Tuesday, September 26, 2006

We Must Speak What We Feel

Recently, I have been putting some thought into a book project I would like to work on [in its most preliminary stage of inception, I might add], partly inspired by my own reading in cognitive philosophy and also by work the BABEL group has been doing on "humanism," but also heavily influenced by conversations that have unfolded on this blog relative to the possible social value [or lack thereof] of humanistic studies [and I am especially indebted, I would add here, to Emile B.'s generous sharing of bibliographies he has compiled, especially those covering attachment and affective orientation in psychoanalytic and social work theory]. I recently submitted an application for a summer research fellowship [to the Office of Research & Projects here at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville] that would allow me to spend two-thirds of summer 2007 undertaking the primary research and some of the writing of this book, and I would like to share here with the readers of this blog my very broadly drawn "project narrative." I would, of course, appreciate any feedback, especially since--at present--I am only in the very early stages of conceptualizing the shape of this book and gathering & beginning to read through preliminary bibliographies. The title of the project is pilfered from the closing lines of Shakespeare's King Lear, where Edgar laments, "The weight of this sad time, we must obey; / Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say. / The oldest hath borne most; we that are young / Shall never live so long nor see so much."

We Must Speak What We Feel: Eros, Love, Regard and the Humanities

My book project, We Must Speak What We Feel: Eros, Love, Regard and the Humanities, originated in the collaborative project undertaken by the BABEL Working Group to create new venues for bringing together scholars working in the humanities and social sciences with researchers working in the more “hard” sciences in order to formulate new paradigms for humanistic study at the university level, and to also demonstrate the relevance of premodern studies to pressing contemporary issues and questions. Part of the impetus of this collaboration was my interest in two somewhat longstanding debates among two groups of thinkers and researchers that do not always converse with each other—humanists and scientists—over the future of literary and other aesthetic studies and the future of “the human.” It is my belief that there are many rich opportunities for the productive convergence of these two groups, and there is already some proximity and overlap in their respective intellectual concerns.

Scholars working in literary studies, for example, have been discussing how changes in technology will affect the transmission and production of humanistic knowledge, and they have also worried over the fate of literature and the arts in what has widely been heralded as a posthuman age. What, for instance, might be the role of the critical analysis of literature in helping readers (including students) to develop ethical selves when the very notion of a coherent “self” has been undermined, not only by postmodern philosophy, but also by recent discoveries in cognitive science that, while dismissing the notion that there is such a thing as a single, unified self, have also revealed the importance of narrative and metaphor-like structures in the brain? George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, for example, in their book Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (New York, 1999), write that the way we “normally conceptualize our inner lives is inconsistent with what we know scientifically about the nature of mind.” Further, “there is no single, unified notion of our inner lives. There is not one Subject-Self distinction, but many.” At the same time, however, “we conceptualize our inner lives via metaphor.” And Daniel C. Dennett, in Consciousness Explained (Boston, 1991), has written that, thanks to certain insights from neuroscience, we know that individuals do not possess a “single, definitive ‘stream of consciousness,’ because there is no central Headquarters, no Cartesian Theater where ‘it all comes together’ for the perusal of a Central Meaner,” although there are “multiple channels in which specialist circuits” create “fragmentary drafts of ‘narrative’.”

Furthermore, there is a growing body of scientists, led by John Brockman, co-founder of the scientific collective Edge (www.edge.org) and the editor of the essay collections The Third Culture: Beyond the Scientific Revolution (New York, 1995) and New Humanists: Science at the Edge (New York, 2003), who argue that it has become necessary for scientists, in Brockman’s words, to “take the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives.” They believe that traditional literary intellectuals have abdicated their responsibility to elucidate the “important” philosophical questions regarding human nature, mind and body, time, technology, and the like, and they feel that those working in fields such as biology, computer science, mathematics, and physics are better suited to address those questions. Not all in Brockman’s circle fully agree with him that science will provide the answers to the big questions historically tackled by scholars working within the humanities. Nicholas Humphrey, for instance, a theoretical psychologist and author of The Mind Made Flesh: Essays from the Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution (Oxford, 2002), has argued that scientific discoveries can not “be counted on, necessarily, to bring about a net increase in human happiness—either through what they reveal about the course of nature or through the tools they potentially give us with which to intervene in it. Many scientists . . . are deeply pessimistic about what science tells us about the way the world is headed. And, as a separate issue, many still have anxieties about the use to which scientific discoveries will be put—from weapons of mass destruction, to eugenics, to thought control.” There is room here, then, I would argue, for humanists and scientists to work productively together, regardless of Brockman’s pessimism that literary scholars, for example, have become too hermeneutically insular and culturally pessimistic.

