*Populist.—Hypocrite. … —Alain de Botton, Religion for Atheists. (Edinburgh International Book Festival, 2012): *—a review. …

*(… —the following originally appeared as a review of  Alain de Botton’s ‘What non-believers could learn from faith’ talk-event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival,  Sat 18th August 2012, 20.00-21.00, RBS Main Theatre,… over on the Edinburgh Spotlight website. …

… —I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing, & of… fiddling with it here, as today I discovered that Mr. de Botton has blocked me on Twitter, perhaps as a direct result of the substance of this review. … ).

 

They are rid of the Christian God and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality. […] We other hold otherwise. When one gives up the Christian faith, one pulls the right to Christian morality out from under one’s feet. This morality is by no means self-evident: this point has to be exhibited again and again[. …] Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together. By breaking one main concept out of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole: nothing necessarily remains in one’s hands.

*(Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘G. Eliot’, in Twilight of the Idols, ‘Skirmishes of an Untimely Man’, §5)

 

 

Populist.—Hypocrite (—?)
—Alain de Botton, ‘What non-believers could learn from faith’ (—Religion for Atheists). …

By Mark Bolsover

 

The event with Alain de Botton took place in the Book Festival’s RBS Main Theatre. The venue was full to capacity, and de Botton spoke (performed?) to a predominantly white late-middle-aged, middle-class audience. Despite its inexplicable and corporate décor, the space proved an effective one, de Botton holding forth from an angular and imposing metal lectern-cum pulpit, to one side of the broad stage.

 

The event was chaired by BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz, an engaging host who, despite his obvious skepticism towards de Botton’s ideas, provided an interesting, useful and objective introduction to the speaker and warmed the audience well. The event took the format of a talk by de Botton, followed a brief interview with Gompertz and finally a question and answer session with the audience. This format worked extremely well given the obvious time constraints on the event.

 

The aim of the event was, in essence, to promote de Botton’s new book Religion for Atheists and drew its focus from a number of topics which he addresses in the book.

 

de Botton himself proved an extremely fluent, effective and engaging speaker. During the segue from the talk into the interview Gompertz rather shrewdly teased de Botton that he both ‘looks and sounds like a vicar’ and this is indeed the impression one gets listening to him, the talk somewhere between a lecture and sermon, which is ironic given de Botton’s self-characterisation as an ‘atheist’ and distaste for all things ‘academic’.

 

de Botton’s project in Religion for Atheists is, by his own admission, to cherry-pick from the ‘buffet’(?) of world religions, extracting key ideas, concepts and practices, in order to provide ‘replacements’ for religion for a ‘secular society’. Drawing on his book, de Botton began his talk by summarizing a few key claims on the nature of education. He argued that ‘atheists’ dismiss religion out of hand as superstitious nonsense and that ‘secular society’ and ‘secular’ education have therefore abandoned traditional forms of the transmission of what, somewhat problematically, characterises as universal human ‘wisdom’. In this regard, de Botton was particularly vociferous in his attacks on academia. Gompertz had begun by introducing de Botton as a ‘populist’, and these attacks could be seen to be evidence of his uneasiness with this status, a certain self-styled demagoguery and inferiority complex with regard to academia.

 

Whatever the underlying causes, de Botton wants to oppose his ‘neo-religious’ ideas to those he sees at large in ‘secular’ society. In answer to the potential objections that it is either unethical or simply not possible to cherry-pick from religions, he drew a parallel to ‘culture’ (—as he conceives of this term), and to reading. If one were reading Austen, he argued, it would be ridiculous for anyone to suggest that one ought not to read, say, Dickens, or Woolf. In the same way, de Botton argued, one can ‘read’ (or, in fact rather,—extract) from any number of religious texts. His conception is one of ‘culture’ over ‘scripture’. And this is, I believe, reveals the crucial problems with de Botton’s ideas…

 

de Botton positioned himself as speaking out against what he argued is ‘our’ conception of art,—deriving from the art for art’s sake philosophy of art of the late-nineteenth century.

 

Frankly, de Botton crudely mischaracterised late-nineteenth and Modernist art and literature for his own rhetorical purposes.

 

However, it seemed to me at least that his crude reductivism found its foundation in a genuine misunderstanding of art and a lack of understanding of literature and the art of reading.

 

Against what he characterised as a false conception of the autonomous artwork and of art as not needing to deliver any ‘moral’ message, de Botton put forth his own conception of art as ‘propaganda’.

 

—According to de Botton, art can, and ought, to deliver a ‘moral’ message.

 

Apart from the obvious and rather sinister connotations of the term ‘propaganda’, this conception depends on the assumption of a smooth transmission of the (moral) intentions of the author, through the work, to an uncritically receptive readership.

 

If de Botton were to perhaps put aside his distaste for academia and put himself through the soulless ordeal of a literature degree, he might discover some key ideas in literary criticism, such as the ‘intentional fallacy’ or Roland Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’, which clearly set out the problems of any attempt to read back from a work to the intentions of the author (and, indeed, de Botton gave such a reading in his example of not being able to ‘understand’ Rothco’s work until he had heard the artist discuss it).

 

The crucial problem, however, lies in the notion of art as solely a vehicle for the transmission of ‘moral’ lessons and this is the reason for the epigraph with which I began this review.

 

—In the passage I quoted from Twilight of the Idols (—an attack on George Eliot and late-nineteenth century Religious Humanism), Nietzsche astutely argues that one cannot be rid of God,… —cannot be rid of the metaphysical (that is,—be an atheist), and yet still… hold on to (maintain) the system of moral values which find their foundation in or on that—metaphysical—ground. And yet this is precisely what de Botton, despite his own claim not to believe in: ‘what  I broadly call the “supernatural”’, very blithely attempts to do.

 

Despite his claim to ‘atheism’, de Botton clings to a recognisably Judaeo-Christian moral world view, perhaps with some badly appropriated and rather cliché ‘Eastern’ ‘mystical’ notions thrown in for breadth and good measure.

 

In mischaracterising all developments and movements in literature as ‘art for art’s sake’, he fails (not entirely deliberately) to recognise that a great deal of the art which he is thus dismissing, arose precisely in reaction to a loss of faith and a recognition that with any claim to a metaphysical ground for values gone, those values themselves become objects of contention and debate.—Hence the lack of moral didacticism and the artistic experimentation he so evidently deplores.

 

Though some of his ideas are interesting, de Botton is, for this reason, condemned to remain a somewhat shallow and misguided populist. For example, he argued fluently and persuasively for the adoption of the Catholic notion of ‘original sin’ in which all people would be regarded as broken creatures, in need of redemption, and that education should be reconceived as having to have a humanising effect, rather than as a process for the acquisition of vocational ‘skills’. However, this is where (at least in his talk) his point broke off, and this left the impression that he was merely vaguely retaining the notion of sin, despite having dispensed with any notion of extra-mundane justice. If we dispense with a notion of ‘natural’/automatic and inalienable ‘humanity’ (as perhaps, we ought) what are the practical political consequences of this for (debates on) ‘Human Rights’ and indeed, Humanism more generally?—de Botton offers us no clue. …

 

Also telling is de Botton’s uncritical retention of terms such as ‘inner self’ and the ‘soul’, which he used liberally. … —Surely anything characterising itself as thoroughgoing atheism must involve a thoroughgoing critique of these terms and the metaphysics they imply?

 

In the end, de Botton cannot avoid two charges: either, he is simply using the term ‘atheist’ far too loosely, or—in his dismissal of the metaphysical, and retention of religious values—he is guilty of a form of intellectual hypocrisy. …

 

—In the end, de Botton is a populist. … —His pulpit-style demagoguery can come across as pompous, narrow-minded and patronising to anyone who does not already share his convictions, but he is able to work his audience extremely well, and is impressively effective at preaching to the choir. …

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*’image’. ‘complex’. ‘VORTEX’. —on Ezra Pound, Imagism, and the ‘image’… *part (i). ‘the exact word’. …

*(… —follows on from *‘the image.—vs. Platonic ressentiment’, *‘—toward a disruptive, anti-transcendental “classicism”’, and *‘—the “classical”.—vs. the “romantic” (in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme.)’ …).

 

*I’ve struggled (again) to write all this. …

 

I know that between the previous two posts here there had been a fairly substantial (and, frankly, unintended) hiatus of sorts. …

 

—I’ve struggled to (re-)write the material on the ‘classical’—working from notes, fresh readings-materials, and fragments—in a way that I hadn’t foreseen (after all,… the parallels between the opposition of the ‘classical’ to the ‘romantic’ in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme are fairly obvious and straightforward, and I had the mass of the material ready prepared from the fragments of my doctoral thesis).

 

Particularly difficult was to re-jig (so to) the conclusion of my reading of The Birth of Tragedy in the light of Nietzsche on the ‘classical’ and the ‘romantic’. …

 

—This actually took place in the reverse order in my doctoral thesis, with the ‘classical’ material preceding my chapter on Birth, and the Birth chapter (perhaps more simply) speaking back to the ‘classical’. …

 

And perhaps this original structure does indeed actually work better. …

 

hmm.

 

More, though, I had wanted in the doctoral thesis to talk more about Pound, and about Imagism,—using them to qualify, clarify, and to use as examples of, the ‘classical’. …

 

—Without ever truly being (absolutely) sure why (or how). …

 

 

—It wasn’t until I went back over my thesis material, notes, and Pound’s and the Imagist texts here *(—in preparation for this), that I had what, at least at the time, felt like (a sort of) a revelation: …

 

* …—of the way in which Pound’s writing on the ‘image’ and the key terms of the Imagist’s ‘manifestoes’, when taken in the light of some of the Imagist poems,… —bring together the philosophical and artistic (aesthetic) ideas and concepts I’ve been concerned with (throughout the various posts-fragments-chapters of this ‘ere ol’ blog project), and how—in turn—these ideas and concepts can help, then, to contextualise and to elucidate the key terms of Pound’s writing on art and the ‘image’ and the Imagist’s key artistic claims. …

 

*—a sort of (quite sweeping, perhaps) assessment, I s’pose of the… (for want of a better term-turn-of-phrase) intellectual (artistic and philosophical) *tradition (—yes, yes,… —I know, I know…) formed between Nietzsche, Bergson, Hulme, Joyce, Pound, and the Imagists…

 

*—of (—toward) a disruptive, anti-transcendental neo-classicism. …

 

And that is what I hope to present here.

 

 

—I’ve struggled to do any real justice to the material, I think. …

(I’m still anxious that all of this is too… superficial. … —too precious and too loaded).

 

I’m aware that there is a fair amount of assumed knowledge—of Pound, Imagism, and the Imagists, without a great of background: historical, biographical (etc.)—in my reader (as there was in my argument on Nietzsche and Birth).

