Monday, 26 May 2014

Spirits and Symbols

We look through a powerful lens.  Peering down we arrest the quick flow of the reading mind to see meanings invisible to the all too swift and commonsensical eye.  Adjusting the focus we enlarge the significance of a few small details until their corporeality dissolves onto a slide fluid with meaning and metaphor.  We see it all so clearly!  A good introduction is like a microscope.  To look at just a few scenes, to stare at one idea, to note some biographical or historical analysis, is to uncover a body of work dense in meaning and intention.  We start to lose ourselves in symbol and allegory… Resting our eyes we wonder at our ignorance.  Did we miss all that?  Of course we did.  Even the slowest reader isn't slow enough to really grasp the novel they are reading. They are thinking to fast to invent it.

Not that we must agree with the critic who brings us these new perspectives.  The best criticism should force us to think against it, clarifying the points of disagreement so that we develop our own insights and arguments.  To change the slide…  The best critics provide a spring board from which we dive into our own pool.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Dangers of Philosophy

Picking a book off the shelf I walk out into the rain, the ink, my thoughts, the pages dissolving into water and transparency…   The girlfriend calls out.  The neighbours look askance.  A stranger rushes by; he thinks I’m posting leaflets - paid a pittance for posting banalities; poor sod, he must be from Poland…  And still it continues to rain, the book in my hand drooping like a flu-soaked handkerchief.  Innstetten.  A man educated into a philosophy so ubiquitous it has become invisible.  So seeped in Kant and Hegel nothing is left but the water marks.  

It began when he was a student.  I remember it clearly.  It was the day we fellow students chucked him in the lake.  He was sleeping in the library; and we carried him out into the street, wrapped him up in old lecture notes and then rolled him down to the water’s edge, where we bumped him into the boat.  He’s awake by now.  Laughing out loud and quoting some nonsense by Fichte…  “Into the barque you go old man!”  And we rowed him out into the middle of the lake.  Or that is what the locals called it.  Though really it is little more than a very large pond, hardly deep enough to drown in…  “Hallo Friedrich!”  Whose up to his knees reciting M√∂rike.  (There is always a character around to prove one’s point.)  By now our friend is choking with laughter, what with the beer and tobacco and the thought of Elfriede; her fire, her warm towels and her soft soft bed… “What about Schelling?”  In reply Hans lays his lecture notes across the surface of the water…  Meaning turned into metaphor…  “Watch out!”  There is a huge splash as The Phenomenology of Spirit sends a fountain into the air.  

What fun it was!  Innstetten still enjoys himself thinking about it.  His servants aren’t so sure.  Having never completely dried out he drips his transcendental self all over the carpet. They moan and tut tut tut, encouraging a colleague to tell him to “Squeeze yourself out, old fella!”  He never listens.  Soaking Effi’s dress when he puts his arm on her shoulder…

Monday, 5 May 2014