josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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27 Jan '17 09:17:07 AM

'… seeking to curry favor, to get custom, by how many modes, only not state-prison offences; lying, flattering, voting, contracting yourselves into a nutshell of civility, or dilating into an atmosphere of thin and vaporous generosity, that you may persuade your neighbor to let you make his shoes, or his hat, or his coat, or his carriage, or import his groceries for him' (i, 7): the odd note in this persuading-to-let sounding, perhaps, because the money that would ordinarily mediate it has already been mentioned, and the transaction between craftsman and customer, seller and buyer, has been redescribed as if each party stood to do the same thing, to make the shoes or import the groceries, if not for the choice to have it done by the other. But without the money in the picture, 'persuade your neighbor to let you make his…' sounds like a task with no evident motivation—why would you want to? why would he want to? why would he have to be persuaded to want to?—calling attention to the moment of persuasion, of persuasive self-presentation, somewhere between civility and generosity, by which a business-doing man makes and keeps himself 'useful' to others, gets into and stays in his trade, generally. In particular, when it is part of his task not because he wants to persuade this buyer, this man, but because he's gone in on shoes, or coats, or groceries, and needs to keep persuading buyers to keep being his buyers, to let themselves be sold to. Thoreau's phrasing suggests that your choice is (so far) already made, but it is to see that your neighbors' be made accordingly. The coin for which you work is an alienated choice, stands for two or several choices, all those that circulate between men who let themselves be done for.

27 Jan '17 08:13:00 AM

'A sojourner in civilized life again': there, back, for the day; as if it could be left and returned to like a city; as if the citizen's recognition under the state's laws were at his will, rather than its; as if civilization were not a stage but a place, not to be risen to but to be come into the vicinity, proximity, of. Before, when living at Walden and writing Walden, he 'lived alone, in the woods, a mile from any neighbor': at a distance, which suggests after the fact, having returned, that civilized life is as much distance from the woods, from nature, as if his—recognition?—under nature's laws were just as much at his will, rather than its.

27 Jan '17 07:49:23 AM

'I do not propose to write an ode to dejection': the first thought, that he shall not address himself to it.

26 Jan '17 09:40:40 AM

'… an indistinct tallying…'

26 Jan '17 09:27:58 AM

'… the current of reading is not divided, and in the matter of reading novels, all things raise a question less of existence than of intensity.'

25 Jan '17 05:26:29 AM

Gathman on Chamfort

20 Jan '17 11:51:50 PM

'It's almost like a funeral.'

18 Jan '17 05:18:52 AM

A Deweyan response to hyperdemocracy

15 Jan '17 02:45:19 AM

'For Édouard Dujardin's novel inaugurated nothing less than the era of the monologue intérieur, thereby altering the temporal and spatial form of the modern novel. I recognize that these are empyreal words, atmospheric and Einsteinian, and that they figure strangely in a discussion of a work bounded by the boulevards and placed in the consciousness of a self-obsessed Parisian dandy. What, the reader may ask, has the chase after an actress to do with matters dimensional and horological? Certainly, Édouard Dujardin, scribbling his novel in 1887 (one imagines his pointed beard held high in the air, a flower in his buttonhole, a long-stemmed cigarette holder in his mouth), was conscious of little but the difficulties of the literary "stunt" he had set himself. He would write a novel wholly subjective. He would never go "outside" his character's mind. It would all take place in a single evening, a matter of hours—all thought and no action. The novel ran its course in the magazine, appeared as a volume, attracted little notice, and then faded away. A decade later Dujardin reprinted it as the title story in a collection of his prose and verse, and it was this edition, apparently, which James Joyce came upon, after the century's turn, and read during his trip from Paris to Dublin in 1902—the troubled journey commemorated in the opening pages of Ulysses. Twenty years later the Irish novelist still remembered the book and could pay tribute to it as the principal source for his stream-of-consciousness techniques in his Dublin Odyssey.

Édouard Dujardin was still alive when Joyce invoked his name. In literary obscurity, he was writing books on religion and music. He responded with almost pathetic gratitude to the greatness which the author of Ulysses thrust upon him. This was indeed a case of Lazar veni foras; and if Dujardin invoked the image of himself as one raised from the dead, in a flattering re-dedication of a new edition of his book (it was of 1924), he was well aware that by implication he was calling Joyce the Christ who had performed the miracle. The allusion was hardly lost upon the fabulous artificer. With that ironic modesty which was the mask of his self-assertion, he responded by inscribing a copy of Ulysses to the "preacher of the inner word" from the "impenitent thief." The gallantries of the occasion were properly observed.

Around these, however, a serious debate had developed. What was the monologue intériuer? How "new" was it? How was it to be defined? In due course Dujardin was invited to Germany to lecture on his "discovery." At Berlin, Marburg, Leipzig, during the dying days of the Weimar Republic, he delivered a rambling discourse, later printed, which bore the portentous title Le monologue intérieur, son apparition, ses origines, sa place dand l'oeuvre de James Joyce et dans le roman contemporain. This sounds like a formidable treatise. The title of the lecture no doubt had appeal in a country where the higher scholarship has always cultivated the higher pedantry. Dujardin, moreover, knew his Germany and may have assumed a certain Teutonic tone in his old age which his younger self would have repudiated, although he had been a "Perfect Wagnerite," in the early days of Bayreuth. It was indeed Wagner's music, so much in vogue among the Parisian Symbolists, which had suggested to him the idea for his work. In tracing his inner monologue of the Parisian dandy, Dujardin sought to capture the leit-motifs of consciousness, the orchestra of the inner man. The Dujardin discourse makes strange reading today. It is a farrago of self-laudation, a potpourri of quotations from reviewers, reminiscences, literary history, and now and again a kind of blinking search to define, in the bright light of 1930, the old candle-light intuition of 1887. The lecture reads as if Dujardin arrived at his theories from a perusal of Ulysses, rather than from a rereading of Les lauriers sont coupés.'