 

I’d refer the reader back to my incredibly cursory and ineffectual ‘brief history’ of Imagism in the context of Joyce’s writing, and I do do so,—at the outset of all this here. …

 

*—My focus here is theoretical: … *(that is,…) I’m interested in the detail of the artistic and philosophical claims (—about poetry, and about the nature, and (the treatment of) the proper subject matter of the poem…) in-of Pound, and of the Imagists. …

 

As such, I focus on a small number of (what seem to me to be) their key collective claims, eschewing wider discussion of the key figures involved in Imagism (and their wider literary output), and—to be honest—I do no real justice to ol’ Ezra (really), focussing on the key terms in the development of his writing on Imagism and the ‘image’, and not discussing his life or wider work.

 

 

*—I’m aware that a lot of the posts I’ve put up here are, really, far too long for the patience of most readers.

 

And so,…        (hell)

 

I’m going to present this as a series of shorter fragments, for the sake of much easier and more comfortable digestion. …

 

(hmm)

 

 

*…—It’s often the case *(a fairly common conception) that the Imagists receive a great deal of (let’s call it) critical – flak for (what even ‘Modernist’ Scholars with an interest in Imagism and its place and importance in Modernism, and Modern Art more broadly, have been known to characterise as) the poor quality (so to) of their poetical output,… —especially when measured against the innovation, (intellectual) integrity, and promise(-potential) of their artistic claims and manifestoes. …

 

 

*—I want here—by(-in) contrast (hmm)—to draw out the fundamental details of the aesthetic  claims promoted in the writings of Pound, and by the Imagists, and (and perhaps more importantly(—?)) to read a small selection of their poems in terms of, and as examples of the practical executions of, those claims. …

 

*In order, in the end,—to… —draw out (then), in effect, the deep-rooted connection between the ‘classical’ and the ‘image’.

 

 

*image. ‘complex’.—‘VORTEX’. …

 

So, …

(hmm).

 

*—The concept of the ‘image’ lies at the very heart (of the evolution-development) of Ezra Pound’s critical writing, as well as (—clearly) the (self-styled) Imagists shared project.

*(For a crude, brief, and largely incompetent history of ‘Imagism’, the reader is pointed toward the last portion of my ‘the “image”.—vs. Platonic ressentiment.

 

—For a more lucid, detailed, and developed history, the interested reader is recommended to consult Peter Jones’s excellent ‘Introduction’ to Imagist Poetry. …).

 

 

*—. I want to pause here (as a sort of an—aside, I s’pose) to dwell on the work of Pound and the Imagists.

 

In particular, I want to examine, and to draw out the stakes of, the close (nay—the intimate (let’s say it)) relationship between the concept of the ‘image’ and that of the ‘classical’. *(—what a ‘classical’ art-poetry might indeed look like. … ).

 

 

So then,…

 

—I’ll read from Pound’s critical writing and the Imagist’s manifestoes in order to draw out their key artistic claims (or demands), as well as the philosophical (so to) characteristics of the ‘image’, before moving on to read some examples of Imagist poetry, in order to analyse the artistic practise and poems (poetry) to which these claims and characteristics gave rise.

 

 

—The aim here, then, is to examine more closely the development of the ‘classical’ in(-within) self-styled neo-classical Modernism (more broadly understood):

*—the intimate connection between the ‘classical’ and (the concept of) the ‘image’, and the impact of this development on literary-poetical theory and practise.

 

*Whilst, as I said in my ‘brief history’(sic) of Imagism, it’s problematic at best to try to regard Joyce himself as, in any way, a practising ‘Imagist’,… examining the ‘image’ (or, rather: images) of Pound and of the Imagists, will help me to clarify what I believe is at stake in Dedalus’s theory of the ‘image’ in Portrait (and its development from the ‘epiphany’ of the Stephen Hero draft),—helping me to demonstrate its (intrinsic) alignment or parallel (for want) with the overall development of Nietzsche’s theory of, and writing on, art and the relevance of an understanding of Nietzsche, his theory of art, and relationship to Romanticism, to an understanding of the intellectual (—philosophical and artistic) underpinnings of (self-styled. ‘neo-classical’) Modernism.

 

 

In particular here, I want to focus, quite liberally and freely actually,  on Pound’s ‘A Retrospect’ (incorporating ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, first printed in Poetry, March 1913, and reproduced in ‘A Retrospect’: Pound, Pavannes and Divisions, 93-111)) as well as the prefaces to the 1915 and 1916 ‘Imagist’ anthologies. *(—The two prefaces are reproduced in Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 134-140).

 

 

*the exact word. …

 

*—In Some Imagist Poets (1915), Lowell et al. lay out a set of principles for the movement which helpfully (at least for my own current purposes here) form an almost verbatim repetition of Ezra Pound and F.S. Flint’s earlier definition of ‘Imagisme’, and of the image, in ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’, presenting them in the form of a convenient and easily digestible list, and it’s worth, I think, reproducing it in full here… —

1. To use the language of common speech, but to employ always the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.

2. To create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods. We do not just insist upon “free-verse” as the only method of writing poetry. We fight for it as a principle of liberty. We believe that the individuality of a poet may often be better expressed in free-verse than in conventional forms. In poetry, a new cadence means a new idea.

3. To allow absolute freedom in the choice of subject. It is not good art to write badly about aeroplanes and automobiles; nor is it necessarily bad art to write well about the past. We believe passionately in the artistic value of modern life, but we wish to point out that there is nothing so uninspiring nor so old-fashioned as an aeroplane of the year 1911.

4. To present an image (hence the name: “Imagist”). We are not a school of painters, but we believe that poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to shirk the real difficulties of his art.

5. To produce poetry that is hard and clear, never blurred nor indefinite.

6. Finally, most of us believe that concentration is of the very essence of poetry.

(repr. in Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 135; & cf. Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 28-29. …

—See also, F.S. Flint’s ‘Imagisme’—which immediately preceded ‘A Few Don’ts’ in Poetry—in Pound, Early Writings

1. Direct treatment of the “thing,” whether subjective or objective.

2. To use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation.

3. As regarding rhythm: to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome. [—209-210]

).

 

*— …

 

‘to employ always *the exact word, not the nearly-exact, nor the merely decorative word.’

 

*… —an absolute (in the sense of uncompromising), sharp, hard (that is,—ruthless) poetic-literary *economy (—‘concentration),—& (an equally absolute) fidelity to the (artist’s) model, & to the impression (so to.—the experience, I s’ppose, of artistic inspiration).

… —an aversion (then) to ‘decoration’: to sentiment, & to metaphor &/or simile. …

*—a commitment to concision: …

—to a fidelity to the model/experience, eschewing (so to) any attempt to add to, or to… inflate the model-experience, or to attach to it(/them) the prosthesis of a transcendental-metaphysical significance *(—a ‘Platonic Idea-Form’) that would surreptitiously serve to lift them out of the sphere of the everyday (in-onto the ‘otherworldly), and, thus, imbue the poet-artist (so to. again,—surreptitiously and ingenuously) with some form of special-elect prophetic-‘mystic’, ‘consciousness expanding’ insight (—as the one who has access to the otherworldly (Platonic), which is why, I’d argue, their terms echo (oh so very closely) those of Stephen’s rejection of ‘symbolism and idealism’ and aesthetical metaphysics *(—the ‘romantic’ …):

—‘To present an image’. … ‘—‘poetry should render particulars exactly and not deal in vague generalities, however magnificent and sonorous. It is for this reason that we oppose the cosmic poet, who seems to shirk the real difficulties of his art.’

 

‘To create new rhythms—as the expression of new moods—and not to copy old rhythms, which merely echo old moods.’

 

… —

 

This echoes ol’ Fritz (in ‘On Truth’, and in Birth) and Henri Bergson on the laceration of the stultified… skin (—a membrane. so to) of linguistic convention (and prejudice),… —down (back)—into flux, through ‘intuition’,… and the need for new words-forms: ‘he speaks only in forbidden metaphors and in unheard-of combinations of concepts. He does this so that by shattering and mocking the old conceptual barriers he may at least correspond creatively to the impression of the powerful and present intuition. (Nietzsche, ‘On Truth’, 118)… —‘new rhythms’,—to capture (—to incorporate) the new ‘moods’ (so to), which result. …

And this is what is meant, I’d argue (at least), by the Imagist’s appeal to: ‘a principle of liberty’: ‘a new cadence means a new idea’.

 

 

*—The ‘Direct treatment of the “thing”’. …

 

direct,… —a pragmatic, detailed, attention, with ‘thing’ notably placed in parenthetical quotation marks: *—the ‘Direct treatment’ and the ‘new mood’ bringing its very ‘thinghood’ (so to) into question. …

 

*…—attention. being brought into focus upon the ‘thing’ in question (—the ‘thing’ itself exciting-eliciting this attention, and thereby becoming the artist’s model … ), which serves to bring into question (to—undo?) the dismissive complacency (—of habit, apparent familiarity,—of (quotidian) prejudice) with which it would, otherwise, have been greeted.

*(—compare on this: ‘A Few Don’ts’… —on ‘sincerity’, and a ‘certain limpidity and precision’ as ‘the ultimate qualities of style’. … *[103: on ‘Technique’, and 132] … ).

 

 

*—This particular iteration of the Imagist ‘manifesto’ (so to) is also important or significant in-through the (self-styled) ‘Imagists’ location of their shared project-interests in relation to (broader) contemporary debates on art and aesthetics. …

 

 

*—. —The reference here to ‘free verse’ (vers libre.—a form of unrhymed verse divided into lines of no particular length and without a consistent metrical pattern, but still recognizable as poetry due to the complex patterns which it employs and that readers are able to perceive to be part of a coherent whole)—represents, at least in part, an allusion to the French Symbolist poets, who popularised the form. …

 

—In their adoption of free-verse, but rejection of it as the only possible method of writing poetry, the Imagists sought both to appropriate what they saw as valuable, and to reject what they saw as restrictive, within Symbolism: opening the potential ( and freedom) to appropriate form and formal experimentation, whilst remaining at liberty to fundamentally reject any metaphysical ambitions or aspirations (—prejudices?) underpinning Symbolist poetry. …

*(—For an extended discussion of the relationship of Imagism to Symbolism, see Wallace Martin, ‘The Sources of the Imagist Aesthetic’ PMLA, Vol. 85, No. 2, [March, 1970], 196-204. …

 

—Martin argues that though they are markedly different, neither Hulme nor Pound’s conception of ‘the image’ ‘is historically derived from or theoretically similar to the aesthetic of the Symbolists.’ [197-198])…

 

 

 

—The rejection of ‘aeroplanes and automobiles’ as (automatically-necessarily) fit subjects for art, and openness to the recuperation-or reclamation (so to) of the past as a fit subject for poetry, form pointed (—implicit, yet, in their specificity, actually fairly arch) allusions to ‘Futurism’,—founded by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in 1909. …

 

*.—In his ‘Manifesto of Futurism’, Marinetti defined Futurism as the art of (violent) velocity… —

We say that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty; the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath—a roaring car that seems to ride on grapeshot—is more beautiful than the Victory of Samothrace.