Finally, there are the social scientists—scholars working in psychology, sociology, and political theory, especially—who have undertaken immense and important work on human behavior that, while it often makes great use of scientific research, rarely considers literary or other aesthetic studies to be of much practical use.

We Must Speak What We Feel stems, first, from a desire to address certain areas of tension and non-communication between literature scholars, social scientists, and other scientists relative to the project of what Brockman has called the “rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives,” and also to ruminate the possible applications of humanistic studies within the supposed posthuman future. Second, the project is directed to three separate, yet (as I see it) related areas of scholarship: [1] work in social theory on what Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim have termed the “non-linear, open-ended, highly ambivalent,” and precarious process of individualization in the late modern period, where the intelligibility of the individual self—and, as a result, the moral community—is at risk of losing its coherence; [2] work in psychoanalytic theory on love, compassion, attachment, and affective care, especially in relation to individual well-being; and [3] work in neuroscience, cognitive philosophy, and sociology on what Lakoff and Johnson have termed “embodied consciousness,” where reason “is not disembodied, as the tradition has largely held, but arises from the nature of our brains, bodies, and bodily experience”: the “same neural and cognitive mechanisms that allow us to perceive and move around also create our conceptual systems and modes of reason,” and these modes of reason are not “purely literal, but largely metaphorical and imaginative,” as well as “emotionally engaged.”

This project is also a response to the work of the political theorist Jane Bennett in her book The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton, 2001), where she worries about what she calls “the image of modernity as disenchanted, that is to say, as a place of dearth and alienation (when compared to a golden age of community and cosmological coherency) or a place of reason, freedom, and control (when compared to a dark and confused premodernity).” For Bennett, “the question is not whether disenchantment is a regrettable or a progressive historical development. It is, rather, whether the very characterization of the world as disenchanted ignores and then discourages affective attachment to the world,” and this question is important, “because the mood of enchantment may be valuable for ethical life.”

The second worry Bennett has is over “the image of ethics as a code to which one is obligated,” and therefore “the affective dimensions of ethics are drawn too lightly.” In Bennett’s opinion, the enactment of ethical aspirations “requires bodily movements in space, mobilizations of heat and energy,” and “a distinctive assemblage of affective propulsions.” Further, ethical rules, by themselves, are not sufficient to the task of nurturing “the spirit of generosity that must suffuse ethical codes if they are to be responsive to the surprises that regularly punctuate life.” It is the argument of Bennett’s book that the contemporary world does, indeed, “retain the power to enchant humans and that humans can cultivate themselves so as to experience more of that effect.” Further, her “wager” is that, “to some small but irreducible extent, one must be enamored with existence and occasionally even enchanted in the face of it in order to be capable of donating some of one’s scarce mortal resources to the service of others.”

While Bennett looks at what she calls “sites of enchantment” in nature and culture—including video technologies, cross-species encounters, chaos theory, and commercial commodities—it is my purpose in this project to argue that literature, especially of the premodern period, is also a site of enchantment through which affective attachment to the world as well as the processes of disenchantment can be explored and analyzed, especially with an eye toward the cultivation of that “distinctive assemblage of affective propulsions” Bennett argues is so necessary for an ethical life. How might the study of premodern literatures play an important role in the cultivation of an affective, enamored ethical life in a world that is, for the modern individual, increasingly stamped with, in the words of Max Weber, “the imprint of meaninglessness”? Further, how might recent work in psychoanalysis and the cognitive sciences help those of us working in literary studies to draw upon the technologies of both emotional, embodied reasoning and of metaphor and story in our intellectual work, such that we might begin to bridge the gaps that often exist between the scientists and the humanists, and thereby formulate a “new humanism”? Finally, how might those of us working in premodern studies practice an enamored and affective scholarship that is attuned to pressing contemporary concerns and questions?

Although this project is, as I have stated, in its most infant stage, I have developed a preliminary sketch of a chapter outline. In addition to an Introduction to the project, there will be four chapters, two of which (on Sophocles’s Antigone and Shakespeare’s King Lear, respectively) will treat the themes of disembodiment and disenchantment, and the resulting negative socio-political consequences and individual psychic damage. The other two chapters (on the Old English saints’ legend, The Seven Sleepers, and Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, respectively) will treat the themes of embodied reason, erotic attachment to the world, and the necessity of sites of enchantment for the development of an enamored and ethical life.

