Thursday, June 02, 2011

quote of the day: "Esthétique du Mal"

by J J Cohen

Today's work is to compose an entry on giants for the forthcoming Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters. The volume is edited by my former PhD student, Jeffrey Weinstock (little known fact: anyone who completes a thesis under my supervision must legally change his first name to my own). Composing the piece has offered a good excuse to re-open my own dissertation, an ancient work bound in human skin that seems to have had its title translated from the German (The Tradition of the Giant in Early England: A Study of the Monstrous in Folklore, Theology, History and Literature).

I was struck by the epigraph I chose for my thesis. It brought me immediately back to my graduate school enamorment of the poets Wallace Stevens and Charles Baudelaire. (Yes I know: who would have thought.) Here's the quotation I chose from Stevens' Baudelairian poem "Esthétique du Mal," about the impoverishment that arrives when you believe that you know enough:

To lose sensibility, to see what one sees,
As if sight had not its own miraculous thrift,
To hear only what one hears, one meaning alone,
As if the paradise of meaning ceased
To be paradise, it is this to be destitute.

Sitting on this porch, listening to the wind on an unexpectedly crisp day, thinking about the writing I've lost myself within lately, all I can say is: Words to live by.

1 comment:

Karl Steel said...

Beautiful stuff, belatedly appreciated.

and as for Weinstock, if he somehow ends up here: I'm impressed. All that edited Lovecraft! I'm surprised he and his mind are still among us.