*(Filippo Tommaso Marinetti ‘Futurist Manifesto,’ La Gazzetta dell’Emilia, 5th February 1909 reproduced in Le Figaro, 20th February 1909. Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, ‘The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism,’ in Marinetti: Selected Writings, ed. R.W. Flint, trans. R.W. Flint, Arthur A. Coppotelli [London: Secker & Warburg, 1972], 39-44 [41])

 

—In obviously intentionally sexualised terms, Marinetti defines Futurism as a celebration of emergent technologies, particularly those of transport, and with(-in) a particularly fervent rejection of the (historical, technological, and artistic) past…

*—‘Why should we look back, when what we want is to break down the mysterious doors of the Impossible? […] We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind’. (41-42)

 

 

*—In ‘Vorticism’, Pound dismissed Futurism as mere ‘accelerated impressionism,’ dubbing it ‘a spreading or surface art.’ (279.—See also, Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 21).

 

*—With what can be characterised as its combination of Impressionist (—particularly the plein air movement’s self-avowed goal of capturing the vitality and flux of the lived-experience *(—the artist’s subject-model) and Cubist (—Picasso’s form of psychological realism) influences, … —Futurism marks, or rather names, the artistic attempt to capture and to articulate the changes in the perception and velocity of daily life opened up with-in the advent of new technologies (—particularly of the aeroplane and automobile… ).

 

 

—The Imagists, then, sought (explicitly and conscientiously) to place their emphasis on (what here could be called) the *stasis, … *—the concision (—exactness), and clarity of images and, thus, the very concept of the ‘image’ (itself), in stark contrast-opposition to Futurism’s (Marinetti’s) emphasis upon technology, velocity, and also (by extension, I’d argue) its violent reactionary politics, which glorified militarism and nationalism, and offered a violent rejection of feminism: ‘We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman’ [ibid.]. …).

 

 

Imagism—that is the Imagists—then, are at some pains in their ‘manifesto’ to locate themselves beyond or (perhaps rather) outwith , both the ‘Platonism’ *(the—pseudo-transcendentalism, so to) of, I’d argue, an especially ‘Yeatsian’ brand/derivation of ‘Symbolism’ *( … —in his later essay, ‘Vorticism’, pausing to define ‘symbolism’, Pound again draws out and rejects this pseudo-transcendentalism: … —‘It is not necessarily a belief in a permanent world, but it is a belief in that direction.’ *[—281]), as well as the technologically focussed (and fuelled, so to) obsession with (sheer) *velocity (—of both technology, and (in-)of time) in-of Futurism. …

 

 

In the stead of the ‘Platonic’ otherworld of the ‘cosmic’ symbolist poet, and the brash high-velocity machismo of the Futurist artist, then,… —the Imagists lay an emphasis, echoing the terms of the ‘classical’, as I have laid these out, in Joyce, Nietzsche, and Hulme, on an unflinching, anchored (pragmatic) concern with (fidelity to) lived-experience,… —what could be summarised here, for my current purposes as the experiential stoicism and philosophical scepticism of the ‘classical’,—as evinced by ol’ Jimmy J.., Fritz, and Hulme.

 

*the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment *(—on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty.—part II).

*(—follows on from *‘from the “epiphany” to the “esthetic image”… *—the evolution of the aesthetic theory in Joyce’s early fiction’ and, more particularly, *‘on the Becoming Actual of the Being of Beauty (—the “classical” vs. the “romantic”).—part I: a paean’ …).

 

*on the ‘image’.—vs. Platonic ressentiment. …
(—the image vs. the ‘symbol’. …).

*In Portrait, Stephen employs his focus on artistic inspiration and creation to articulate the resolution of his struggle to interpret claritas… —

 

It would lead you to believe that he had in mind symbolism or idealism, the supreme quality of beauty being a light from some other world, the idea of which the matter is but a shadow, the reality of which it is but the symbol.( Portrait, 230)

 

Stephen opposes his own interpretation of claritas to that of its (potential) otherworldly interpretation, according to the rubric of *‘symbolism’ or ‘idealism’, which would consign reality to an inferior and subsidiary position to the ‘idea’. …

 

*This, for Stephen, represents mere—‘literary talk’,… —a form of artificial (that is,… —artistically crafted) prosthesis, then,… —grafted onto reality, and which would have the undesirable effect of making the ‘esthetic image’ ‘outshine its proper conditions’. …

(231.—Cf. ‘Drama and Life’ [1900],—*CW, 23-29, where Joyce opposes himself to what he calls the ‘doctrine of idealism in art’. [—27]…)

 

 

*So,…

 

—I want to argue here that Stephen’s stark (almost belligerent) rejection of the terms of this… *—otherworldly idealism, in effect, constitutes a kind of implicit parody of the terms of W.B. Yeats’s definition of Symbolism.

 

… Or, rather (—more accurately and less controversially, perhaps),… *—Yeats’s ‘Symbolism’ embodies (that is,—provides the clearest philosophical and aesthetic example of) precisely what it is that Stephen seeks to reject. …

 

*—In particular, I want to argue here,… Stephen is opposed to what Charles Chadwick defines as the ‘transcendental’ ‘mode’ of Symbolist poetry.

*(… —And I’ll follow Chadwick’s distinction between the ‘personal aspect’ of Symbolism, in which it attempts to express ideas and emotions, and its ‘transcendental’ aspect, in which it attempts to express the ‘ideal world’.—Symbolism [London: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1971],—2-3. …

*—Joyce became familiar with the central tenets of Symbolism through his association with Yeats and through Arthur Symons’, The Symbolist Movement in Literature [London: William Heineman, 1899].

In his biography of Joyce, Richard Ellmann states that Joyce had first read Symons’ work in 1900, and goes on to suggest that this formed part of Joyce’s early search for his own distinctive style as a writer *(—See Ellmann, James Joyce, 76).

Joyce met Symons through Yeats in 1902, when he stopped in London on his way to Paris. Symons befriended Joyce and made a promise, which he later delivered on, to publish some of Joyce’s early poetry. [111-112] Symons was a close associate of Yeats and dedicated The Symbolist Movement to Yeats as a friend and ‘the chief representative’ of the ‘movement’.—See also Yeats, ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ [1900] in SCP, 43-52 [—43]. …). …

 

*—In his essay on William Blake’s illustrations to Dante’s Divine Comedy (—1896), Yeats offers a definition of Blake’s concept of ‘vision’ in terms of the ‘symbol’, and in contradistinction to ‘allegory’…

 

A symbol is indeed the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame; while allegory is one of many possible representations of an embodied thing, or familiar principle, and belongs to fancy and not to imagination. (Yeats, SCP, 22-32 [—22])

 

Yeats’s Symbolism, then, constitutes the attempt to articulate an ‘invisible essence’ (a—‘spiritual flame’… —?), in contrast to ‘allegory’, which, for Yeats (at least), is merely a representation of the material, ‘embodied’ object: *—of something both concrete and ‘familiar’. …

 

 

*… —In ‘transcendental Symbolism’, as Chadwick argues,—

*—‘concrete images are used as symbols, not of particular thoughts and feelings within the poet, but of a vast and general ideal world of which the real world is merely an imperfect representation.’ (3)

 

… —At the heart of the transcendental Symbolist aesthetic is an implicit metaphysics which opposes an ‘ideal world’ to that of the ‘real’, ‘concrete’ world of experience.

 

 

—Yeats’s ‘transcendental’ Symbolism, in essence,—uses the quotidian world merely as register from which to draw ‘symbols’ as a means to express the ‘ideal world’ which is portrayed as the true subject of art.

*(—See Matthew Campbell, ‘The English Romantic Symbolists’, in David Holdeman and Ben Levitas, eds., W.B. Yeats in Context [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010],—310-319:

*—‘Blake taught Yeats that a symbol stands prior to and posterior to poet and poem, and poetry must return to it, seeking its “invisible essence”.’ [—312.—Emphasis added here…]). …

 

 

*Again, in terms evoking the ethereal, ‘spiritual’, and intangible,… —in ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’ (1900), Yeats elaborates on his earlier definition of the symbol…

 

All sounds, all colours, all forms, either because of their preordained energies or because of long association, evoke indefinable and yet precise emotions, or, as I prefer to think, call down among us certain disembodied powers, whose footsteps over our hearts we call emotions. (Yeats, SCP, 43-52 [—46])

 

*Yeats distinguishes between two ‘types’ of symbol. …

 

—The first, (in line with the passage quoted above), he calls ‘emotional symbols’.

 

To these he contrasts the second type of ‘intellectual symbols’, which, he argues, ‘evoke ideas alone, or ideas mingled with emotions’. (49)

 

In his definition of the limitation of ‘intellectual symbols’, Yeats is even more explicitly ‘Platonic’, and invokes the terms of his earlier reading of Blake:

*—‘symbols, associated with ideas that are more than fragments of the shadows thrown upon the intellect by the emotions they evoke, are the playthings of the allegorist or the pedant, and soon pass away.’ (50)

 

*—These two types of symbol correspond, then, to what Chadwick defines as the ‘personal’, and ‘transcendental’ aspects, respectively, of Symbolist poetry. (2-3) …

 

 

—In ‘The Symbolism of Poetry’, Yeats privileges the emotional or personal symbols, relegating transcendental, intellectual symbols to a secondary role as mere shadows generated by their emotional counterparts. (SCP, 46)

 

 

*—For Yeats, then,… —either through the familiarity of some form of atavistic association, or by its possession of ‘preordained energies’ (—?), poetry (… —‘sounds’, ‘colours’ and ‘forms’) is capable of invoking (—of ‘calling down’) ‘powers’, which are seen to lie outside, prior to, and beyond empirical experience. …

 

—These ‘powers’, in turn, are experienced as (apparently) precise emotional responses by the reader, which however, apparently paradoxically, for Yeats, remain ‘indefinable’. …

 

—For Yeats, poetry is concerned not with the world of quotidian experience, but with a quasi-mystical invocation of ‘invisible essence[s]’ and ‘disembodied powers’. …

 

This accounts for what Chadwick defines as the necessary allusiveness and evasion of Symbolism (that is,—what he succinctly and punctually dubs its ‘built in obscurity’. …) —

 

[Symbolism is the] art of expressing ideas and emotions not by describing them directly, nor by defining them through overt comparisons with concrete images, but by suggesting what these ideas and emotions are, by recreating them in the mind of the reader through the use of unexplained symbols. (2-3)

 

Poetry, for a ‘transcendental’ Symbolist, must aim, then, to express an (—the) ‘ideal world’, and to recreate the poet’s (quasi-mystical?) experience of it (—the ‘ideas’ and emotions’ this experience gives rise to) in the mind of the reader and, as such, supersedes religion as the means of attaining the ‘ideal world’. (Ibid.)

