Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Echoes of the Phenomenon by Ben de Bruyn

In civilisation, ecology, interview, nature, philosophy, theory on January 29, 2013 at 18:18

From: Echoes of the Phenomenon – A Conversation with Robert Pogue Harrison by Ben de Bruyn, Image & Narrative,

What if forests are not simply natural but also cultural sites? If deforestation is not only depleting our oxygen supply but also our cultural memory? And what if living human beings are always already dead, being fundamentally connected to the afterlives of their predecessors and of their offspring? What if our expulsion from the Garden of Eden was not a curse, but a blessing? If paradise was not – andcan never be – paradise? These are just some of the fascinating questions Robert Pogue Harrison has raised in his seminal studies on Forests, The Dominion of the Dead, and Gardens. As I have tried to show in my essay on Harrison‟s work in the previous issue of Image & Narrative, these studies have established the Stanford professor as an important critic with regard to topics such as ecology, memory, and humanity. His oeuvre lends a voice to the cultural echoes of phenomena, the things in the world. But how did this oeuvre about the earth and its dead, about natural and cultural conservation first emerge? And what is the relationship between these three studies which, as Harrison suggests, actually constitute a trilogy? How does he position himself vis-à-vis issues as diverse as Deconstruction and ecocriticism, humanism and existentialism, modernity and Christianity? What is the nature and value of literature, to his mind? And what, finally, does the future hold in store for him? These are just some of the questions that will be addressed in the present interview with Robert Pogue Harrison.

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Reposted with permission from: Image & Narrative


What Hangs on Trees: Legacy and memory in the southern landscape by Glenis Redmond

In ethnicity, history, human rights, literature, North America, poetry, politics on January 19, 2013 at 00:13

From: What Hangs on Trees: Legacy and memory in the southern landscape by Glenis Redmond, Orion Magazine,

It was at this port of entry that my ancestors embarked on a life of servitude. I began to quake with awareness. The Atlantic holds the story of my lineage, fragmented by the Middle Passage. Reckoning with the land and all that it holds means peering into the shadow side. The shadow side permeates everything I do and write. It is in something as simple as being referred to as a southerner.

Slaves and descendants of slaves had to be creative and resourceful in order to survive treacherous circumstances. These qualities are embedded in our legacy of dance and song, in spirituals and ring shouts. Such art forms were expressions of the soul, meant to empower the participants to transcend the daily grind of slavery, punishment, and unbearable labor. As a writer, I dance the limbo. I am negotiating that “tight space.”

Russell calls those who live in the mainstream world but who have been brought up in the African-American community “the placeless.” A foot in each world, they have the burden and the privilege of translating our heritage, language, and understanding to the dominant culture. Former poet laureate Rita Dove calls it the “burden of explanation.”

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Reposted with permission from: Orion Magazine

Life’s Matrix by Philip Ball

In astronomy, biology, literature, nature, philosophy, research, science on January 14, 2013 at 06:41

From: Life’s Matrix by Philip Ball,

In myth, legend, literature and the popular imagination, then, water is not a single thing but a many-faced creature: a hydra, indeed. This is the essence of water’s mystery, and it remains even when water is picked apart by science. Water is the archetypal fluid, the representative of all that flows, and yet science shows it also to be a profoundly anomalous liquid, unlike any other. Some scientists doubt whether water inside living cells, the very juice of life, is the same stuff as water in a glass; at the molecular scale, they think its structure may be altered; perhaps cell water even congeals into a kind of gel. Water behaves in unexpected ways when squeezed or cooled below freezing point. Life needs water, but it remains a profound mystery why water, a lively and reactive substance, didn’t break apart the complex molecules of the earliest life forms on Earth almost as soon as they were formed.

When a substance becomes mythical, it works curious things on our imagination, even without our knowing it. Substances like this are ancient, and they have magical powers. Gold and diamonds, bread and wine, blood and tears are agents of transformation in story and legend. But none, I think, surpasses the beauty, the grandeur, the fecundity and the potency of water. This is why water is, and must always be, much more than a simple compound of hydrogen and oxygen, or a dance of molecules. To explain its role in our imaginations, its life-giving potential, its bizarre and perplexing properties, its sweet nourishment and its glittering surface-to fully explain these things, we do perhaps have to reduce water to its mundane constituents. But even when we do so, we have to remember what we are dealing with: not just a chemical compound, but a fundamental part of nature, with aspects that are serene, enchanting, enlivening, profound, spiritual and even terrible. In the voice of the babbling stream, says Wordsworth, ‘is a music of humanity’. And Bachelard bids us listen well to this music: ‘Come, oh my friends, on a clear morning to sing the stream’s vowels! Not a moment will pass without repeating some lovely round word that rolls over the stones.’

