Wednesday, September 03, 2003

I've been pretty much absorbed with teaching (c.f. the new blog) and my paper (after a lot of kerfuffle I've decided to go back to the original impetus for it, which was the odd similarity between Gertrude Stein's rose and D.H. Lawrence's; I've decided that they both were doing interesting things with the rose [which I also treat as a metonym for lyric itself] that provide an alternative modernism-ation of lyric to the models proposed by Pound and Eliot [all that hardness and impersonality] and exemplified, in my view, by Williams' "The rose is obsolete" from Spring and All). I've also decided with slight misgivings to take a class, though I wasn't planning on it: a course on Adorno's Aesthetic Theory. I'm reading it anyway for my 'A' exam so I might as well. When is that exam? I've got to deal with that, but it's not going to happen until I get back from England, where all my thoughts begin to bend.

There was a party last night at the A.D. White house to welcome the new English department grad students. I was astonished to run into Evan Winet, a guy I used to hang out with at Vassar whom I haven't seen for almost exactly ten years. He's a visiting prof in the drama department and specializes in Indonesian theater. The world is both small and round.

Closing time in twenty minutes and I'm not in the poetry section, alas. So back to Dialectic of Enlightenment....
For Bacon as for Luther, "knowledge that tendeth but to satisfaction, is but as a courtesan, which is for pleasure, and not for fruit or generation." Its concern is not "satisfaction, which men call truth," but "operation," the effective procedure. The "true end, scope or office of knowledge" does not conssit in any plausible, delectable, reverend or admired discourse, or any satisfactory arguments, but in effecting and working, and in discovery of particulars not revealed before, for the better endowment and help of man's life." There shall be neither mystery nor any desire to reveal mystery.
Adorno's pessimism (I know, he was really a secret optimist, but I'm talking about tone) is so bracing. He's at his best in this vein in Minima Moralia, of course. It's damn refreshing to read him in a bookstore where anyone at any moment might ask me if we have a copy of Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and It's All Small Stuff). He has a capacity for taking himself seriously that I find as admirable and perplexing as I do Jorie Graham's.

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