*(—Cf. Margaret Mils Harper,—‘Yeats and the Occult’, in Marjorie Howes and John Kelly, eds., The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006], 144-166 [—144]. …). …

 

 

*—I want to argue here that, through his *rejection of ‘symbolism’ and ‘of idealism’, Stephen is alluding to the (implicit) Platonic metaphysics at stake in Yeats’s conception of transcendental Symbolism. …

 

 

In particular, it forms an allusion to Plato’s conception of the two ‘Orders of Reality’, as outlined in The Republic. *(—I’ll refer here to H.D.P. Lee’s translation [—Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1955]. … ). …

 

… —Its extreme brevity indicates that Stephen’s allusion to Platonic metaphysics is a rhetorical move, designed (I’d argue) to render Yeats’s ‘Platonism’ and transcendental Symbolism a foil for the exposition of his own aesthetic theory, and it’s true that it thus remains at the level of a caricature. …

 

Nevertheless,—it’s worth pausing briefly in order to summarise Plato’s conception of the relationship of the Forms (—Ideas) to quotidian experience, in order to demonstrate its pertinence to an understanding of (what I’m going to call here) Yeats’s *aesthetic metaphysics,… and to clarify what is at stake in Stephen’s (implicit) rejection of Yeats and of transcendental Symbolism (—and thus his relationship to Platonism) in his definition of the ‘esthetic image’. …

 

 

*So. …

 

… —Plato’s Socrates distinguishes between the world of the everyday experience of visible and sensible things—of becoming and change—and the unchangeable, eternal world of the ‘Forms’ or ‘Ideas’. …

*(—Though contemporary criticism of Plato prefers-privileges the term ‘Form’ over that of ‘Idea’ (—which suggests ‘things in our minds’…), I’ll retain the latter term here as that available to both Yeats and Joyce and in… deference to Stephen’s explicit rejection of ‘idealism’…). …

 

 

*—The quotidian world, then, is the shadow, or the—image of the world of Ideas, which contains the patterns—the ‘absolutes’ or ‘essential realities’—which the physical world imperfectly imitates. (Plato,—234) …

 

 

*—In his definition of the philosopher, Socrates defines the Ideas through a series of polar opposites:  beauty and ugliness, justice and injustice and good and evil…

 

*—The terms of each pair, he argues, constitute ‘a single thing in itself’.

 

However, each appears (—in-within-through the world of becoming and of change) only as a ‘multiplicity’,… —‘because it is seen in combination with actions and material objects and other characteristics.’ (238) …

 

He refers to the Ideas as ‘formal characteristics’. …

 

—They are the forms, then, (for Socrates) in which actions and objects only ever imperfectly participate

*(—On this,… see, in particular,—Allan Silverman, The Dialectic of Essence: A Study of Plato’s Metaphysics [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002],—16, and Penner, 242. …).

 

Nonetheless they have a real existence—independent of the mind. (—see Plato,—238)…

 

 

Absolute beauty, then, wouldn’t (could never) be identical with anything that is beautiful, but everything which is beautiful (nonetheless) *partakes of (—participates in) the ‘essential nature’ of beauty. (Ibid.) …

 

 

*—Socrates distinguishes between the ‘Intelligible’ world and the physical,—‘visible’ world, by defining a hierarchy *(—the ‘Divided Line’) between them. …

 

*—The ‘Intelligible’ world of the ‘Ideas’ is the world of knowledge. …

 

—He divides this into, on the one hand, the knowledge (—or ‘power’) of pure thought, which begins and ends with the Ideas as ‘first principles’, and, on the other, the knowledge of the ‘mathematical sciences’, which are subordinate to pure thought insofar as they ‘proceed from assumptions and not to first principles [Ideas]’ and must therefore be ‘reasoned out’,—in contrast to the Ideas which are directly perceived.

*(—See ‘§6. The Divided Line’,—274-278 *[—277]). …

 

 

For Plato’s Socrates,… —the physical, ‘visible’ world is the world of opinion,—as opposed to that of knowledge…

 

—It’s comprised of physical things which are the objects of belief and the ‘images’ of objects which are (themselves) the objects of illusion. …

*(—In defining the ‘images’, Socrates refers both to shadows and to the images of objects in reflective surfaces such as water and glass. …).

 

—The quotidian world remains one of only opinion or belief. It can never be known because the object of knowledge is the world of the Ideas. (276)

 

 

*In order to represent our experience of objects Socrates uses the (now famous-infamous) simile of prisoners chained to the floor of a cave… *—

 

Imagine an underground chamber, like a cave with an entrance open to the daylight and running a long way underground. In this chamber are men who have been prisoners there since they were children, their legs and necks being so fastened that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. Behind them and above them is a fire burning, and between the fire and the prisoners runs a road, in front of which a curtain-wall has been built, like the screen at puppet shows between the operators and their audience, above which they show their puppets. (‘§7.The Simile of the Cave,’ 278-286 [—278-279])

 

*—For Socrates, we are the ‘prisoners’, then, of the constitution of our senses. …

 

That is,… —We don’t (—we can’t) know objects as they exist in themselves, but only their projected ‘shadows’ or ‘images’. …

 

 

Because our senses are ‘fastened’ and our experience is, therefore, limited to the ‘shadows’, we’re subject (—damned, in effect) to a form of *naïve realism, in which we take the objects of our experience to be things-in-themselves. …

 

This, for Socrates, is the nature of the world of ‘belief’ and ‘illusion’ *(—the illusion that we truly do know things as they are in themselves…). *(279.—Cf. 274) …

 

 

*He represents the role of the philosopher in the figure of a man who is first somehow liberated from his captivity and allowed to see the objects whose shadows are projected onto the wall by the artificial light of the fire at the rear of the cave, and who, next, manages (somehow) to step outside even the bounds of the cave itself,—out into daylight and the natural light of the Sun *(—and thus ascends through the Platonic-Socratic hierarchy from the ‘visible’ to the ‘Intelligible’ world), and is thus enabled finally to see things as they are in themselves. (281-282) …

 

*For Socrates, then,… —*‘the mind as a whole must be turned away from the world of change until it can bear to look straight at reality’. *(—283.—Emphases added here. … —See also 284).

 

 

*—Implicit in Socrates’ distinction is a seeming imperative—to privilege the eternal, intelligible world of the Ideas and (equally) to *renounce (to have renounced) the ‘visible’ (—quotidian) world. …

 

 

*Yeats’s definition of the ‘symbol’, then,… —as ‘the only possible expression of some invisible essence, a transparent lamp about a spiritual flame’, in stark opposition to the ‘allegorical’ poet’s focus on the ‘embodied thing’, in effect, represents an adoption or appropriation both of Platonic metaphysics’ distinction between the degrees of truth in the conception of the object, and (more importantly for my current purposes) its imperative toward the renunciation of the quotidian world (—of objects and their ‘shadows’), in favour of the eternal forms of the ‘Ideas’. …

*(… *—Bornstein argues that Yeats ‘found support’ for his ‘drive from the actual to the ideal world’ and ‘habit of seeing mutable things as types of immutable beauty’ in the ‘psychological theories accompanying Plato’s doctrine of the forms’. (—Yeats and Shelley,—69). …

 

 

*—And I’d argue that what Stephen overtly rejects in his dismissal of ‘symbolism’ and of ‘idealism’ is precisely the… life-renouncing mysticism at stake within this poetical Platonic metaphysics. …

*(… —In his discussion of the fin de siècle Irish literary scene in ‘A Symbolic Artist and the Coming of Symbolic Art’ (1898), Yeats himself renders this connection between his Symbolist aesthetic and mysticism explicit… —

‘When I have written of literature in Ireland, I have had to write again and again about a company of Irish mystics, who have taught for some years a religious philosophy which has changed many ordinary people into ecstatics and visionaries’. (—SCP, 33-42, [33].—emphasis added),… —identifying the poet A.E. (—George Russell), along with Althea Gyles, as being at the centre of this movement… —‘a beginning of what may become a new manner in the arts of the modern world’ (34),—‘creating a new religion and poetry’. (37) …

 

hmm. …

 

… —In his early criticism, Yeats builds his definition of transcendental Symbolism and the revival and cultural-political role of (Irish) literary art on the foundation of this new ecstatic, visionary, mystic religion and poetry. *(—see Harper, ‘Yeats and the Occult’, The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats,—144-166.)… ).

 

 

*—Stephen dismisses Yeats’s ‘Platonic’ assumption (—‘symbolism or idealism’) of an other-worldly ideal, of which sensible experience (—‘matter’) is (merely—solely) a ‘shadow’ or ‘symbol,’ as a fantastical artificial prosthesis to experience … —a purely ‘literary’ construct, to which he opposes that which is ‘logically and esthetically’ necessary *(—the ‘proper conditions’ of the ‘esthetic image’. …). …

 

 

*And what accounts, I’d argue, for the far greater length and detail of Stephen’s (implicit) opposition of the ‘esthetic image’ to Yeatsian—late-Romantic—transcendental Symbolism in this passage of Portrait (—when held in direct comparison with the counterpart passage-extract, pinpointing the moment of the object’s ‘epiphany’ in-of Stephen Hero. *—see [‘evolution’.—link…]), is that this passage in fact incorporates and refines the terms of the opposition between the ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ artistic ‘tempers’ and the privileging of the ‘classical’ in the ‘Art and Life’ paper and associated material in Stephen Hero into the concept of the ‘epiphany’ itself. …

 

 

*—To draw out what seems to me is at stake in this incorporation will allow me to align Stephen’s aesthetic with the opposition of ‘classicism’ to ‘romanticism’ in the works of  both Nietzsche and T.E. Hulme (and by extension with the neo-classical Modernist aesthetic manifesto of the Imagist poets, in particular with the doctrine of the ‘image’). This will serve to locate Stephen’s ‘classicism’ within a wider context of late nineteenth and early twentieth century philosophical and artistic reactions against late-Romanticism.

*(

*—towards a brief history of Imagism, then
*(on the ‘image’ as a kind of ‘Modernist’ nexus. …) …

 

—Imagism is, essentially, associated with the work of Ezra Pound, Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), John Gould Fletcher, Amy Lowell, Richard Aldington, F.S. Flint, and D.H. Lawrence, between 1912 and 1917. …

 

Its origins extend back to two poetry clubs founded by T.E. Hulme: the first,—‘the Poet’s club’, formed in 1908; the latter, unnamed, formed with F.S. Flint in March 1909.

*(—See Peter Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry [London: Penguin, 1972], 13-43 [13-16] and Stanley K. Coffman, Jr. Imagism: A Chapter for the History of Modern Poetry [Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951],—3-7).

 

Pound first dubbed Aldington and H.D. Imagistes in spring-summer, 1912 (—see Jones, ed. Imagist Poetry, 17), and claimed that ‘The first use of the word “Imagiste” was in my note to T.E. Hulme’s five poems, printed at the end of my “Ripostes” in the autumn of 1912’. (‘A Retrospect’, in Pavannes and Divisions [New York: Alfred A. Knopff, 1918], 93-111 [96]. … *—See Canzoni; & Ripostes of Ezra Pound [London: Elkin Matthews, 1913],—*59, where Pound refers to ‘the “School of Images”’, and to ‘Les Imagistes’…).

 

In Poetry (March 1913), Pound and Flint published ‘Imagisme’, a brief article, supplemented by Pound’s ‘A Few Don’ts by an Imagiste’. Both pieces were intended to define the principles of the movement (Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 129-134. Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 9-10).

