1. But was the dilemma of the realistic novel (and naturalism is merely its most radical aspect) wholly a consequence of the political and social embourgeoisement of the mid-nineteenth century? Unlike the Marxist critics, I think the roots lie deeper. The problem was inseparable from the assumptions on which the central tradition of the European novel had been founded. In committing itself to a secular interpretation of life and to a realistic portrayal of ordinary experience, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fiction had predetermined its own limitations. This commitment had been no less operative in the fiction of Fielding than in that of Zola. The difference was the Zola had made of it a deliberate and rigorous method and that the spirit of the age had grown less susceptible to the ironic gallantry and drama with which Fielding had tempered the realism of Tom Jones.

    In rejecting the mythical and the preternatural, all those things undreamt of in Horatio’s philosophy, the modern novel had broken with the essential world view of the epic and the tragedy. It had claimed for its own what we might call the kingdom of this world. It is the vast kingdom of human psychology perceived through reason and of human behaviour in a social context. The Goncouts surveyed it when they defined fiction as ethics in action. But, for all its comprehensiveness (and there are those who would maintain that it is the only kingdom subject to our understanding), it has frontiers and they are recognizably limiting. We cross them when we pass from the world of Bleak House to that of The Castle (while noting at the same time that Kafka’s principle symbol is related to Dickens’s Chancery). We cross them with unmistakable enlargement when we pass from Le Père Goriot—Balzac’s poem of father and daughters—to King Lear. We pass them again when we move from Zola’s program for novelists to the letter of D. H. Lawrence’s which I have cited earlier:

    I always feel as if I stood naked before the fire of Almighty God to go through me—and it’s rather an awful feeling. One has to be so terrible religious, to be an artist. I often think of my dear St. Lawrence on his gridiron, when he said, “Turn me over, brothers, I am done enough on this side.”
    "One has to be so terribly religious"—there is a revolution in that phrase. For above all else, the great tradition of the realistic novel had implied that religious feeling was not a necessary adjunct to a mature and comprehensive account of human affairs.

    This revolution, which led to the achievements of Kafka and of Thomas Mann, of Joyce and of Lawrence himself, began not in Europe but in America and in Russia. Lawrence declared: “Two bodies of modern literature seem to me to have come to a real verge: the Russian and the American.” Beyond it lay the possibility of Moby Dick and that of the novels of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.
    George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism
     
  2. 07:00

    Notes: 147

    Reblogged from crisdehaine

    image: Download

    belgianpaintings:

Anto Carte - Vision de paix, 1920

    belgianpaintings:

    Anto Carte - Vision de paix, 1920

     
  3. For pride like that we here must pay the fine;
    Nor yet should I be here, but that contrition
    Turned me to God while the power to sin was mine.

    O empty glory of man’s frail ambition,
    How soon its topmost boughs their green must yield;
    If no Dark Age succeed, what short fruition!

    Once Cimabue thought to hold the field
    In painting; Giotto’s all the rage to-day;
    The other’s fame lies in the dust concealed.

    Guido from Guido wrests our native bay,
    And born, belike, already is the same
    Shall chase both songsters from the nest away.

    A breath of wind—no more—is earthly fame,
    And now this way it blows and that way now,
    And as it changes quarter, changes name.

    Ten centuries hence, what greater fame hast thou,
    Stripping the flesh off late, than if thou’dst died
    Ere thou wast done with gee-gee and bow-wow?

    Ten centuries hence—and that’s a briefer tide,
    Matched with eternity, than one eye-wink
    To that wheeled course Heaven’s tardiest sphere must ride.