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Reposted with permission from: Philip Ball


Losing Things by Rachel Howard

In art, literature, writers on October 29, 2012 at 22:45

From: Losing Things by Rachel Howard, berfrois,

My problem is that I don’t care about losing things.

Last month, at a restaurant, I left a rough grey scarf that my husband gave me on a rainy evening shortly after we began sleeping with each other, shortly after we fell in love—the scarf that, even after warm spring days arrived, I’d worn everywhere like a child’s blanket. Oh well, I immediately thought when I realized it was gone. I’ll always remember that scarf.

Last year, departing an artist’s studio, I left a herringbone-striped inky blue kimono that an ex-boyfriend purchased in Japan, a kimono many artists liked to draw me wearing because it draped such an entrancing pattern over the forms otherwise known as my hips, my shoulders, my breasts—a kimono that suited me because I had worn it to so many sessions that it felt as natural as my own hair, my own skin. I realized I’d left it only hours after the painting session ended; I took three months to call the artist about getting it back. By then she’d given it to Goodwill. Oh well, I thought, I’ll always remember that kimono.

I have the kind of strong memory that gives you a false sense of indifference towards materiality.

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Reposted with permission from: berfrois


Alice Walker: “Go to the Places That Scare You” by Valerie Schloredt

In books, film, history, human rights, literature, nature, North America, politics, society, war, writers on October 27, 2012 at 20:17

From: Alice Walker: “Go to the Places That Scare You” by Valerie Schloredt, yes! Magazine,

Alice Walker is a poet, essayist, and commentator, but she’s best known for her prodigious accomplishments as a writer of literary fiction. Her novel The Color Purple won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in 1983 and quickly became a classic of world literature. Set in an African-American community in the rural South during the decades before World War II, the novel is told in letters written by Celie, a woman who survives oppression and abuse with her spirit not only intact, but transcendent.

Walker’s writing is characterized by an ever-present awareness of injustice and inequality. But whether describing political struggle—as in Meridian, which deals with the civil rights movement—or meditating on the human relationship to nature and animals, as in her latest book, The Chicken Chronicles, her work conveys the possibility of change. In Walker’s vision, grace is available through love and a deep connection to the beauty of the world.

Walker was born in the segregated South, the eighth child in a family who made their living as sharecroppers in Georgia. She came of age during the civil rights movement, and emerged early in her career as a defining voice in feminism and an advocate for African-American women writers. She is a prominent activist who has worked, marched, traveled, and spoken out to support the causes of justice, peace, and the welfare of the earth.

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Reposted with permission from: yes! Magazine


Forgetful Pleasures by Marta Figlerowicz

In art, books, literature, writers on October 4, 2012 at 01:00

From: Forgetful Pleasures: Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom by Marta Figlerowicz Michel Houellebecq’s Exciting Tale of Boredom, Boston Review,

It’s become something of a joke: when you reach for a Michel Houellebecq novel, you brace yourself. For what? Shock, goes one pat answer. Boredom, goes the other.

Both are somewhat disingenuous. On the grand scale of literary excesses, Houellebecq’s stylistic and sexual offenses are trifling. He’s no Marquis de Sade, no D. H. Lawrence, no Joseph Conrad, no Robert Musil. Yet, together, these answers get at the heart of what might make you keep turning his pages no matter how much effort it takes.

Houellebecq’s prose shows a heightened self-awareness about excitement. His characters study stimulating pleasures—sex, usually—like a set of impossibly difficult equations. How many sexual acts equal a happy week, a happy year, a happy marriage? How many satisfying ones in sequence do you have stamina for? (The Elementary Particles: “By violently contracting the muscle and inhaling deeply just before orgasm, it was possible to avoid ejaculating. . . . it was a goal, something worth working toward.”)

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Reposted with permission from: Boston Review


On the Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women by Stephanie Nikolopoulos

In books, gender, literature, North America, writers on September 25, 2012 at 05:42

From: On the Highway of Love, Jack Kerouac Divides Men and Women by Stephanie Nikolopoulos, The Millions,

In the past few years, culture critics have speculated that in general men read less than women and that specifically they don’t read much fiction — Kerouac presumably excluded. It appears, then, that men and women read quite differently. If men are more likely to read nonfiction, it seems likely that men are reading to obtain information. In contrast, women maybe read fiction for the entertainment of a character-driven story. And this is where it gets interesting. Every so often, social debates arise whether women are more “sympathetic” than men, “sympathetic” being defined by as “acting or affected by, of the nature of, or pertaining to a special affinity or mutual relationship.” If it is true that women are more sympathetic, either because of their genetic makeup or because they have been conditioned to be so, then perhaps women read relationally, placing themselves within the story. It would be natural then for female readers to cast themselves as the female characters instead of the male characters. In a work written by a man, the female character is usually going to be the subject of the male gaze. If that work happens to be On the Road, you’re going to end up with women like Marylou and Camille, flat characters being two-timed by hyperactive car-thief Dean Moriarty. It’s no wonder then that many women, even when they put his personal lives aside, don’t relate to Kerouac’s writing.

