661 Slices
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Medium 9781885635150

Real Time

Zach Savich Center for Literary Publishing ePub

for David Bartone

A ladder built into the exterior of a truck,
all anything does is confide, every morning

beginning now, decency its own kind
of constitution, each step onto a balcony or

from a café with little outdoor seating,
not counting the city. “What year

is that from,” the mother says. “First century
AD,” says her son. “But that’s a hundred

years.”

for Jeff Downey

We proceed by pattern and anomaly, had
no money but lived above a bakery

and a florist, just-aged flowers free
in a trough. I liked how you called the street

I always take “the secret way,” two fingers
held to a passing dog.

for Hilary Plum

We go to the cinema merely
for the light, view of alleys

from a balcony, to be in
the world and it is mythic:

zinnia market in the churchyard,
onions in mesh, daylit moon

a watermark on foreign currency.

1.

I sang: Tell me of the heart which exists
in which to continue is not
to confine

2.

Then dreamed I sang so loudly, I woke
myself singing

The cygnets’ feet were lost in snow

The cygnets were lovely because footless

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24. The Doctrine of Necessity Examined

Charles S. Peirce Indiana University Press PDF

24

The Doctrine of Necessity Examined

5 November 1891

Morris Library

In the Monist for January, 1891, I endeavored to show what elementary ideas ought to enter into our view of the universe. I may mention that on those considerations I had already grounded a cosmical theory, and from it had deduced a considerable number of consequences capable of being compared with experience. This comparison is now in progress, but under existing circumstances must occupy many years.

I propose here to examine the common belief that every single fact in the universe is precisely determined by law. It must not be supposed that this is a doctrine accepted everywhere and at all times by all rational men. Its first advocate appears to have been Democritus the atomist, who was led to it, as we are informed, by reflecting upon the “impenetrability, translation, and impact of matter (ajntitupiva kai; fora; kai; plhgh; th`~ u}lh~).” That is to say, having restricted his attention to a field where no influence other than mechanical constraint could possibly come before his notice, he straightway jumped to the conclusion that throughout the universe that was the sole principle of action,—a style of reasoning so usual in our day with men not unreflecting as to be more than excusable in the infancy of thought. But Epicurus, in revising the atomic doctrine and repairing its defences, found himself obliged to suppose that atoms swerve from their courses by spontaneous chance; and thereby he conferred upon the theory life and entelechy. For we now see clearly that the peculiar function of the molecular hypothesis in physics is to open an entry for the calculus of probabilities. Already, the prince of philosophers had repeatedly and emphatically condemned the dictum of Democritus (especially in the

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Medium 9780253008053

1. Alone with God: Wiesel's Writings on the Bible

Steven T Katz Indiana University Press ePub

WIESEL'S WRITINGS ON THE BIBLE

JOEL ROSENBERG

BETWEEN 1976 AND 2004, Elie Wiesel published four books devoted partly or wholly to biblical retellings: Messengers of God in 1976, Five Biblical Portraits in 1981, Sages and Dreamers in 1991, and Wise Men and Their Tales in 2004.1 While, properly speaking, impossible to view in isolation from his other output of this period, this material in fact forms a meaningful chapter in the history of Jewish biblical interpretation, in addition to being writing that touches the soul. Around the time the last book was published, Wiesel, along with Harvard-based biblical scholar Frank Moore Cross Jr., participated in a joint interview for Biblical Archaeology Review conducted by its editor, Hershel Shanks.2 Cross was the quintessence of the historical-critical scholar, immersed in ancient Near Eastern epigraphy and Northwest Semitic pagan poetry, committed to archaeological research and scientific historical method. Here counterposed to him, as it were, was the Jewish storyteller, still bearing within himself the yeshiva bokher: the perspective of the Eastern European Jewish village—suspicious of “biblical criticism,” steeped in the rabbinic worldview, and cherishing the naive vision of childhood. (Wiesel's upbringing and education were in fact more complex than this profile implies, but I'll let this conception prevail for now.) “I'm interested,” said Wiesel in the interview, “in [the Bible's] layers of meaning, but my relation to it is much more an emotional one. It's been my passion almost from my youth. I want to go back to the child I used to be, and to read with the same naiveté.”3 Cross, for his part, spoke of the rabbinic realm, what he called “late Judaism,” as a place where “you can't even swing a cat without hitting three demons and two spirits.” (In this respect, I should add, he found it similar in outlook to the New Testament.)4