 

In February 1914, under Pound’s direction, the movement published its first anthology, Des Imagistes, including poems by Joyce, Skipworth Cannell, Ford Madox Hueffer (Ford Madox Ford), Allen Upward, and John Cournos.

 

At this time, spurred by both his involvement in Wyndham Lewis’s Vorticism and by growing friction between himself and Lowell, Pound distanced himself from the Imagists (—Coffman, Jr., Imagism, 21-25).

 

Lowell assumed responsibility for the movement and the publication of a further three anthologies, in 1915, 1916 and 1917, under the title of Some Imagist Poets, including poems by John Gould Fletcher and D.H. Lawrence.

 

The anthology of 1917 was the last for the movement whilst all its participants were still alive. Lowell wrote…

—‘The collection has done its work. These three little books are the germs, the nucleus, of the school; its spreading out, its amplifications, must be sought in the unpublished work of the individual members of the group’.

*(—Lowell, Tendencies in Modern American Poetry [New York: Macmillan, 1917], 255. —See Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 24).

 

However, a further anthology, Imagist Anthology 1930, organised by Aldington, appeared, including poems by Joyce, Aldington, H.D., John Gould Fletcher, Ford Madox Ford, William Carlos Williams, and D.H. Lawrence. Lowell had passed away in May 1925 and Skipworth Cannell couldn’t be located *(See—Richard Aldington, Life for Life’s Sake [London: Cassell & Co., 1968], 130-131. Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 27).

 

 

I won’t be making the claim (in case you were genuinely concerned,… —ne’er fear, dear reader o’mine…) that Joyce himself was an: ‘Imagiste’. …

 

In ‘“Dubliners” and Mr James Joyce’, in terms which (by no mean coincidence) will become crucial in my later discussion of Joyce and Hulme, Pound praised Joyce for qualities which he had (ostensibly) attached to ‘Imagisme’ (Imagism), and to the ‘image’: …  *—‘Mr Joyce writes a clear hard prose. He deals with subjective things, but he presents them with such clarity of outline’ (—Pavannes and Divisions, 156-160 [156].—my emph.s), linking ol’ Jimmy J. to what he refers to as the ‘school’ (sic) of ‘impressionist writers’, including Stendhal and Flaubert,—*‘intent on exact presentation […—] intensity, selection, and concentration’… (157. Again, my emph. And the interested reader is also politely advised to consult ‘James Joyce, At Last the Novel Appears’ and ‘Paris Letter, May 1922, Ulysses’ (Pound, Early Writings: Poems and Prose, Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Ira B. Nadel [London: Penguin, 2005),—330-333 and 334-341, respectively. …).

 

 

However,…

 

*… —Joyce’s inclusion in Des Imagistes seems, to me (at least), to have stemmed in the main from the patronage he received from Pound, and from a desire to be published and have his work reach the largest audience possible. …

 

—‘I hear an Army’ was originally published in Chamber Music (XXXVI) in 1907. Its inclusion in an anthology seven years later, then, marks an attempt, perhaps, simply to extend its reception. (—Jones, ed., Imagist Poetry, 83).

 

—Instead, then…

 

I want to focus on Imagism, and, far more specifically, the concept of the ‘image’ as a kind of *nexus for the aesthetic and philosophical concerns (and early artistic projects) of a number of significant artists who defined themselves as, or (at the very least) tactically aligned themselves with, (self-styled) neo-classical ‘Moderns’ or Modernists. …

 

 

—I’m concerned to draw a parallel between Stephen’s interpretation of Aquinas and rejection of Symbolism and ‘romanticism’ with Imagism.

 

—This has already been pursued, to some extent, by A. Walton Litz…

 

—Litz refers Joyce’s having published with the Imagists in Des Imagistes, but goes on to provide a definition of the ‘image’ (—with a brief reference to Portrait) which allows him to define the entire texts of both Ulysses and Finnegans Wake as themselves constituting ‘images’. *(—The Art of James Joyce: Method and Design in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake [London: Oxford University Press, 1961], 53-62)

 

—By-in contrast,… —avoiding Litz’s somewhat questionable adoption-appropriation of the concept of the ‘image’ (—?),… —I’ll focus solely on the parallel between Stephen’s explication of the ‘esthetic image’ and the principles of Imagism). …

 

*on the ‘eventual artist’. …

*(follows on from: *’the fold of the artist).

the eventual artist.
(—by way of explanation.—by way of apology…).

and so then,…
(hmm).

*I was in love. …

—very deeply in love.
we met (I met you) on what still (oddly) feels to me like it ought to have been the… auspicious (?) occasion of New Year’s Eve, 1999.—on the nervous cusp of the new millennium (century, decade…).

(—on, what felt at the time, like the peculiarly anxious, dying edge of the old-the last millennium… …—like the gradual dissipation of an uncomfortable case of trapped wind… —release (no doubt), but without that feeling of profound relief…).


she was-is (—you are) heart-breakingly beautiful (I remember)…

—beautiful clear, soft pale skin.—elegant, with slightly… elfin (?) features.—long, dark flowing hair and sharp, pure crystal blue eyes.
(—long and slender with gentle curves).

what I was (always) struck by, I think, (looking back) was her (by your)… cool reserve. … —that slightly aloof refinement with which she always held herself.

more than anything, though,—as we talked, then—I was struck by how intelligent and well-read she was (—far more so than me),—and so (caustically) sharp-witted and sarcastic.

—someone smarter and more-informed than me (who also wanted to be a writer), with whom I could talk about books and have a prolonged, flirtatious, caustic battles of wit (and to always lose, of course).

—she was-is (you are)—perfect.

and I loved her (from the beginning, I think).

throughout the course of my undergraduate and Masters study, I became (increasingly) interested in theories of coincidence, the relationship between Philosophy and Literature, Nietzsche’s philosophy, and in the sublime. …

—I was drawn to Nietzsche, I think, because of his writing style and because his philosophy seemed to me to begin and end in or with art, but also because of his conception of the death of God. …

…—not ‘atheism’ (hmm) in any popular sense—as that (sadly widespread) adolescent, petulant misotheism (—hatred of God), espoused by Dawkins (and his ilk). …

—it is not (simply) the case for Nietzsche, as I understand it, that God does not exist (—that God has never existed).

for Nietzsche, God ‘lived’. …

—it is the case that God exists no longer.—that God is dead.

what initially excited and interested me in Nietzsche was the claim itself and, then, his seemingly unflinching examination of its implications for theories of metaphysics, knowledge, truth and to an understanding of morality.

in particular, over what became the hot, glorious summer in-between graduating from my Bachelor’s degree and commencing my Master’s studies (—over successive night-shifts in a stifling cabin that served as security base to a large, grey warehouse on a sprawling industrial estate at the edge of town, where I worked), I read The Birth of Tragedy.

and what I found had a strange and uncanny resonance for me—what I wrote about in my Master’s dissertation under the rubric of the sublime and what I came, later, to feel is concerned with the nature of artistic inspiration and creation and the reception of art—was the relationship between what Nietzsche calls the Dionysian and Apollinian artistic drives, but, more particularly, his claims regarding music and its qualitative and temporal primacy in (or over) the arts…

…—when I was young, my music teacher—a man who I came to think of as a sort of mentor—recruited me, on the basis of vocal talent, into a choir.
(first as a second soprano, then, later, as a (very light) tenor…).

…—he looked like Hegel looks in his sketched portraits—… —like a slightly stern and conservative schoolmaster, with an intense and slightly erratic energy and… zeal (especially when he was conducting), and he was a great musician and organist. though he had a slightly… bumbling and eccentric manner about him, he was essentially very fond of his students and was extremely supportive of their development.

I think that, though I didn’t realise it at the time, he occupied the place of a kind of grandfatherly figure for me…

*his wife, who, even at the time, in a strange and obscure way which I have still failed to resolve properly for myself, I also felt became a mentor-figure for me, became one of the first women priests to be ordained by the Church of England.

—she was quietly wise, dignified and (I think) quite sardonic, and always seemed (knowingly?) to impart a kind of patient calm on those around her (—on her immediate environment), without their awareness…

she had a formal, quiet grace and refinement.

she represented for me, I think (in ways which I have only in more recent times come to begin to understand) as intelligent—an intellectual (form of)—faith.

—she easily and (seemingly) naturally, embodied the… (what?)—qualities (?)—the values she espoused in her (short) ministry.
*(—an unaffected and harmonious seeming correspondence, somehow, between personality (character) and faith, which I think I’ve only ever seen in perhaps one other person…).

I came to love her—to love them both—very much.
she died of cancer while I was still quite young.

and I have always felt that she had been abandoned (by the church), over what still seem to me incredibly petty, narrow-minded, parochial (culturally and artistically bereft) personal and social politics, of the type that seem to dominate the day-to-day functioning of—the predominantly white, middle-class—Anglican and other denominational churches.

and I found (have found.—have clarified for myself), in the intervening time (years) between then and now (—writing this), that had been her (been them) that I had had faith in, and never (truly) in God, or in the church…

and yet.—something (I still feel) remains.—in the music. …

—in works such as Stainer’s The Crucifixion. …

—in the harmonies,—and against the depth—the *volume—of the organ.

*—intensities.
—the sense, felt, of a lift… —something (a condition, or state—?) out, beyond the ‘self’ (subjectivity) as lived everyday.—a state that brings the “self” to a halt.

—an exhilaration and a tension beyond the scale and the scope of the everyday ‘self’ (seeming). and as if the ‘self’ can’t withstand it. …

*—the ‘self’, then,—undone. but in that uncanny start (felt), there is also an exhilaration coupled to the sense of release—the freedom—of all the energy: the drives, forces and desires, leashed and contained in-within the everyday ‘self’. …

*—to, somehow, feel the world raging (there),—against itself (—to feel the way in which the world rages against itself).—the forces harnessed into order: some denied, others willed into compromise, some sublimated to their other ends than their own (willed).

—obliged into a hierarchy of (un)fulfillment. …

—all unveiled,—liberated (unleashed), in(to) full, in-by that experience…

—(the) *sublime.
(—the uncanny, awe, and exhilaration…—?).

—the creation (in art—music), then, of the object-proper of religious feeling (sentiment). …

—that feeling,—that experience, for me now, is always somehow inextricably (as it seems) tied to vague memories of, and my feelings for, her, and to her death.


*—and Nietzsche’s conception of music and of the Dionysian in The Birth of Tragedy, gave me, for the first time, I felt, the intellectual (—intellectual-historical, philosophical, and aesthetic) framework, vocabulary and categories to begin to adequately capture, comprehend and to articulate that experience.

and, at the end of my Master’s degree, I became, yet again, what would now be called a—‘boomeranging adultescent’. …
*(I am now, at the time of attempting to write all this, what would now be termed “underemployed”. and, oh, but good Ch-rist,—the many degrees of (subtle) distinction in the terms of frustration and indignity
(so many,—so very, very many…).).
*a—boo(oo)-muh rang-inga-dul-tessunt(…).

hmm.


my… relationship (—is that the right word… —?) with you seemed to approach (to have been approaching) what felt to me, at least, a… —critical pitch (tension), at that time. …
—it was never, I felt (—it seems to me) a question of capacity, or of capability *(of being capable of loving, or of being loved). …

—it was the case that I never felt *worthy,… —I never felt that I deserved to be loved (by you).
*(—not worthy yet. …

—always waiting for the act, the time,—the accomplishment that would render me—prove me—worthy…).

when I told her that I loved her, I think that, at least in part, I believed—or hoped so fervently that that feeling appeared to border on ‘belief’—that something truly would change between us.—some kind of consummation.—an accomplishment of what I wanted and hoped for
*(—acceptance. recognition. … —a relief from the anxious, nervous tension.—the warmth and safety, the protection, of acceptance…).

but,—nothing happened.


