tilt of the wings to view from above that Suffolk expanse, which, like the Borgesian Aleph, had now shrunk to a single spot, rightly so, devoid of all sensation. And yet, all the eye saw as the mind inscribed the words in its own cell was a colorless patch of sky framed in a window with a black mesh. In time, unable to hold his curiosity any longer, the writer went crawling like Gregor Samsa up to the window, from where peering down at the now utterly alien place, buildings and carparks rose up like fields of rubble or immense boulders to meet him. [Read More]
Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,Also at A Piece of Monologue:
As, to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And guilded honour shamefully misplaced,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgraced,
And strength by limping sway disabled,
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly doctor-like controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tired with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone.
|Modernism/Modernity, Volume 18, Number 4 (November 2011)|
|Design: Rhys Tranter|
What have you learnt about yourself, Beckett and his writing as you've been working on this project? What do we, as readers of Beckett, know more clearly now these two volumes of Letters have been published?Also at A Piece of Monologue:
That I am one of the luckiest people alive, having been given the chance to work on these letters. Readers of Volume II, especially those who know only the Beckett of legend (cold, austere, unwelcoming) will discover a passionate searcher and a man of great kindness.
What did you want to achieve with your own book (Writing Beckett's Letters)?
I wanted above all to get away from the notion of translation as pure process buttressed by this or that theory, to give instead some sense of the intimate wrestle that it was in my experience: an urgent conversation with an admired dead friend.
I wanted to make clear that translating Beckett's words required nothing less than a total personal engagement, with the full range of feeling that implies: swings between hope and despair, intuition and bafflement, and the fear of never catching up. The fragmentary form seemed right for that.
What were your reading highlights in 2011, and what are you currently reading and/or looking forward to in 2012?
There wasn't much time for new reading (a couple of oustanding memoirs (Michael Frayn and Jeannette Winterson), and much re-reading: the Odyssey, Dante, Calvino, Borges, Eliot). [Read More]
|Avigdor Arikha, 'Tangerines' (1983)|
|Simon Critchley, Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology|
It has been reasoned that the recent theological revival is because of a “theoretical deficit, not a theological need” (Alberto Toscano). Are there more reasons for this unexpected if not unusual upturn in interest in political theology than the catastrophic failure of the communist projects of the previous century?Also at A Piece of Monologue:
Simon Critchley: The interest in political theology comes out of a dissatisfaction with liberalism. The notion of political theology as a category or term actually originates in Bakunin. So, it originates in Italian thought in the mid-nineteenth century and is also first used as an abusive term. And when Carl Schmitt picks it up in the 1920s he gives it a different valence but the object of attack for both Bakunin and Schmitt, on the left and on the right, is the same liberalism.
Periodising that, you have the aftermath of the collapse of the Warsaw pact and the Soviet Union, and the period in the early 90s when there is a lot of optimism about the potential within democracy for emancipatory energies that then quickly exhausts itself. Then, there is a return to the theological concerns at that moment, which isn’t so much a return to communist ideas as an attempt to find something at the level of the deep motivational structure of what it means to be a human self and what selves might be together. If you are interested in that question then the history of religious thought is really a place to look — maybe the place to look.
For me, I’ve never been a particularly secularist thinker and I’ve never had a strong faith in the ideas of secular modernity. I’ve had a huge interest, as long as I’ve been aware of such things, in religious thinkers like Paul, Pascal, Augustine and many others. It seems to me that if you start from some idea that philosophy or theory has to do without religion then you are cutting yourself off from that incredibly useful archive of possibilities. So, I think that philosophy is inconceivable without religion, or shouldn’t be done without religion as it shouldn’t be done only with religion. I am not a theist in that sense. It means using the best and most powerful ideas in that tradition for other ends. Of the people who have gone back to using religious sources to think about politics, then I would say that Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul is the most powerful.
The question for me is two-fold. Firstly, it is diagnostic: to understand the nature of political forms is to think of them as different forms of sacralisation. In my view, I have this idea that the history of political forms — fascism, liberal democracy, Stalinism — is different forms of the sacral. There is always some sacred object: the nation, the people, the race, or whatever it might be. So, rather than seeing the history of politics as the movement from the religious to the secular, I see politics as a shift in the meaning of the sacred.
For me, that is an incredibly useful diagnostic tool when you are, say, looking at political forms in a country like the one I am living in (the US), where an incredibly powerful political theology exists in terms of American civil religion which is able to exert a unusual power over citizens and using that to find out how that works. So, there is a diagnostic category that is very important, and then there is a more normative one.
Politics for me, to put it in a crude formula, is “association without representation”. I adapted this from Rousseau. The notion of association for me is not just, but nonetheless still, a religious idea. Religion is linked to the idea of Renegare who asks what is it that binds fast? What is it that binds fast an association? For me, that is a question that the left has been grappling with for the last couple of centuries. So, I don’t think you can just slough off the religious tradition or say it’s just nonsense. That is a philistine gesture that is counter-productive in all sorts of ways. [Read More]
|Margaret Atwood, In Other Worlds: SF and the Human Imagination|
Margaret Atwood’s eclectic and engaging miscellany of essays, reviews, introductions, and “tributes” is a literary memoir tracing the myriad links between science fiction and literature, and relating both to those archetypal forms and structures so famously anatomized by her University of Toronto professor Northrop Frye in The Anatomy of Criticism (1957). It is simultaneously a self-portrait of the artist as an inquisitive, questing, impressionable, and avid reader since childhood of a dazzling variety of popular and esoteric entertainments—from comic strips and comic books to classics of the genre by Jonathan Swift, H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell. Atwood’s intention is to break down the artificial distinctions between science fiction and “serious” literature by close readings of works by these writers as well as H. Rider Haggard’s She (1887), enormously popular in its time, Bryher’s Visa for Avalon (1965), Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005), and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Birthday of the World and Other Stories (2002). [Read More]Also at A Piece of Monologue:
'For Blanchot, like the early Levinas, the world of things is a dead world, but it is one that is not inert. It is a dead world, but one possessed of a strange kind of life – a dying that is active, a force of becoming that is the experience of the being of things. How can being be brought together with becoming? The difference between beings and being, as Levinas and Blanchot will present it, is given in the relation between the thing and its image. As readers will know, for Levinas and Blanchot it as though, for them, the image was the condition of possibility of the thing and not the other way round. Broadly speaking, the image is what gives itself in the relation to the thing when it is turned from the tasks and projects to which we subordinate it, resisting the very impulse of our existence to create meaning, to, as it were, ‘exist’ things by bringing them towards us as potential tools or as potential raw material. It gives itself as what ‘in’ the thing exists over and above our interests. But even as it does so, its resistance captures my attention and struggles with it, escaping me even as it seems to offer itself to me. Yet I am not indifferent to it, and this is the point. The image of the thing no longer exists at any distance from me at all; fascinated, I am as though pressed by the thing against its image, as though the heart of the thing held me at what one commentator calls ‘its distance’.' [Read More]Also at A Piece of Monologue:
|Laura Harring and Naomi Watts as Rita and Betty in Mulholland Dr. (2001)|
|Christiaan Tonnis, 'Thomas Bernhard #1', pencil and coloured pencils on paper, 1985|
|A still from Grant Gee's Patience (After Sebald)|