    Dante, Purgatorio XI (trans. Dorothy L. Sayers)
     
  4. 23:53 31st Jul 2014

    Notes: 72

    Reblogged from laclefdescoeurs

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    laclefdescoeurs:

Prayer, 1974, Boris Sveshnikov

    laclefdescoeurs:

    Prayer, 1974, Boris Sveshnikov

     
  5. social media update

    Doesn’t that phrase just fill you with eagerness?  Anyway: in my ongoing quest to insinuate myself into the heart of our literature, I have decided to go where the readers are: I plan to be more active over at Goodreads, writing brief, well, not “reviews” exactly, though that’s what they call them—it would be stupid to “review” Dante, for instance—but, let’s say, accounts of my response to my reading.  So if you 1. are on Goodreads (the low hurdle) and 2. care even a little about what I have to say (the high hurdle), feel free to friend or follow me over there.  Here, for the curious, are my first three attempts—on Sayers’s Dante’s Purgatorio, on Dostoevsky’s Demons, and on Steiner’s Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.

     
  6. 13:10

    Notes: 77

    Reblogged from crisdehaine

    Mythology is not simply willed into existence, and the peoples of the earth quickly ensured they would no longer understand their own myths. It is at this very moment literature begins. Literature is the attempt to interpret, in an ingenious way, the myths we no longer understand, at the moment we no longer understand them, since we no longer know how to dream them or reproduce them.
    Gilles Deleuze, Desert Islands (via hierarchical-aestheticism)
     
  7. 13:10

    Notes: 16

    Reblogged from leprincelointain

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    leprincelointain:

Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797-1855), Cathédrale en Hiver - 1821

    leprincelointain:

    Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797-1855), Cathédrale en Hiver1821

     
  8. 07:00 30th Jul 2014

    Notes: 553

    Reblogged from slothnorentropy

    
Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

    Lacan, The Ethics of Psychoanalysis

    (Source: viperslang)

     
  9. 06:30

    Notes: 19

    Reblogged from leprincelointain

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    leprincelointain:

Harry Clarke (1889-1931), Illustration pour “The Man of the Crowd” d’Edgar Allan Poe.

    leprincelointain:

    Harry Clarke (1889-1931), Illustration pour “The Man of the Crowd” d’Edgar Allan Poe.

     
  10. As society approaches crisis and breakdown, preparatory to a reaffirmation of its identity, it provokes private disintegration, private ceremonial exorcism. To what extent the solitary suicide knows himself a participant in a vast communal phenomenon one cannot guess: to sense that the ground is slipping out from under everyone’s feet might be salvation to one individual, but a confirmation of despair to another. Contemporary society—by which I mean primarily ours in America—seems curiously able to accommodate itself to the loss, year by year, of an astonishing number of persons of all ages to suicide and suicidal self-destruction. And there are thousands, perhaps millions, who, in plunging into the anti-intellectual and in many cases delusional systems of various religious cults (Hare Krishna, the Unification Church of the Reverend Moon, Divine Light, etc.), have opted for a less evident sort of suicide. Dostoyevsky’s Russia was in the process of an even more violent transition: a tragic rejection, as Dostoyevsky saw it, not only of the Church and the established order, but of God—and all that God symbolizes in the human soul. That Dostoyevsky preaches so extreme a doctrine, that it never seems to have occurred to him that socialism, founded on “reason and science” (which he abhorred despite his own background as an engineering student) might one day accommodate itself to the religious instinct in the people, is unfortunate, but in a way prophetic; and in any case it inspired him to an apocalyptic fervor that resulted in extraordinary creative activity. We know that terror of change—any change—is a characteristic of the primitive mind, but that primitive mind is always with us, and has the power at times to create an uncannily beautiful poetry of despair: The center cannot hold, mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, we have been moved by our greatest poets’ angry admonitions over the centuries, even when we have felt ourselves unable to sympathize with their politics…
     