I was too late. …

—too late to stop her getting very badly hurt.
(—in a way, and to an extent which there was no chance of taking back, or of (in any way adequately) offering any understanding, solace, or comfort…

(—I’m sorry).).
—because of my (extreme,—ridiculous) youth,—all my anxieties, apprehension, awkwardness, frustration (—not ready.—no means or resources with which to prove my worthiness, as yet)… I was too afraid—too much of a coward—to tell her that I loved her, until we had (without my having been aware) passed the point at which it could have made a difference,… —had a reached a point at which it was already too late.

and although she told me that my feelings were reciprocated (and I believe that she really did love me,—before all of this), we were never able to overcome all the things that served to keep us apart from one another.

we still saw each other (though not as often as I would’ve liked)—and remained friends, but I always felt that there was an oppressive evasion between us,—something (the thing that remained) always between us, not being said, but always sensibly present (always felt).

over the course of my undergraduate study, I think I had achieved a level of success (—intellectually and in terms of success in writing) than I had believed (certainly been led to believe) myself capable…

and this had seemed to continue, in (what felt to me) like a sort of a (gradual) rising arc, through the course of my Master’s study.
*(and I felt that I was approaching, at least, that… thing,… that state, that I wanted to be—an intelligent, engaging, informed writer, with an accomplishment—an object, in the world—as palpable proof…).

at the end of my Master’s,—uncertain, then, of what I would do next—of what I would be trying to accomplish, I suppose…

—I ‘boomeranged’, then, (back) to the town where I had grown up, and I took work in financial litigations at the solicitor’s firm where I had worked before my undergraduate degree, in essence, to try to earn enough to undertake doctoral study…
it’s strange. …

—that feeling *(—complex of feelings),—of having slowed, somehow. … —of having stagnated (slight). …

*—an uneasy, imbalanced, fluctuating… —mixture (composite-conglomerate) of embarrassment (humiliation would, perhaps, be too melodramatic), a choked-stifled frustration, and a sort of nervous impatience, that comes from being obliged into an return and (what is felt to be) a step back (—down).
*(—. of having to hang back—to hold back. even with a certainty (felt) of what you could and should be doing—are capable of and are ready for…

—of not having the time, or the access to resources, that you feel you need…).

…*—it’s a feeling (or,—a state of mind, perhaps) I think, that must be all-too familiar and widespread to people of my generation (and those immediately following us.—the ‘millenials’,—so-called…),—following in the wake of the regrettable, undeniable, ineluctable failure of ‘free’ (—unregulated, supposedly self-regulating) market economics in the collapse of the U.S. housing market bubble *(as only the very latest historical example of the inevitable self-undoing, self-destructive logic of such economics and of the, now seemingly unstoppable, neo-liberal political ideology which drives and rigourously safe-guards the unregulated market), and the heedless, ill-conceived, ill-executed acquisitions and unchecked, unethical trading of the banks.

*(—in a time of unprecedented and increasing level of access to cultural, historical and artistic artifacts-works, and yet without the time, education, or the intellectual or economic resources to engage with, read or use those resources…).

thanks to the greed (and it is greed), myopia, self-interest and cultural and intellectual poverty of few…

hunh. …
—I’ve never seen the real attraction of money-wealth…

—we are told (by those still in authority, who are supposed to know—) that incomprehensibly large sums of money must be offered as remuneration for work in the contemporary ‘city’,—in order to be able to attract the very brightest and best,—the (intelligent and capable) ‘talent’…

hmm.

—if that were truly the case, and those operating and trading prior to the global economic crash were truly intelligent, prescient and capable enough, surely the crash itself would not have happened… (—?).

and. why?—I find myself asking—must (frankly) obscene financial reward be the sole incentive at stake?

—if there is no innate dignity, skill, accomplishment and satisfaction in (to be derived from) work that obscene financial compensation must be offered, then it is clear (at least so it seems to me) that that is not work worth doing in the first instance…
(and, if indeed there is (innate) dignity, skill, accomplishment and satisfaction in the work, then that obscene compensation is already (in advance) obsolete,—superfluous… …).

—I would understand (I feel) if those so ‘compensated’ (even those summarily removed from office for gross negligence, dereliction of duty or flat incompetence), used their obscene wealth to fund lives of dizzying and unparalleled activity and accomplishment… —travel; geographic, cultural, artistic, scientific exploration and discovery,…

hell.—even just a startling, heinous and depraved burn of drink and drug-fuelled sordid, unnatural sex acts and mad and unconscionable gambling in Vegas…

but. (hmm).—what is that we’re left with… (—with what are we presented)—?

—with a small, drab, indistinguishably homogenous-seeming array of uncultured, inartistic, unintellectual, uninspired and inarticulate grey dullards…

—wet prophylactics, filled with porridge, stuffed into starched suits, whose only (lamentable) course of action, it would appear, is to use exclusive plutocratic, nepotistic cliques to secure further, dull, soulless, wealth-generating positions…

(—(h)wh-ettpro fi lactick-ss…).
hmm.

and well. anyway… —so much for the dull, grey porridge-prophylactic mutants…

*(apologies for that digression…).

 

 

…—to have been living (so close to) the life you wanted and aspired to, and then to have to sacrifice (contact with) it, (if only for a time) and to (have to) step back to the time (and place.—the space) before…

*—at around that time, I saw you again. …

and something changed in our relationship (to each other). …

that one night in particular…

I remember.—she was in the pub we always went to-met in,—sat at a small table with a group of friends (I didn’t know them), to the side of the crowded, noisy bar.

—I’d been away, then,—reaching the end of my studies, and hadn’t seen her for a long while.

I’d been in the beer garden, with some friends, and had gone inside to buy the next round.

I’d hoped that I would see her there. (—I knew that she would be there…).

I walked into the bar (through the side door, there), and I saw you, sitting there, with those others.

and you looked up, and saw me.
—and her face (—her eyes)—lit up (to see me there). …
(I remember that her friends—the others around the table—looked confused as to why it was that I warranted the (obvious)… —quality, and the depth, of that response. …

—everybody she knew (everyone you meet) fell in love with…).

and we talked, alone (at the bar), for a while…

*and there was a (palpable?-a sensible) change in the… energy (sic) between us that night.

…—a kind of nervous (—slightly tense) excitement, I think.
(I felt your excited, nervous, apprehension).

*and she let me know that things (for her) had changed, and that now, given some time, there was a chance for us to be together.

and we both knew, I think, that that was it—how (deeply) in love with each other we were.
(—that thing that I never felt worthy of).

and though I had to leave her, then, and rejoin the others I was with (—a social obligation), (—I wish I hadn’t. … —I know that it’s strange, and more than slightly irrational, but I think I always resented them, after that…).

for the rest of that evening we couldn’t keep our eyes off each other, I remember.

and we agreed to see each other again, soon after, to talk…

but, when we did meet, for reasons I think I understand, the wall (—of aloof evasiveness and reservation) in-between us rose back up. (—those awkward, apprehensive, pregnant silences).—and nothing happened.

*(—a lot (the mass) of what I write will be about my sadness, frustration and regret at all those things which felt so close,—so vital (—necessary), and yet which failed to happen…).

at that time, I remember, I was (painfully) frustrated, anxious, and embarrassed because I lacked momentum, and direction. *(because—to you—I would appear to lack direction, and accomplishment, and momentum.—to be lost and floundering…). …—because, my… (what?)—my career (?—sic),—my development (I suppose), from which I had gleaned any and all satisfaction and self-confidence, had, in effect, stalled…

and though I felt that I had (some sort of) an ambition, I felt that I hadn’t yet found what I was looking for.

*(but that I would know it when I did.

—that it would be (in some way) hard, definite,… —concrete, and would answer for all those things that I was interested in-was drawn to.—all those things about myself that I was still struggling to understand, and to overcome…

and would demonstrate—would prove—(concretely, incontrovertibly) their value, and the value of the attempt to understand them).

—that the attempts I had made had been clumsy, pretentious and inadequate (—had failed to reach, and to articulate, that thing—that… thought (?) that I felt I had been somehow pursuing—? —trying to grasp,—clearly…).

during the course (—toward the end) of my Master’s studies, I had taken (for some—clearly unwholesome—reason that I forget now) to reading Joyce’s early fiction,—particularly A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

I was taken, particularly, I remember, with the struggle against social, political, religious and sexual forces on the part of a protagonist who aspired (however arrogantly, naïvely or misguidedly) to become an artist, and—by extension—with the attempted formulation of a theory of art. *(—of the *‘image’. …).

later, I read the early draft (fragment) of Portrait,—Stephen Hero.—like most readers and critics, I was drawn to the earlier draft/incarnation of the aesthetic theory of Portrait, and especially to the concept of the ‘epiphany’. …

*…—in the process of doing research on Joyce, I came across accounts of the life of his daughter, Lucia. …

—after a turbulent childhood (understandable, given who her father was…), Lucia became a renowned modernist dancer in Paris. it’s rumoured that she had an affair with Samuel Beckett.

—having always been somewhat erratic and disturbed in her behaviour, at some point, Lucia disappeared, and what found later, wandering the streets of Dublin.

despite having consulted numerous therapists and psychoanalysts (amongst them, Carl Jung—always a mistake…), it was eventually decided on the part of the Joyce family, that they were not capable of giving her the care she required.

and what gave me an uncanny start, and interested me in Lucia’s plight, was that the decision was taken for Lucia to be taken into the care of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Joyce’s wealthy patron, and Lucia was moved to be near to her.

—Lucia was moved to St. Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton.—St. Andrews is located, on one side, next door to Northampton General Hospital, where I was born, and, on the other, to the school I attended.
*(—for a mush better and more accurate of the details of Lucia’s life, the reader should consult Carol Loeb Shloss’s Lucia Joyce: To Dance in the Wake (Bloomsbury: London, 2004)…)

—Lucia passed away in December of 1982—five months after I was born.

and I found that coincidence strange, and uncanny. …


though I had received a firm offer of a place on a PhD, working on Joyce and Derrida from The University of Warwick
(—a place for which I have a great deal of gratitude and affection. … —my plan had been to stay at Warwick and move in with a good friend of mine, who had also, originally, planned to stay on for doctoral study)
—I remember I had distinct reservations…

—I had had the extreme good fortune to work with Dr Simon Malpas during my undergraduate study at Manchester Metropolitan University.