PRELIMINARY BIBLIOGRAPHY

Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity (Cambridge, 2000)

---. Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts (Cambridge, 2004)

Ulrich Beck, Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity, trans. Mark Ritter (London, 1992)

Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and its Social and Political Consequences, trans. Patrick Camiller (London, 2002)

Jane Bennett, The Enchantment of Modern Life: Attachments, Crossings, and Ethics (Princeton, 2001)

J. Bowlby, Attachment and Loss, Vol 1: Attachment (London, 1969)

William E. Connolly, Neuropolitics: Thinking, Culture, Speed (Minneapolis, 2002)

Thomas J. Csordas, ed., Embodiment and Experience: The Existential Ground of Culture and Self (Cambridge, 1994)

Antonio R. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotions in the Making of Consciousness (New York, 1999)

---. Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (New York, 1994)

Daniel C. Dennett, Consciousness Explained (Boston, 1991)

Mike Featherstone, Mike Hepworth, and Bryan S. Turner, eds., The Body: Social Process and Cultural Theory (London, 1991)

Kenneth Gergen, The Saturated Self: Dilemmas of Identity in Contemporary Life (New York, 1991)

Anthony Giddens, The Consequences of Modernity (Stanford, 1990)

---. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Stanford, 1991)

Paul Gilbert, ed., Compassion: Conceptualisations, Research and Use in Psychotherapy (London, 2005)

Nicholas Humphrey, The Mind Made Flesh: Essays from the Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution (Oxford, 2002)

Mark Johnson, Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics (Chicago, 1993)

George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought (New York, 1999)

Scott Lash and Jonathan Friedman, eds., Modernity and Identity (Oxford, 1992)

Jonathan Lear, Love and Its Place in Nature: A Philosophical Interpretation of Freudian Psychoanalysis (New York, 1990)

---. Open-Minded: Working Out the Logic of the Soul (Cambridge, Mass., 1998)

Joseph LeDoux, The Synaptic Self: How Our Brains Become Who We Are (New York, 2002)

Nikolas Luhmann, Love as Passion: The Codification of Intimacy (Cambridge, Mass., 1986)

Max Scheler, The Nature of Sympathy, trans. Peter Heath (London, 1979)

Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson, Unto Others: The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior (Cambridge, Mass., 1998)

Bryan S. Turner, The Body and Society: Explorations in Social Theory (London, 1996)

Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Passion: An Essay on Personality (New York, 1984)

16 comments:

N50 said...

Sounds facinating.

I was irritated at a recent gathering at the old skirmishes still being played out over relationships between traditional and tiny subsections of bigger fields of humanistic knowledge. It seemed (with only one exception - a brilliant paper on the nature of time) very tired indeed, hide-bound in bureaucracy and so entirely to miss the bigger picture of fundamental changes in the ways in which knowledge and understanding are being created and reproduced.

You are lucky to be able to apply for funding to START a project. Good luck!

J J Cohen said...

An intriguing, difficult project. I know that, through this forum and through work you've shared with me, I've already read several fragments that are moving towards its whole.

I'm still having trouble articulating to myself with enough precision your conception of a “new humanism.” Part of it is that I'm not really sure if we live in a posthuman age after all: it seems like the dominant cultural reaction to a decentered notion of the self (whethere via science or philosophy) has been to ignore it. We live in a time of hardened identities, not loose and multiple ones (except for certain privileged subjects), no? But I realize also that your project is addressed to a scholarly community that is going to be more flexible in its conceptualziation of subjectivity. And perhaps more accepting of theorizing the role narrative plays in the organzing of selfhood and ethical relations.

It's easy for me to see why your bringing of cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, et al. will be of value when you bring it to the table where we premodernists gather to speak to each other. It's a bit tougher to imagine that, at this same table, the "hard" scientists are going to pull up a chair. What is in it for them, especially if (like Brockman) they feel they already possess methodologies sufficient to coming up with the answers? You say you aim to "demonstrate the relevance of premodern studies to pressing contemporary issues and questions." I don't doubt it; actually, I'm certain that you are already deeply engaged in this endeavor. But I'd really like to see a succinct statement of why those outside the field will need to pay attention to your work more than they do to, say, Jane Bennett's.