  11. Shigalyov is a man of genius! Do you know he’s a sort of genius like Fourier, but bolder than Fourier, but stronger than Fourier; I’m going to concern myself with him. He’s invented ‘equality’! […] He’s got spying. He’s got each member of society watching the others and obliged to inform. Each belongs to all, and all to each. They’re all slaves and equal in their slavery. Slander and murder in extreme cases, but above all—equality. First, the level of education, science, and talents is lowered. A high level of science and talents is accessible only to higher abilities—no need for higher abilities! Higher abilities have always seized power and become despots! Higher abilities cannot fail to be despots and have always corrupted rather than been of use; they are to be banished or executed. Cicero’s tongue is cut off, Copernicus’s eyes are put out, Shakespeare is stoned—this is Shigalyovism! Ha, ha, ha, so you find it strange? I’m for Shigalyovism! […] I’m for Shigalyov! No need for education, enough of science! There’s sufficient material even without science for a thousand years to come, but obedience must be set up. Only one thing is lacking in the world: obedience. The thirst for education is already an aristocratic thirst. As soon as there’s just a tiny bit of family or love, there’s a desire for property. We’ll extinguish desire: we’ll get drinking, gossip, denunciation going; we’ll get unheard-of depravity going; we’ll stifle every genius in infancy. Everything reduced to a common denominator, complete equality.
    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons (trans. Pevear and Volokhonsky)
     
  12. 06:30

    Notes: 86

    Reblogged from blastedheath

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    blastedheath:

Sam Sturis (Latvian, b.1971), Barque, 1996. Charcoal on gessoed board, 68 x 101 cm.

    blastedheath:

    Sam Sturis (Latvian, b.1971), Barque, 1996. Charcoal on gessoed board, 68 x 101 cm.

     
  13. 13:28 27th Jul 2014

    Notes: 54

    Reblogged from leprincelointain

    image: Download

    leprincelointain:

Adolfo de Carolis (1874-1928), Dantes Adriacus - 1921

    leprincelointain:

    Adolfo de Carolis (1874-1928), Dantes Adriacus - 1921

     
  14. 13:24

    Notes: 419

    Reblogged from baffomet

    image: Download

    thisblueboy:

Merry-Joseph Blondel (Paris, 1781-1853), Hecuba and Polyxena, after 1814, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

    thisblueboy:

    Merry-Joseph Blondel (Paris, 1781-1853), Hecuba and Polyxena, after 1814, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)

     
  15. Postmodernism was associated with disbelief in progress. But nobody in the nineteenth century who was intelligent believed in progress. Baudelaire didn’t believe in progress and neither did Flaubert, nor Nietzsche, or Wölfflin. “Postmodernity” was a way by which people came to understand what people already understood in the nineteenth century.

    […]

    But almost as early as the disjunction between Romanesque and Gothic churches, if you will, you’ll always see these “waves” in the succession of European styles. So beginning with the Renaissance, you have clear-cut forms, geometrical models, and a certain kind of clarity or intellectual transparency. But then it’s followed by the Baroque period: by complexity, obscurity, and contradiction. Then you have something similar between Classicism and Romanticism. And then at the start of the twentieth century, there is the avant-garde, which lasted until 1926 or 1927. After that, though, there is this huge wave of embryonic postmodernity—historicism, Socialist Realism, Nazi art, the “return to order,” and the Novecento in Italy. But all of that was suppressed after World War II. Following the war, there’s a new wave of modernism—a neo-avant-garde that goes from the 1950s and 1960s, lasting through the early 1970s. Starting in 1971 or 1972, you get a kind of neo-baroque. There’s Of Grammatology by Derrida, a baroque gesture. So there are these waves in the cultural history of Europe, shifting from clarity, intellectual responsibility, mathematico-scientific influences, and transparency to opacity, obscurity, absence, infinity. What is the Deleuzean or Derridean moment? It’s the moment where they took the structuralist models, defined as a system of finite rules and moves, and made it infinite. It is precisely what Romanticism did with the Enlightenment, what the Baroque did with the Renaissance, and so on. Even in terms of Marxism, you get these waves. There is the classical period of clarity. Then there is a period of obscurity—Benjamin, Adorno, and the like.