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Reposted according to CC copyright notice from The Millions website


Fiction books give a boost to the brain, says Stanford professor by Corrie Goldman

In books, humanities, literature, psychology, writers on September 17, 2012 at 01:28

From: Fiction books give a boost to the brain, says Stanford professor by Corrie Goldman,,

Readers of literary works by the likes of Samuel Beckett, Stéphane Mallarmé and Geoffrey Chaucer are getting lots of exercise from these personal trainers for the brain. New research by Stanford’s Joshua Landy, associate professor of French and Italian, illustrates how authors throughout the ages have sought to improve mental skills like rational thinking and abstract thought by leading their readers through a gantlet of mental gymnastics. In contrast to the common practice of mining fictional works for moral messages and information, Landy’s theory of fiction, outlined in his new book, “How to Do Things with Fictions,” presents a new reason for reading in an age when the patience to tackle challenging pieces of writing has dwindled tremendously. Reading fiction “does not make us better people in the moral sense, whether by teaching us lessons, making us more empathetic or training us to handle morally complex situations,” said Landy. However, for those interested in fine-tuning their intellectual capacities, Landy said literary works of fiction can offer “a new set of methods for becoming a better maker of arguments, a better redeemer of one’s own existence, a person of stronger faith or a person with a quieter mind.”

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Reposted according to copyright notice from website


Whitescapes by David Batchelor

In aesthetics, art, literature, philosophy, poetry, society, space on September 8, 2012 at 19:19


From: Whitescapes by David Batchelor, Cabinet Magazine,

To mistake the colorful for the colorless or white is nothing new. However, it is one thing not to have known that Greek statues were once brilliantly painted, it is another thing not to see the color when it is still there. This seems to speak of a different psychological state, of a different level of denial. Not perceiving what is visibly there: psychoanalysts call it negative hallucination. But we have to tread carefully here, and we should be especially careful not to get drawn into seeing color and white as opposites. White was sometimes used in Minimalism, but it was mostly used as a color and amongst many other colors. Sometimes it was used in combination with other colors and sometimes it was used alone, but even when used alone it remained a color; it did not result, except perhaps in LeWitt’s structures, in a generalized whiteness. In these works, white remained a material quality, a specific color on a specific surface, just as it always has done in the paintings of Robert Ryman. Ryman’s whites are always just that: whites. His whites are colors; his paintings do not involve or imply the suppression of color. His whites are empirical whites. Above all, his whites are plural. And, in being plural, they are, therefore, not “pure.” Here is the problem: not white; not whites; but generalized white, because generalized white, whiteness, is abstract, detached, and open to contamination by terms like “pure.”

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Reposted with permission from: Cabinet Magazine


Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

In civilisation, ecology, Featured, literature, nature, philosophy, poetry, society, writers on September 8, 2012 at 01:01

I have a special post for you today. Throughout the ongoing process of communicating with websites in the hope of receiving permission to repost their content, I had a few wonderful exchanges with writers and researchers. One of them was John Zerzan, author and philosopher, who sent me his latest essay for publication on this website. Enjoy the essay and feel free to comment.


Featured Essay: The Sea by John Zerzan

Last remaining lair of unparalleled wildness. Too big to fail?

The whole world is being objectified, but Melville reminds us of all that remains. “There you stand, lost in the infinite series of the sea.”i What could be more tangible, more of a contrast with being lost in the digital world, where we feel we can never properly come to grips with anything.

Oceans are about time more than space, “as if there were a correlation between going deep and going back.”ii The Deep is solemn; linking, in some way, all that has come before. Last things and first things. “Heaven,” by comparison, is thin and faintly unserious.

“Over All the Face of Earth Main Ocean Flowed,” announced the poem by John Milton.iii Given its 71 percent predominance on this planet, why is our world called Earth instead of Sea? Much of the land, in fact, could be defined as littoral areas where land and sea meet.iv The sea is a textured place, infinite in its moods, forms, energies—and not so easily de-textured. But we see what happens when culture is privileged over place. The sea, where all life began just this side of four billion years ago, must still sustain us. Not only are its waters the original source of life, it also shapes the climate, weather, and temperature of the planet, and therefore the status of terrestrial species.