—he was a huge influence on me, mostly, I think, because he is a man whose (frankly, intimidating) intelligence, teaching and relationship to his students I admire, and because he was one of the first people (in such a position) who took me seriously (intellectually) and considered me an intelligent student, with potential.

—he introduced me to the study of Philosophy and of critical theory (alongside Literature), invited me to join a PhD reading group on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, was the one who originally encouraged me into further study, arranged the references for my Master’s, helped me submit (successful) funding applications, and, alongside Dr Paul Wake, commissioned me to write my first academic published work for The Routledge Companion to Critical Theory. …

—in short, he was, and remains, a personal hero of mine and I owe him a very great deal (I still feel)…

before I graduated and left Manchester, he had been offered the position of Senior Lecturer in the English Literature Department at The University of Edinburgh, and had suggested that I move there, eventually, to work with him on my doctorate.

toward the end of my Master’s degree, we met, by (what seemed to me) a strange and auspicious coincidence, by chance, at a conference on ‘Rhetoric, Politics & Ethics’ in Ghent, Belgium.

—I had already arranged the position on the PhD at Warwick at that point, and he expressed his disappointment and, in effect, convinced me to reject that offer and to move to Edinburgh.
(my friend had also changed his plans and had arranged to move back to the States (and to Korea), which, I remember, was the final decisive factor in my decision…).
*(and, when I look at it now, framed in those terms, it (still now), to me, looks like the… (what?)—the right, and even, perhaps, the necessary (—inevitable?) (the only, I suppose) decision… (—? is that too strong… —?)…).

but, making that decision left with time. (—with a dull-feeling, frustrating gap-hiatus.—a back step).—waiting…

—to reject one offer—to abandon one proposal—and to have to wait to formulate another (—a new proposal) and secure a new offer…

*and I wanted to accomplish something.—to create an (intellectually and philosophically thoroughgoing) object in the world, as tangible, solid, measurable proof of what, up until that point, I had only ever… felt,—intuited (I suppose),—indistinctly *(exhilaratingly and frustratingly vague, partial and —indistinct) before. …
*(—something more than just another arbitrary and infinitely replaceable thesis, formed around marginal-ancillary intellectual curiosities, with nothing particularly (personally or intellectually) at stake in it, and with no apparent bearing on the world, outside of an esoteric field of effete academic interests. … —not simply another box-ticking, résumé padding, ladder-climbing exercise, engendered solely to gain access to an exclusive (and often nepotistic) clique… …).

over that (late) summer.—working in the law firm. …

reading in all spare moments (time): in breaks, during the evenings,… —late into the night (the early morning).

the long walks.—to work (there). and back.
(to the modern, architecturally non-descript, beige-brick commercial estate, clearly established-built for reasons of the economic advantage on the cheap land on the outskirts of town—out in the fields, by the river…).

with plenty of time. to think.—about her (—about you).—about the embarrassment, frustration and the wounded pride at having ‘boomeranged’ (—yes) back (again)
*(—about being seen to have boomeranged back again.—being seen by you to have—…).

…—about how I seemed (still seem—?) to be incapable of showing you what I feel I am (—could be),—what I felt (feel) I could be capable of accomplishing—but only this… (what?) hmm—this strange, inadequate, fumbling, failing *(—self-pitying) creature *(—nervous, hunched,—simian), I have always felt I must appear to you as (—am)…

*reading Joyce… —the bildungsroman (—the novel of the development of a culture),—the künstlerroman (—the novel of the development of an art)…
—reading Joyce’s earlier fiction. …

—the text which narrates the development of a culture,—of an art, and, at the same time, embodies that art…

—… but most of all, I think, time to think about my study.

* … —have you ever been in the situation, or the position, of… feeling (—some sort of intuition (—?)) that something (some thing) was happening (something with a great deal of personal significance), but, at the same time, of being aware that—at least as yet—you lack the… resources (intellectual, conceptual,—philosophical),—the vocabulary,… —the wherewithal (and, therefore, the confidence), to understand it (fully),—to comprehend it, name it and set it down (to articulate it). …

—could only, ever, comprehend it and set it down retrospectively—after the fact. …

?

*walking beside the park… *(—the long walk back).

I remember that it was a very warm, bright late-summer afternoon (—moving into early evening)…

the sky was perfectly clear and the air was warm but fresh.

the park—the broad, open, rolling commons—were empty.

—there was a dark, liquid blue-green of shade (slightly… dusty at the edges) beneath the trees…
and there (I think), it occurred to me.

—thinking about you, and about humiliation (felt), frustration, and wounded pride.

—that I loved you and yet couldn’t seem to get past all the problems in-between us (and, really, I was just too fucking young. …).

—that I couldn’t seem to stop myself (despite myself) acting and talking like a besotted idiot (—I was (—am?) a besotted idiot…).

—about the embarrassment of having felt I was… moving (forward-onward.—growing-developing—) and coming close to accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish *(again,—to write something with genuine intellectual depth, value and insight, with something at stake in it…), and having halted, and fallen back.

and, most of all, that I had no means (—the resources) to show you, finally and incontrovertibly, that I am (could be) worthy of you…

—anxiety, embarrassment, frustration…

ideas (always felt to have been growing,… —maturing,—becoming more articulate, —more refined), ambition (—that constant, low, pressing ache).

—all seemed now (then,—there) to converge. (—?)
*(as if I was—carried away by a sort of impression: a semi-conscious, partial, obscure idea,—unevolved,—undeveloped…

waiting, somehow, in a way, beneath everything else,—to be realised.

—a moment of (a sort of) revelation.

uncanny. …

*the ‘homely’,—the familiar,—the hidden or secreted (repressed)—suddenly uncovered.—become unhomely (unfamiliar.—new. … —reborn, in a way…).

—a conception had had of myself (—the ‘self’ as-had taken-it-to-be),—undone (in a way).—a misconception of myself.

involuntary.

—a crossing of a sort of threshold. (—a line. …).

a moment (or,—experience), unsought-for and involuntary, in which something that was mistaken or veiled, is revealed…

—an ironic inversion. …

and a distance, then, afterward, occupied—on what was lived before (—before the break).

—a sort of a disconnect.

*(a strange sensation. …

sudden.

a jolt.—a… quake (felt), in, through and across the chest.

a cool, fibrous, empty electric aching surge…

and a distending, aching surge also felt , at the same time, in the head—the mind…

that all that was known—all that I had thought that I knew (for certain—as definite)—had become—was always—unknown.

and I was a fool ever to have thought that I knew…

—a strange sort of displacement

all that I had thought that I knew,—nearly everything I felt when I was labouring under that misconception—had been empty, hollow and false, somehow.

and I wasn’t able to think like that, or to feel that way, anymore. even if I wanted to. …

*(—a realisation, then, of how small I had been (and a sense of how small I still was).—how more there was (is)—to know…).

—that I was not that anymore…).

and there, beside the park, on that (long) walk home on a late summer afternoon,—the thought occurred…

and then I (felt I) knew. (—felt that it had become clear. …).

—an answer. to that cool-burning ache felt—tense, taut—of anxiety, frustration and embarrassment, in the chest and in the mind.

—a (nervous)… thrill. felt.

—a surge: —a warm wave, rising.—a lift

*—to use that… what?… —that situation (sic),—with you.

—to (try to) understand my relationship to her (—my ‘mentor’) and how it (truly) affected me, and my relationship (sic) with ‘religion’—God,—the church (—Anglican Christianity),—my experience of music…

—to take all of my experience (—the anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, wounded pride, ambition,—love…), to bring it (all the fragments) together, and to turn it to account

*to try to use the thesis as a means to understand and to articulate it all—through (reference to) an as intellectually thoroughgoing understanding of a set of (seemingly crucial) philosophical and literary texts and concepts as possible…

to (somewhat surreptitiously) use my readings of Nietzsche (especially on music and the sublime) and of Joyce’s early fiction and critical writing—all of which I felt at the time represented the clearest and strongest influences on me—to read my experience (including that moment itself)…

and to produce, not just another functional, arbitrary, replaceable thesis, but to (try to) create something—a work—with something truly at stake within it.

and, in turn, to use that… (process of) working out as an intellectual ground/foundation for (an attempt to produce) a work of art.

—to produce a novel, closely, honestly and painfully drawn from my experience.
*(—a novel, provisionally entitled *— Notes of a Vanishing Quantity, which I finished quite recently, and have begun to enter the process of attempting to have published…).

—companion pieces, then.

*(influenced, in part by Joyce’s early, quasi-autobiographical fiction, and also by Nietzsche’s project for a drama based on the life of the philosopher Empedocles—originally intended as a dramatic counterpart to the (theoretical) Birth of Tragedy—the original “sketches” for which seem to have evolved, over time, into Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

*—for which, see Daniel Breazeale, Philosophy and Truth: Selections from Nietzsche’s Notebooks of the early 1870s (New Jersey: Humanities Press, 1979)).

…—the experiences I wanted to comprehend and to articulate informing the focus and direction of my thesis (my research…), and, reciprocally, my research and the draft material and various chapters of my thesis informing the substance of the novel (—of Notes)…

*(as (for) an example,… —

I had been drawn, during my Master’s, to the work of Ludwig Feuerbach, (in particular) The Essence of Christianity, and especially to the terms of Feuerbach’s appropriation of Hegel’s conception of *self-alienation (—in The Phenomenology of Spirit) and his own conception of the end of Christianity…

and so,… I would go away, study and produce a reading of Feuerbach’s conception of self-alienation, which I felt could (somehow) be used, in part, to help explain Nietzcshe’s use of the sublime and conception of music in The Birth of Tragedy.

and that reading, then, could in turn, inform how I understood and wrote about my relationship to my mentor and to music…

…).

—and that would be the project (—the plan) for my doctorate…
—and it failed.

my examiners described my work as ‘idiosyncratic’ and ‘intemperate’. … —though the thesis ‘passed’, they, and Simon (my supervisor) actively discouraged me from attempting to have it published (—in its ‘current form’.)…

and though I did have a discussion with an editor for a major academic publisher, proposing (what in effect amounted to) an introductory book on Nietzsche and Modernism, I abandoned this latter project, I think because it would have meant having to abandon my thesis—the comparison of Nietzsche and Joyce’s conceptions of artistic inspiration and the ‘classical’, and their (mutual) ironic appropriation of the Romantic in the fold of the self-creation of the artist—which I felt I still hadn’t had any feedback on or criticism of (—no way to test, revise, modify and justify…)
*(the terms of the comparison had gone unmentioned in viva voce examination).
and, frankly, it seems to me that the world at large simply does not need (yet) another (potted) introductory account of the bloody stream-of-consciousness (in Woolf, et.al), and how ‘isn’t it a bit like, y’know, ‘Becoming’ in Nietzsche, or whatever’ (—fuck. …), etc. …

(hmm).

*—I didn’t get what I had hoped for from my doctorate, in terms of producing a work (—an object). …

—I had passed my Master’s degree on the basis of the ‘quality of the writing’ (—the ideas really were misguided shit).—I felt that I had lost that.