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Medium 9780253012463

7 The Efficacy of Performance: Musical Events in The Years

Adriana L. Varga Indiana University Press ePub

Elicia Clements

THE YEARS (1937) IS WOOLFS MOST OVERTLY POLITICAL NOVEL; it reveals her growing concern in the 1930s to illuminate the social cost of what she will call “subconscious Hitlerism” in her 1940 essay “Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid.” Simultaneously, the novel “turns up the volume,” so to speak, by foregrounding aurality in new and ubiquitous ways. In this essay, I argue that the two foci converge in the subject matter of The Years. In the thirties, Woolf searched for new ways not just to comment on social and political issues but also to produce writings that might break down the art/life dichotomy and actively engage in political critique. As Jessica Berman reminds us concerning Orlando and The Waves, “Woolf creates an alternative discourse of feminist action and power, one which seeks to intervene directly in the political life of Britain [during the period from 1929 to 1931]” (116). I would suggest further, for different but related reasons, that Woolf was equally concerned with generating “real” change through efficacious methods and means in The Years (especially as Hitler’s voice thundered over the wireless). By analyzing representations of musical performance in the novel, I demonstrate that Woolf deftly integrates aspects from the art forms of music, drama, and literature to elaborate practices of aesthetic efficacy.

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26. Philosopher

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Compare the following:

Thoreau: To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust. It is to solve some of the problems of life, not only theoretically, but practically (13).

Nietzsche: I have at all times written my works with my whole body and my whole life; I don’t know any “purely intellectual problems.”

Wittgenstein: My father was a business man, and I am a business man: I want my philosophy to be businesslike, to get something done, to get something settled.

Following his fellow Viennese Sigmund Freud, Wittgenstein conceived of philosophy as a kind of therapy, one that would bring relief from certain torments brought on by language’s misuse. (Because language enables us to say that a “mathematical problem” has a solution, we assume that other nouns, like “life,” do as well.) What would this “therapy” have done for Thoreau? Prevented his going to Walden? Forestalled his Platonic urge to read Nature symbolically? Diagnosed his post-Walden depression as resulting from the idea of a single, elusive “solution” to life? Or would Wittgenstein have seen Thoreau as a precursor, similarly devoted to solitude, austerity, walking, and handiwork? For this Thoreau, Walden was less theory than practice: there, he became a writer, a citizen, and a businessman, thereby solving simultaneously the practical problems of vocation, reputation, and income. He had, in effect, redefined the crucial term: “The economy of living,” he now maintained, “is synonymous with philosophy” (39).

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Medium 9780253211903

31. An Essay toward Improving Our Reasoning in Security and in Uberty (1913)

Peirce Edition Project Indiana University Press ePub

 

MS 682. [This text, composed in September–October 1913, a few months before Peirce’s death, belongs to a series of unfinished papers on reasoning.] Written in a retrospective mood, this unfinished work shows Peirce continuing to assess the completeness of his logic and the scope of his pragmatism. We learn that reasoning involves a trade-off between security and uberty (rich suggestiveness), and that, not surprisingly, deductive reasoning provides the most security, but little uberty, while abduction provides much uberty but almost no security. Pragmatism, it seems, falls in on the side of security: “[it] does not bestow a single smile upon beauty, upon moral virtue, or upon abstract truth;—the three things that alone raise Humanity above Animality.” Peirce objects strongly to Francis Bacon’s pessimistic claim that nature is beyond human understanding and repeats his long-held conviction that psychology can offer no significant aid to logic. The essay ends with a reminder that the connection between words and thought is as intimate as that between body and mind.

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3 A Cure for Childhood

Craig Morgan Teicher Center for Literary Publishing ePub

Quoth my father

I will part my hair

first I take off my shirt
then my clever father

I am not playing dress up
my favorite book

and feel the stars
softly edging away

until it is too late

I beg the stars

my father an enormous book
of manners my father

just softly enough
to hear the frost but first

I gut my father my favorite
until it is too late softly

I can feel and
away from my father

I dress up and beg my hair

I can feel clever

until it is too late
softly until my father my hair

I know what living looks like, so I can guess
some of the things being dead is not.

But I should understand this by now. Twelve years
living with a dead mother should have taught me.

Still I’m shocked by not meeting the ones
I will never meet, the ones I should have met
by the time all was over,

who now are no longer anywhere,

who were here and now, as suddenly, are not.

