Sunday, January 07, 2007

Weekend Update

Reginald Shepherd has a blog, though it remains to be seen whether he has a posse. Welcome aboard, Reginald.

Digesting a brilliant essay of Robert Kaufman's: "Negatively Capable Dialectics: Keats, Vendler, Adorno, and the Theory of the Avant-Garde," Critical Inquiry 27.2 (Winter 2001): 354-384, in which he shows how the Keats-Shelly dialectic of monumental vs. political poetry anticipates the dichotomy between the avant-garde as an intervention into "life" and modernism as an autonomous repository of the negative. Wonder if Reginald's read it (see his post about his upcoming book of criticism from University of Michigan Press, Inventing the Muses). The article's available from JSTOR if you're fortunate enough to have access to it. I was also very impressed by Kaufman's essay, "Red Kant, or the Persistence of the Third Critique in Adorno and Jameson." I think he's striking a nice balance between a Marxian socio-cultural critique of poetry and a more formalist approach. My kind of critic.

The question of prose and its relation to or incorporation of poetry continues to preoccupy me. For example: now reading for the first time Beckett's novel Murphy, written in a Joycean style that the author later repudiated, but which I nonetheless find compelling for the rich and strange tension it creates between the lush, whimsical architecture of its sentences and the existential poverty of its subject. The novel strikes an exact and precarious ratio between content-into-form and form-as-content that is essential to its comedy. Is this necessarily a comic mode? Later Beckett (I presume, though I haven't yet read the novels, only the plays), translated from the more austere original French, is also comic, but more balletic: Charlie Chaplin rather than Mack Sennett. Comedy seems to be the basic impulse of the great postmodern novelists, no matter how dark their visions of modernity: Pynchon, Delillo, Coover.

Page 178 of David Markson's art-mad, death-haunted "nonlinear, discontinuous, collage-like assemblage" Vanishing Point reads as follows:
     Selah, which marks the ends of verses in the Psalms, but the Hebrew meaning of which is unknown.
     And probably indicates no more than pause, or rest.

     Why does Author wish it implied more—or might stand for some ultimate effacement, even?

     The 1953 Victor De Sabata la Scala Tosca, with Callas, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Tito Gobbi—is it the greatest single opera recording ever made?

     The greatest anything recording?

     Selah. Absolutely, all the illimitable connotations of Einstein's cosmic Oy, vey Author hereby personally endows it with—a terminal desolation and despair.

     Done? Done. Beware Selah.

     Ravenaa, Dante died in.

     Brundisium, Virgil.

   Chalcis, in Euboea—Aristotle.

     For decades, at his most famous, Isaac Bashevis Singer kept his number listed in the Manhattan telephone directory.

     As did Auden. And Allen Ginsberg.
And one more quoted quotation from Markson that I often remember:
D'où venons nous?
Que sommes nous?
Où allons nous?

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