Tag Archives: literature

One Shall Be Taken

Two horses–look again– Winged, like cherubim– Watering at a marble trough, Ivy in riot about them. Reality? Silence, bones Saline, a coffin–not a trough– And a tale in the main that Had been uneven, rough, harsh. I’d have done it differently. This … Continue reading

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By What Criteria Should One Evaluate Shakespeare?

In the Preface to his eight-volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1765), the literary critic Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) had some opinions about what makes Shakespeare so good. Here they are. See if you agree (and notice how many of them are … Continue reading

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Saint Ranieri, Meet George Jetson: Deconstruction Illustrated with a Catholic Painting

__________ What is deconstruction? In postmodern theory, deconstruction (in a nutshell) is the undoing of an author’s controlling intentions by time and audience reception. This can only happen because texts are made of parts, not coherent wholes. Over time, parts … Continue reading

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What Makes Shakespeare So Good? (Hint: Mimesis Might Have Something To Do With It)

In the preface to his eight-volume edition of Shakespeare’s plays (1765), the literary critic Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) had some opinions about what makes Shakespeare so good. Here they are (and notice how many of them are grounded in mimesis): Shakespeare … Continue reading

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Is the Late David Rakoff the Alexander Pope of Novelists?

David Rakoff wrote a whole novel in sing-song rhyme, like a Dr. Seuss book, and it has just been posthumously published. Not sure I like it, but below is a sample. I do like this couplet late in the recording, … Continue reading

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Jacques Lacan in the Mirror: the Real v. the Imaginary and Symbolic

The Real as illustrated in courtly love. In his essay, “Courtly Love, or, Woman as Thing” (1994) cultural critic Slavoj Zizek (b. 1949) presents courtly love—knight-Lady romance as ritualized in the European Middle Ages—through a Lacanian lens (Jacques Lacan, the … Continue reading

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Hegel for Beginners

Outer v. inner direction. The philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) had a decisive influence on Karl Marx, and he continues to exert influence on intellectual thought today. For this reason, it’s good to know the gist of Hegel’s theorizing … Continue reading

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What Would Homer Say? Model Writers at Your Shoulder as a Tool for Writing Improvement

Imitation and emulation. The ancient Greek teacher Longinus is among the first persons to address what would become a recurrent theme in the history of rhetoric and literary criticism: the sublime (elevated emotion; ecstasy). His reflections on the sublime can … Continue reading

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Read

At The Daily Beast, academics and writers were asked to name “one book that [college] students shouldn’t escape campus without having read.” MIT professor and Pulitzer Prize winner, Junot Diaz, picked Toni Morrison’s Beloved because it “stabs straight at the heart … Continue reading

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Nietzsche in a Nutshell

__________ Once you perceive that you are flung into a cosmos in which God is dead (or silent), and your ultimate questions are unlikely ever to be answered, it’s time to stop worrying about who or where you are really—what the truth is—and just, say, make lion-man totems … Continue reading

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Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” with Cate Blanchett in a Blanche DuBois Echoing Role

Woody Allen continues his staggering productivity as a writer and director. His latest film, Blue Jasmine, is getting rave reviews, such as this from David Denby at The New Yorker: Woody Allen, in his startling new movie, “Blue Jasmine,” has adopted … Continue reading

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“You Know Him Not, Sir”: Shakespeare And Limitations On Self-Shaping

How much can you change your life and those of others, really? That’s a question I’ve been gnawing on a bit after seeing this past weekend an outdoor staging of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Shakespeare, famously, was obsessed … Continue reading

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An Interview with Charles Hood

__________ Poet and photographer Charles Hood’s most recent book, South x South, based on a trip he made to Antarctica in 2011, has just been published by Ohio University Press (2013). Jordan Davis, poetry editor of The Nation, writes the … Continue reading

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The Tao of Emily, the Calm of Lao Tzu, and Trouble from Blake

Below are two couplets of flower power yin-yang from Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Awake ye muses nine, sing me a strain divine,” written in 1850 when she was aged nineteen. Insofar as anybody knows, it’s the first poem she’d ever written … Continue reading

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David Foster Wallace’s “This is Water” 2005 Kenyon College Commencement Address

Wallace is totally the Buddha in this speech, preaching attentional choice, vigilance in looking, and imaginative awareness. It’s a shame he hit bottom in 2008 and, in the grip of a severe depression (a recurrent scourge that plagued his life), … Continue reading

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Vicarious Voyeurism is “In the House”

Recommended to me by a colleague, the new French film, In the House, sounds interesting. A high school teacher encourages one of his students to write ever more dramatic scenes for him to read, knowing full well that by doing … Continue reading

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Embrace Chance?

In a collection of art essays by Roger Kimball titled Art’s Prospect (Ivan R. Dee 2003) is an essay on a Matisse exhibit in which Kimball writes the following (151): [Matisse] arrived [in Morocco in 1912] in the rainy season, … Continue reading

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The Living Statue of Liberty vs. the Old Junos (and Jesus on the Cross)

Robert Wright has recently given up blogging at The Atlantic to write a book about Buddhism. His parting admonitions on foreign policy include these two sensible gems: [1] The world’s biggest single problem is the failure of people or groups to look … Continue reading

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Sharon Olds in High Form

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Kerouac’s Inspiration

“There’ll be no editing. This book was dictated by the Holy Ghost.” –Jack Kerouac (1922-1969) to his publisher after completing the first draft of On the Road (1951). Kerouac’s mugshot for the United States Naval Reserve in 1943 (eight years … Continue reading

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