I would have said something to them, would have thought
of something worth hearing to say. Or I would see

again the ones who are gone, would say one last time
what I had already said many times before. I have one dream

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14. Victims, Executioners, and the Ethics of Political Violence: A Levinasian Reading of Dawn

Steven T Katz Indiana University Press ePub

A LEVINASIAN READING OF DAWN

JONATHAN DRUKER

I AM STRUCK BY THE coherence of Elie Wiesel's life and work over many decades, by his unwavering conviction that, in all human affairs, questions are more valuable to us than answers, especially in the matter of ethics. In the following pages, I will discuss Wiesel's first novel, Dawn, initially published in 1960 in France, which is about the ethical uncertainty entailed in any attempt to achieve political aims through terrorist violence, a theme that is as relevant today as it was over fifty years ago.1 I wish to show how Dawn uses a variety of literary techniques and imaginative devices to encounter the complex entwinement of ethics and politics. Furthermore, I will suggest that the novel explores ethical questions with imagery and ideas that often resemble those used by the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas. If the Levinasian “face of the Other” offers a powerful key for reading Dawn, the novel also offers a means of illustrating what Levinasian ethics really mean. That is to say, the novel and Levinas's concept of the “face” shed light on each other. My discussion will also illustrate a broader point: that literature, in both content and style, helps us explore ethical questions in ways not open to traditional philosophical discourse.2

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17. Idleness

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Walden offers itself as a practical book, but anyone hoping to find a set of immediately operable instructions will be confronted by its contradictory advice. On the one hand, the book’s first two chapters and its “Conclusion”—at once Thoreau’s most hectoring and inspiring—propose deliberation and effort as the means to a vivid, wide-awake life. In one of Walden’s most famous sentences, Thoreau declares, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscious endeavor” (64). The key word endeavor will return near the end:

I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. (217)

His repeated insistence that we “put the foundations” under our “castles in the air” (217) casts these parts of Walden in the active voice: we can work on our lives. “To affect the quality of the day,” he concludes, “that is the highest of arts” (65).

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50. [Plan for a Scientific Dictionary]

Charles S. Peirce Indiana University Press PDF

50

[Plan for a Scientific Dictionary]

Winter–Spring 1892

Houghton Library

Plan for a scientific dictionary, to be called Summa Scientiæ; or,

Summary of Human Knowledge. To be contained in one volume of 1500 pages of 1000 words per page.

The articles, though elementary, to be masterly summaries valuable even to specialists. C. S. Peirce to be editor and to write about a third of the whole. The other writers to be young men, specialists who have not yet achieved great reputations, but found out and selected by the editor as having exceptional mental power and special competence. These men to conform to certain rules as to matter, arrangement, and style; and required to rewrite until they became trained in the kind of composition required.

Economy of space to be effected by every device that ingenuity and many years’ reflection upon this problem can suggest. Facts to be tabulated as far as possible. The style of writing to be extremely compact, yet scrupulously elegant. The ideas dominant in each branch of science to be emphatically indicated, and its leading principles distinctly stated.

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Medium 9780253017581

4 Erasing Precious: Sapphire and Percival Everett

Lesley Larkin Indiana University Press ePub

Sapphire and Percival Everett

ALICE WALKERS 1982 NOVEL THE COLOR PURPLE WAS A CRITICAL and popular success. Walker won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1983 and became the face of a new ascendancy of African American women writers that also included Maya Angelou, Toni Cade Bambara, Gayl Jones, Toni Morrison, and Ntozake Shange. The reception of Walker’s novel, however, was not universally positive. Some critics and writers attacked Walker for stereotyping black men as violent, black women as weak, and both as sexually perverse. In a 1984 interview with Reginald Martin, for example, poet and novelist Ishmael Reed described “black feminists, people like Alice Walker” as “‘neoconfederate’ novelists” and compared them to Thomas Dixon, author of The Clansman (the 1905 novel upon which D. W. Griffith based his 1915 film The Birth of a Nation). And literary scholar Trudier Harris praised Walker’s deft handling of vernacular speech in The Color Purple but rejected her central character as an unrealistic – even infuriating – representation of Southern black women: “I couldn’t imagine a Celie living in any black community I knew or any that I could conceive of. What sane black woman, I asked, would sit around and take that crock of shit from all those folks? . . . But the woman just sat there, like a bale of cotton with a vagina . . . waiting for someone to come along and rescue her” (“On The Color Purple” 155).