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Meeting Martha Nussbaum with Alan Saunders

In audio, humanities, interview, philosophy on August 31, 2012 at 03:52


From: Meeting Martha Nussbaum with Alan Saunders, The Philosopher’s Zone, ABC Radio National,

Alan Saunders: I’m interested that you talk about the relationship between ritual and the moral life. This is not an obvious connection, I think, that many people would make. They’d think that ritual is just doing one damn thing after the other every day and it is unconnected with morality which involves thought and consideration of what you’re doing.

Martha Nussbaum: Well, you know, I’ve always said and written that emotions are central to the moral life and that if we really reflect about what we are deeply attached to, that’s quite an important part of getting our moral life in order, because we all have deep and passionate attachments to people and things outside of ourselves that we don’t control. And so for me ritual is a time of stepping aside from the busy life with all its distractions. And that I think is a big part of it; it’s just getting into a space of contemplation. But then meditating on the deeper emotional attachments that human life contains: grief and loss and aspiration and joy. And I think ritual sticks around because like a great piece of music – and of course it includes music for me very prominently – it just has that capacity to touch us with the deeper connections and attachments that we have, and I think the shear repetition could, of course, be just rote, but it can also bring back memories. I mean, when you go to a Passover seder I think you think about freedom in a new way because you are remembering your childhood and you are remembering your connections to loved people you have lost. The very fact that you’re back there one year later in the same place with many but not all of the same people helps you think about what you care about.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National


Post-Literacy or Super-Literacy? by Daniel Evans Pritchard

In academia, education, literature, society, technology, writers on July 24, 2012 at 03:25


From: Post-Literacy or Super-Literacy?  by Daniel Evans Pritchard, The Quarterly Conversation,

Writing programs form a significant subtext throughout Copula Spiders. The MFA is a booming business, and expert writing advice is not cheaply bought. Tuition at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where Glover teaches, costs $8,445 per semester, and yet, as he notes, “it is possible to obtain any one of these degrees without writing a publishable sentence, paragraph, story, novel or essay.” Not a ringing endorsement of his employer. Further daring the bounds of professionalism, Glover quotes passages from instructive letters he’s written to students while airing professorial grievances. He may gnash his teeth over the poverty of student writing, but he also revels in his literary superiority—even quoting, analyzing, and commending his own published work.

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Leftist Nostalgia for Academic Standards by Peter Wood

In academia, culture, education, humanities, North America, politics, universities on July 10, 2012 at 23:55


From: Leftist Nostalgia for Academic Standards by Peter Wood, National Association of Scholars,

What’s happening? We might think of it as a surfeit of success on the part of those who championed “cultural studies” and relativism in the humanities. They won the institutional war, much of which was fought by dismissing the importance of all curricular standards and capturing students with not-so-rigorous courses centered on progressive political themes. Many faculty members who were not actively involved in promoting this curricular dilution passively approved it. Voting to establish a Chicana/Chicano Studies program or accepting that “theory” would henceforth be a major part of an English-department curriculum seemed to them fairly harmless ways to promote progressive values.

The bills for these innovations are coming due. Students everywhere are deserting the humanities in favor of business-degree programs—“neo-managerialism”—and those who remain behind in the “studies” programs and the remnants of the old humanities departments are—all too often—not performing at very “high intellectual standards.”

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Denise Gigante on John Keats

In audio, literature, poetry, writers on May 20, 2012 at 10:19


Denise Gigante on John Keats – Entitled Opinions, Stanford University

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Denise Gigante is a professor in the English Department at Stanford University and teaches eighteenth and nineteenth-century British literature with a focus on Romanticism. Her books include “The Keats Brothers: The Life of John and George” (Harvard UP, 2011), “Life: Organic Form and Romanticism” (Yale UP, 2009), “The Great Age of the English Essay: An Anthology” (Yale UP, 2008),  “Taste: A Literary History” (Yale UP, 2005), and “Gusto: Essential Writings in Nineteenth-Century Gastronomy” (Routledge, 2005). She has published several essays, notably on Milton (Diacritics), Blake (Nineteenth-Century Literature), Coleridge (European Romantic Review), Keats (PMLA), Sartre and Beckett (Romanticism and Victorianism on the Net), Tennyson (NCL), Mary Shelley (ELH), and the philosopher Slavoj Zizek (New Literary History). She is currently working on a new book entitled The Book Madness: Charles Lamb’s Midnight Darlings in New York, which is forthcoming from Harvard University Press.

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