Could you say a little more about your choice of title? Edgar's lament is an acknowledgement of coming apocalypse, and has always struck me as wrenching, bleak, bare. I'm sure you mean to be more hopeful ... how does the compunction to speak what we feel initiate a new humanism?

Eileen Joy said...

"An intriguing, difficult project," JJC wrote, and I would re-emphasize the "difficult" part [haha]. This project, in fact, is, in some ways, so unformed and "initial" that a part of me wonders if I am stumbling down what will turn out to be a blind, difficult alley, but . . . I hope not.

As to my conception of a "new humanism," let's just say--for the time being--that I am still conceptualizing it, but that it will have something to do with affective and embodied thinking, as well as with the importance of humanistic scholarship to understanding what it means to "be human." And that means that, yes, I am not willing [yet] to give up on the idea of "being human" [and therefore, also, on the idea of a "humanism" that would attend to this state of being from a philosophical & socio-critical & aesthetic perspective] and its possible importance to living a "good life" [in the sense Aristotle gave to that phrase]. As to JJC's idea that we may not, in fact, live in posthuman age at all, I somewhat agree, but would ask if whether or not what we are living in is actually a kind of hybrid period in which more solid and more fluid identities exist alongside each other [and even overlap]. Regardless of all the postmodern theorizing within, say, literary studies, but also within cognitive science, over the supposed multiplicity of self, most people live their actual lives with very conscious recourse to a variety of essentialisms of self [I am a woman, I am a dyke, I am white, I am Irish, I am a liberal, etc.]. On a political level, the idea of a certain fludity of self and identities is an important safeguard against certain rigid fundamentalisms, but whether or not people can actually live in a state of continual identity flux is another question [although, come on, don't we all, to a certaine extent?]. But yes, JJC, we *do* live in that time of "hardened identities" you mention, and I think that may be a problem, actually, one that can hopefully be overcome [or "worked through"], I hope, through what I might call, for now, the new technologies of compassion and affective orientation.

As to whether or not the "hard" scientists will pull up a chair to the discussion I want to have, I think some won't [like Brockman], but others [like Nicholas Humphrey, Antonio Damasio, Oliver Sacks, Steven Pinker, E.O. Wilson, etc.] will pull up that chair, because they have already acknowledged in much of their own work the important insights to be gleaned from art, literature, history, and philosophy. In fact, for the past several years E.O. Wilson has engaged in an important higher ed. initiative with the naturalist, poet, and fiction writer Barry Lopez, relative to designing a special undergraduate curriculum that "weds," so to speak, scientific field research with artistic portfolio work. This curriculum has been instituted already at several institutions, including at Texas Tech., where the program results in a five-year B.A. in Natural History & the Humanities. So, yes, I think the "hard" scientists will come to the table if we invite the ones whose work is already empathetically inclined toward humanistic research, but there are still a lot of bridges to be built and I think a lot more work can [and should] be done by those of us on the humanities side to build those bridges to the more "hard" sciences and to ask the right questions of the scientists, and to really *engage* with them in dialogue, not just "poach" some of their ideas [as we are often wont to do] and run off with them to only apply them to a purely literary analysis. As to why, ultimately, anyone outside of literary studies should be interested in how a medieval studies scholar directs her research and thought and writing to pressing contemporary questions, that is the most urgent question of all that JJC poses here, and I can't provide a sufficient answer [yet], except to say that if we can somehow figure out new ways to do collaborative research with those working in other disciplines and to also make cogent arguments about the relevance of humanistic studies, especially of the past, to the so-called "real present," then I think it's possible, or I simply *want* it to be possible. Jane Bennett's book, incidentally, although labeled as "ethico-political theory" reads an awful lot like a lot of books I have read in literary studies, but the major difference is that her *concern* in the book is ethical action in the present world; nevertheless, her book addresses and anlyzes subjects as diverse as Paraclesus, Kant, Deleuze, Thoreau, Rene Magritte, and Gap khaki ads. One could say that here we have an example of a political theorist "doing" literary-aesthetic-historical studies, but where is the literary historian who is also a political theorist?