—in the process of editing and re-writing (—learning to write a PhD) I had lost the style and the work I wanted to write…

*in terms of reading (breadth and depth) and comprehension (philosophical, literary and (art-)historical)—I got what I wanted, but felt that that was compromised in (by) the writing *(precisely not compromises, but (involuntary) concessions. …).
and so that is the nature of this experiment now.

—if I can’t escape the ‘idiosyncratic’ and/or the ‘intemperate’, then perhaps there is still a chance, in a way, that I might be able (—capable, somehow) to turn them to account…

*and so, then. …

—this blog—this experiment *(about which I am genuinely anxious)—will represent a development of what became the central concern of my doctoral thesis. …

*—I will focus on a close-reading of Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy (though drawing on his earlier and later writing) as an account of artistic inspiration and creation.—this will form the heart of what I want to do here…

—I will draw a comparison between the terms of this account and those of the (consecutive) incarnations of Stephen’s aesthetic theory in Joyce’s fiction (—Stephen Hero A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManUlysses) and critical writing, and the critical writing of T.E. Hulme and Ezra Pound.

—I want to draw out a full close-reading here, of the term or concept which becomes crucial to both Nietzche and neo-classical Modernism’s accounts:

*—the ‘classical’. …

—Nietzsche, Joyce and Hulme, in particular, all use the term to distinguish their conceptions of art from (what they dub) *the ‘romantic’ (—indicating the artistic movement, period and figures who became, retroactively, known as Romantic, but also a much broader aesthetic trend)…

*I will argue that, for Nietzsche and for the (self-styled) neo-classical Modernists, the ‘classical’ represented an ironic appropriation of the terms of Romantic accounts of artistic inspiration. …

—that is,… —they seek to maintain the terms of Romantic accounts of an intensely undergone, involuntary aesthetic experience, whilst (however) explicitly, and polemically, rejecting the (oracular,—hyperbolic) register and metaphysical claims (—claims to the metaphysical) of Romanticism.
*(and I’m thinking here of—and will, hopefully grant myself the opportunity to consider in some detail—both the German, ‘Jena’ frühromantik—(in particular) the Schlegels, Novalis and Holderlin, and of British Romanticism… —Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats and Byron
though also of (self-styled) late-Romanticism, like that of W.B. Yeats…).

—where, for the ‘romantic’ (—the Romantics), inspiration presents a transcending of the bounds of the quotidian and of subjectivity,—attaining access to the transcendental, to ‘Nature’ (esp. Novalis and Holderlin), or perhaps some conception of a ‘Platonic’, ‘Ideal’ realm (of the ‘Good’, the ‘True’ and the ‘Beautiful’) (—for Shelley and for Yeats misreading and following him), for the self-styled neo-classicists, by contrast, inspiration remains firmly anchored in, and responsible to, the realm of the quotidian (—the everyday).

*—Nietzsche’s and neo-classical Modernist accounts of artistic inspiration and creation represent attempts to negotiate the legacy of Romanticism,—seeking to redeem it from its late-Romantic fate *(—as I will seek to argue, both philosophically and politically)…
*(and a large part of my reason for having chosen Nietzsche and neo-classical Modernism is to be able to articulate (the tenor or pathos of) the experience I felt I underwent,… —in terms explicitly rejecting the metaphysical (—the Death of God)…).

*…—what I am interested in are accounts of what provokes, or stimulates, the process of artistic creation, and, on the basis of these accounts, how art relates to claims regarding
*epistemology: knowledge.—what we can know and from whence and how that knowledge derives.
*(subsequently)—ontology: —claims to (the nature of) truth,
and what, finally, on the basis of epistemology and ontology (knowledge and truth), can be said about how we ought to conduct ourselves *(—what it means to be honest about we can know and what we can claim, as a result, regarding truth)… *—ethics. …

*in the end, then, this will have been about where I think art needs to stand, the claims it is capable of making (and/or is obliged to deny), and what art is, and has to do
*(—the issues that anyone interested in art or with ambitions or, perhaps, pretensions to being an artist can’t help but address, if they’re honest)
—too lightly (or glibly) treated, or simply elided, by some contemporary figures
*(and, when the time comes, I want to draw on the works of playwright Jo Clifford and popular philosopher Alain de Botton as two examples of the problems I think such treatment or elision can lead to…
*(—and I’m going link all of that to what I see as the problems of the ‘romantic’ and of Humanism).

*—I want to… unpack and to develop a set of claims (epistemological, ontological, and ethical) and a model for art from a (hopefully) careful reading of the works of Nietzsche and the neo-classical Modernists, and to, try to, begin to lay the intellectually thoroughgoing (if still woefully philosophically naïve and shamefully easily contestable) foundations for a larger art project…

—to attempt here what I didn’t seem to be able to achieve in my thesis, and couldn’t hope to do in establishing an (early) academic career, of any particular flavour or hue… —not (necessarily) because it simply isn’t possible, or because I’m not capable,—both may genuinely be the case, but I didn’t really have the opportunity to find out—but because it is actively prohibited: it is not in the nature of the résumé-padding, box-ticking, networking, careerist beast that is contemporary academia…

and so,…
(hell)

this will have been an ‘idiosyncratic’, ‘intemperate’, and subjective piece of polemic, I suppose, and not a scholarly work (in any meaningful sense), and most certainly not a piece of Joyce scholarship *(—the way in which I treat Joyce is, as I have had confirmed, partial and inadequate, and, at best, can be said to join a thread or train that most probably ran out of steam, or became obsolescent, some time in the 1960s…).
*(—though my thesis was, of course, supervised and examined,—this will not have been a peer-reviewed work. … ).

*—I don’t want to be misunderstood here. …

(though, as I indicated, I’ll retain and continue to use scholarly apparatuses where I feel they are useful or necessary for the reader, or where I just bloody well feel like it… ).

*—(in the end,) this will have been, in part, a (much-belated) love letter, in part an autobiography, and, in part,—the fragmented remnants of a doctoral thesis. …
(—three-quarter zoo-chimp…—?).

*—a series of self-contained fragments, playing on the blog and the academic article forms, which—nonetheless—aim to add up to an ongoing work…


*and so then,… —toward a form of general (faltering, provisional) outline…

*’the fold of the artist’ – by way of context…

FOLD3

the fold of the artist.
—artistic inspiration and the artist in Nietzsche and Modernism
Dr. M.D. Bolsover

Has anyone at the end of the nineteenth century a clear idea of what poets of strong ages have called inspiration? […T]he idea that one is merely incarnation, merely mouthpiece, merely a medium of overpowering forces. The concept of revelation—in the sense that suddenly, with indescribable certainty and subtlety, something becomes visible, audible, something that shakes one to the last depths and throws one down—that merely describes the facts. One hears, one does not seek; one accepts, one does not ask who gives; like lightning, a thought flashes up, with necessity, without hesitation regarding its form—I never had any choice.
*(Friedrich Nietzsche, ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra’ in Ecce Homo, 295-307; §3, 300-301.—300).

*indeed. …

PART FIRST – in which (by way of introduction)
the author apologises, falters, begins…

*notes.

all this will appear fragmentary—disjointed, structureless, abrupt, and arbitrary—for which, I suppose, I owe an apology…

*(—I need to crave the indulgence, and the patience, of any and all of my would-be readers…

—I need to crave your indulgence…).

*—I want to use this as a sort of an experiment. …

about which I am genuinely anxious.
—to present a single work (of sorts) as (in. through.) a series (—ongoing.—indefinite) of posts. …

—to play on the ‘blog’ form…
*—what I want to do is to try to set down a complete account—a complete theory—of artistic inspiration: of what I’ll define as an intensely undergone aesthetic experience, in which a change in the disposition of an observer (—of the eventual artist), coincides with a change in the disposition of the thing observed, revealing (—rendering sensible/knowable/apparent) a *quality—in the thing,—in the observer, which had always been (implicitly) present, and yet which had remained hidden, veiled, or somehow repressed, up until the moment of its revelation.

…in essence,—the experience of an *ironic inversion, in which a shape of consciousness—the thing as-had-taken it to be (—the ‘self’ as-had-taken it to be)—is undone and is revealed to be the very opposite of that which it had been taken to be; this revelation then going on to form the foundation for a new shape of consciousness, liberated from the former self-misapprehension.

—and this revelation, undoing, inversion and reformation are what inspires, and what are captured in, the work of art. …

and it is this process—in its entirety—that I’ll seek to define in what follows as—
*the fold in the self-creation of the artist. …

*before I begin with all of that, though, I want to (try to) explain myself, at least a little…

*(and this means, at times, I’m aware, that I’ll be obliged to take myself too seriously, and that my writing will remain, despite any of what might be my best intentions, I fear, far too self-indulgent.—precious and purple…).

this will have been, in part, an autobiography (—of sorts). …

and I want to lay out the context of all of this:… —all of the (pertinent) details, as it seems to me,—as coldly, cleanly and precisely as I can.—and why it constitutes, for me, precisely an experiment…

*—I will focus on a comparison of the accounts of artistic inspiration in the works of Friedrich Nietzsche and some of the most famous and influential, self-styled, neo-classical Modernist writers and critics,—in particular, James Joyce, T.E. Hulme and Ezra Pound.

(—why?)

(hmm).

—in essence, because (in the more distilled form of a comparison of Nietzsche and Joyce) this formed the focus of my doctoral thesis, which I completed at the University of Edinburgh,—a couple of years ago now…

—in part, I’m simply too lazy and far too anxious to start, from scratch (as is said.—for want), with an entirely new work. but, mostly, I feel, I’m just not really finished with all of this quite yet…

and so, (and hell,—why not?)… —I‘m going to use the mass of that thesis material here, in what will be a substantially re-arranged and (heavily) edited form, with some restored excised material, some further explicatory and exploratory notes and asides, and what I hope will represent a further and deeper development of my thesis, couched in language that actual human beings and readers (it is fervently hoped) might actually stand a chance of being able to follow…

*to begin,—by way of some sort of an introduction—it seems important (—vital?) to me to try to offer an explanation as to why. … —as to what I was originally attempting in my thesis (both personally and intellectually) and of all that led up to it.

and why it failed. …

and why it is that now I want, or feel drawn, to take advantage of the… (what?)—the space and/or the opportunity that this forum provides to conduct this experiment…

most of all, I want to write, I think, to the person who was always at the centre of all this,—of everything to(-for) me, and for whom it was intended. (—for you…).

*(I remember reading Kurt Vonnegut’s advice to writer’s, in his author’s ‘Introduction’ to the collection of his early fiction, Bagombo Snuffbox, to always write for one person.

Vonnegutt always wrote to his sister…

—my ‘ideal reader’ (?), I suppose, is always partly me, but mostly you, I think…

—I write to be recognised and to be understood (and pardoned)—by you…).

…—to redeem (—to retrieve) all of my failed (disappointed,—frustrated) ambition.—to turn all of this… material (? for want) to account, and to make it, now, here, accomplish (in some as yet undefined, unqualified, measure) all that I still seem to feel I need to accomplish. (still feel that dull, persistent aching in the chest for…).