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4 Sex: Good Girls Do, or, Romance Fiction as Sex-Positive Feminist Mommy Porn

Catherine M. Roach Indiana University Press ePub

Listen to this cri de coeur by romance heroine Lishelle. She is one of the main characters in the 2007 novel Getting Some by USA Today–bestselling author Kayla Perrin, and Lishelle is royally fed up:

See, this is what I don’t understand. If guys fuck a hundred women, they’re heroes. They feel no shame in bedding a woman they’ve just met. But if a woman has a one-night stand, my God, she’s a dirty whore. How dare she like sex? This is the twenty-first century, honey. It’s high time we women embrace our sexuality and bury the shame. We have needs, the same as men do. Why do we feel so friggin’ bad about going after what we want?1

Lishelle’s passionate endorsement that women embrace their sexuality highlights how the story of romance is rapidly changing, perhaps especially for young women. Contrary to traditional notions that “good girls don’t do things like that,” today’s good girls do. A new era has opened up wherein women can write or read such erotica, hook up with multiple partners and different types of partners, make amateur porn or post pinups of themselves on sites like Suicide Girls, attend home-sale sex toy parties, wear porno-chic fashion, take pole-dancing classes at the local gym, revel in TV’s Girls or Sex and the City reruns, and, of course, read the Fifty Shades trilogy. Or consider the phenomenon, much reported in the press, of heterosexual women, well-educated and of upper-income levels, having sex without wanting long-term boyfriends. For the younger woman, she may feel she has no time or need for a serious male partner amid the demands of education and career moves; for the older woman, the children may be grown and flings provide more fun. Both like sex but prefer to enjoy male company without the compromises of full-time commitment.2

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Medium 9781857547658

Third Person to Herself: Marguerite Duras

Iain Bamforth Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Third Person to Herself

M D

Her life was her best novel, and M.D. – or ‘La Duras’ as even she referred to herself in old age – knew it. She kept ransacking it, covering her tracks, refining her ability to confuse the issue, ‘for having us believe lies she then ended up believing herself’. So says

Laure Adler – historian, French television pundit and acquaintance of the older Duras – in her scrupulous biographical reconstruction not just of M.D.’s life but of the many other visible and not so visible lives subsumed in  books and nearly  films.

One of the last sacred monsters of French cultural life, award of the  Goncourt Prize for her most conventional novel The Lover

– it sold more than a million copies and ended up as a film she detested – brought M.D. fame. So much, in fact, that a writer who believed writing was the opposite of telling a story had to resign herself to the maddening way a personal truth tends to reveal itself

– in the breach: The Lover was read as her life story.

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34. Tracks and Paths

Robert B. Ray Indiana University Press ePub

Thoreau’s attention to the Fitchburg train, roaring past five times a day barely six hundred yards from his cabin, moves characteristically from sounds—“the rattle of railroad cars,” “the whistle of the locomotive,” the earth-shaking thunder of the engine (81–82)—to the word track itself, mobilized as a metaphor for deadening routine. Watching the railroad workers ride by prompts the first shift into this other register:

The men on the freight trains, who go over the whole length of the road, bow to me as an old acquaintance, they pass me so often, and apparently they take me for an employee; and so I am. I too would fain be a track-repairer somewhere in the orbit of the earth. (81)

The train’s whistle, a “warning to get off the track” (81), gives Thoreau what he needs, an image of dehumanizing mechanization that “regulates a whole country,” an implacable “fate, an Atropos, that never turns aside” (83). Stephen Fender has described the railroad’s effect on Concord: it enabled the transcendentalists’ connection to their Cambridge and Boston colleagues while damaging local businesses suddenly thrown into competition with metropolitan stores. Immediately apparent was the loss of local time, as the railroad’s scheduling mandated standardized time zones: with the train’s arrival, Thoreau observes, “the farmers set their clocks by them” (83).

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5 A Jewish History of Blocked Mourning and Love

Emily Miller Budick Indiana University Press ePub

ROTHS THE PRAGUE ORGY has everything to do with the same problematic idolization of art and of dead (especially Jewish) writers. This is Roth’s subject in The Ghost Writer as well. For the American Jewish public in The Ghost Writer, the idol that needed to be served (and, from Roth’s point of view, seen through) is Anne Frank, whom Zuckerman (but also Roth) resurrects from the dead in order to authorize or legitimate (to pick up the language of The Messiah of Stockholm) his own Jewish loyalty (Anne is another female messiah in this gender-crossing tradition). The idolization of Anne is repeated in the young Zuckerman’s similar reverence for the Jewish writer Lonoff (read: Babel, Malamud, and I. B. Singer). Zuckerman’s reverence for Lonoff itself emulates Lonoff’s reverence (which is also Roth’s, not to mention Ozick’s as well) for Henry James. This possibility of self-serving idolization of the great authors of the past is exposed in its full folly toward the end of The Prague Orgy, in which Anne Frank once again figures, albeit this time as the character in the play. Through playing the role of Anne, the non-Jewish actress who is one of the major female protagonists of The Prague Orgy acquires a pseudo-Jewish identity that subjects her to prejudice and finally to exile. Even the vicarious inhabitation by a non-Jew of the dead Jewish soul can signal disaster.

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