As to why I chose the lines spoken by Edgar in Shakespeare's "King Lear" as the title for my project, I don't necessarily see those lines as looking forward to an apocalypse [although I guess they *could* be that], so much as I see them as a lament for missed opportunities for the expression of feelings--specifically, love--and that is why I chose to reference that passage, because I want to somehow point to the importance of highlighting what Damasio would call "rational emotions," and which are often suppressed or overlooked or disregarded in our work. I am also giving myself a lever with which I hope to explore the possible connections between love and the health of the polis.

Karl Steel said...

I'm always saying this, but: a quick comment as I run away from the table for only a time, I hope.

First, I hear Edgar in the same way as EJ, perhaps. Isn't there a kind of love necessary to memorialize grief?

Second, a reaction to JJC's We live in a time of hardened identities, not loose and multiple ones:

As much as I'm dubious of the crisis model (despite fully expecting a biological, environmental, or nuclear eschaton to kill me someday), isn't what you notice, JJC, in part a reaction to the loosening of old narratives and old justifications for identities? Don't we live in a time of reaction, all the more reactionary because there's no long any legitimate justification for marking off certain identities (species, race, gender, nation, etc. etc.) as fixed in their superiority or separateness? We've always lived in fantasy, but knowing that, as anyone must these days, makes some people all the more desparate to claim a reality for what they are.

There is a reality, nevertheless. It's bodies, which are also consciousnesses. By rerooting ourselves in bodies, we do root ourselves, paradoxically, in flux. This doesn't mean the disappearance of the person, not entirely. I feel in my (ever changing) bones that the embodied approach to the person, one rooted in its ceaselessly changing but materially constrained immanence, is the right one.

More to come later?

Eileen Joy said...

And I would respond here to Karl's comments that they resonate well with the thinking of Zygmunt Bauman who, in his book "Postmodern Ethics," has written that, in times such as ours where everything seems so in flux, certain groups of people cling to their "tribalisms" and fundamentalisms all the more fiercely. I will quote here briefly from my and Mary Ramsey's Introduction to "The Postmodern Beowulf":

-----beginning of excerpt-----

In political life, under the lengthening shadows of the supposed eclipse of the nation-state, we have also witnessed the backlash, often with deadly results, of the fortress-like “isms” of the past: tribalism, territorialism, nationalism, parochialism, and fundamentalism, although it might be argued, as Bauman does, that these “isms” are always “brittle” and “endemically precarious,” subject as they are to a world in which the globalization of the economy, the “privatization of self-formation,” and the fragmentation of political sovereignties makes it increasingly difficult for any kind of collective identity-building to secure anything but temporary strongholds. At the same time, precisely because all “grand certitudes” have dissipated, they have also “split in the process into a multitude of little certainties, clung to all the more ferociously for their puniness.” With liquid modernity’s cutting loose of the “heavy” structures of the past, then, there are also the pockets (and sometimes, huge waves) of tenacious resistance, as well as, one would assume, a lot of personal and cultural and political anxieties over the tenuousness of everything.

-----end of excerpt-----

I, too, like Karl, feel that "the embodied approach to the person, one rooted in its ceaselessly changing but materially constrained immanence, is the right one." I also believe that it will be "across bodies" and not "across nations" or "across cultures" or "across identities" that a viable human rights philosophy will have to be rewritten [and may, therefore, include "other" animals].

As to [once again] those lines from Edgar, it's not just that they point to the importance of expressing what I am calling "rational emotion," but that they also point to the importance of how, in times of great personal, social, and more broadly political crisis, that the expression of "the human," rooted somewhat tragically in individual bodies, always matters. For that [and other] reasons, I've always felt that the true tragic hero of "Lear" is Edmund.

J J Cohen said...

Now gods stand up for bastards! It's true, Edmund does have an affirmative power to him ... but his tragedy is that he is an artist of catastrophe, not the agent of a widened world.

I disagree with neither Eileen nor Karl: there is something reactionary in the hardening of identities that we see in the here and now. A medieval parallel? Bede, who lived during an epoch of hybridity and flux but wrote as if the world came predivided and immutable.

I feel in my (ever changing) bones that the embodied approach to the person, one rooted in its ceaselessly changing but materially constrained immanence, is the right one.
I like that a lot. The "ceaselessly changing" part is not always easy to bear, because part of that change is physical evidence of ceaseless movement towards demise (this morning Kid #1 catalogued the signs of aging he could read on his father's body -- ouch!). But that ceaseless change is also, for those of us who are not artists of catastrophe and see in bodies that wll endure into the future something of themselves, a difficult but not unfair price for inhabiting selves and worlds.

N50 said...

To put it simply. It seems to me that literature and literary criticism at its best deals in emotion. EJ’s interest in identity, enchantment and (dis)embodiedness are all concerned with how people feel, with subjectivity, with empathy, with faith. You all write about those issues very eloquently here. It is what In The Middle majors in – and EJ your website positively throbs with emotion. So it makes sense to reach out to people in other disciplines, whether they be humanists or scientists (and by the way this distinction is read differently in Europe), who also deal in emotions and they should engage.

However there will be a very large number of projects which are not so directly concerned with emotions – and even when interested in similar issues will approach them from less emotionally-bound directions – and there, presumably, there will be less resonance. (Other?) medievalists will have to find other ways of dealing with those different approaches (and come to think of it the example I gave yesterday of environmental economists working with medievalists to study medieval farming techniques for their lessons in sustainability is just a very small example of that).

Eileen Joy said...

Thank you, N50, for your very kind affirmation of what I am attempting with my project [and also of the random musings collectively posted on this blog]. There are many different ways, as you point out, for those working in different disciplines to collaborate productively, but even more importantly, to truly *engage* one another.

emile blauche said...

So academic. I know you are one, but dayum.

I owe you a couple more titles (check your email), but, meanwhile, I recommend taking a chaw on these:

Ahmed, Sara. (2004). The cultural politics of emotion.

May, Rollo. (1996, revised). The meaning of anxiety.

Eileen Joy said...

Once again, Emile B., I thank you for your immensely helpful bibliographic input.

Eileen Joy said...

Just a quick thought, Jeffrey [see, I want to revert to "Jeffrey"--a lovely name, by the way] regarding your description of Edmund as an "agent of catastrophe"--yes, of course he is just that. But in a sense, so is Lear [but for different reasons]. But Edmund is also someone who, due to the social and identity constraints of the time period [not only the period in which the play was written but also the early, more "primeval" period in which the action is supposedly set], is not *allowed* to act differently than he does. He must either silently suffer his role as Gloucester's "bastard" or take what he wants by subterfuge and force. He is, in a sense, the "queer" of the play. How would someone like Edmund, anyway, be more of an "agent" of that "widened world" you refer to? In the world of the play, he has no agency at all and I think it's especially telling that Shakespeare opens the play with the scene where Gloucester essentially debases his relationship to Edmund and acts as if Edmund isn't even standing right there while he's doing it. It's as if Shakespeare is signalling to us--in case we don't "get it"--this play is about Edmund. Even more so, about Edmund and Edgar.

J J Cohen said...

I'm with you in feeling sympathy for Edmund: how can we watch the play and not feel his exclusion, and collude with him in his revenge? When I called him an "artist of catastrophe" I meant to convey that there is something exuberantly creative in the forces he unleashes, and something beautiful as well ... just like the storm that thunders out from Lear's tortured interior and sweeps the play along with it. But an artist as in love with chaos as Edmund is can't heal a world, can't change a world ... and may very ell enjoy decimating that world utterly.

I like your reading of him as part of Edgar, who yearns for stability ... that seems right to me.

N50 said...

A present for EJ


Symptomatic of a common desire to find emotional solace in a perfect past?

As is this

Eileen Joy said...

Eileen likes her present very much and is now trying to figure out if Dylan Evans is fascinating in a good way or a bad way [haha]. His books look great, especially "Emotion: A Short Introduction," which I have ordered. His "Utopia" experiment is altogether another story--I fear that, like the "Shire" in Bend, Oregon, it's a somewhat misguided attempt to "go back" to something that never really existed. But perhaps I'm just bitter. As it turns out, I do not possess any of the special "talents" is is seeking for his utopian community. It's true; I can't play a musical instrument, or sew, or butcher a pig [nor would I want to]. Damn.

Karl Steel said...

I can't play a musical instrument, or sew, or butcher a pig [nor would I want to].

If you want to learn, here's the book for you. I keep it in my bathroom in part as anticipation of what I might need to know, depending on where I end up next year.

N50 said...

Dear Eileen,

I'm glad you like it! I have not read the books - but his utopian plans have had some coverage in the press here (and I bet they make a TC doc of it). The independent community project does seem a bit of the 'same old, same old' and the skills desired hardly speak of brave new worlds.

I am sorry you cannot butcher a pig - I had half imagined that you would end up spending your holidays there next year.

I guess we will just have to read the (inevitable?) blog instead.