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Archive for January, 2013


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Once upon a time, I had this wonderful plan.

I was a little behind.  First there were finals, then there were grades, and then, of course, I got my end of semester cold.

I tend to get a cold at the beginning and the end of every semester, because students are predictable. 

In the first couple of weeks, all of them come, sick or not, because they’ve made resolution.

Then there’s a drop off in the middle. In the middle period, any excuse–a slight sniffle, rain, the fact that it’s Tuesday–will suffice to keep students at home.

At the end, however, there is panic, and once again students show up in all kinds of physical conditions, desperate to get an A.

I am not making that up.  They don’t want to pass.  They want to get an A.

The result is, as I’ve said, that I get sick.

So I intended to wait out the sick part and then start this blog on the first of the year and get it going in a definite direction.

Instead, I couldn’t sleep last night, and I’m making no sense.

And I have no idea how the typing is going.

For what it’s worth–I have, for the last couple of days, been reading a book called The Poetry of Thought: From Hellenism to Celan by George Steiner.

This is not a book I’d recommend willy nilly to anybody.  I like Steiner a lot, and when he’s doing close reading and traditional criticism he’s the best we’ve got.

But this book is incoherent in ways that are, as the saying goes, mindboggling.

I was going to start with this book because I’ve been thinking that its problems are exactly those problems that are a legacy of the Englightment–or, specifically, of the French Enlightenment.

And it occurred to me that I still hadn’t done that exposition on the Enlightenment and the ways in which it changed the purpose and content of Western education.

So I thought I’d go back there, and start with that.

This morning, though, there’s no way I can manage it.

Let me just make a note of the central problems with this book.

Well, maybe central problem singularly.

From beginning to end, Steiner here is so wrapped up in the experience of the “poetry” of various authors, that he seems to feel no need to connect anything they write to anything in reality.

And no, I don’t mean novels and poems and imaginative literature of various sorts.

The purpose of the book is to show a link between poetry and philosophy. 

So we get lyrical odes to the “colossal” importants of the works of Karl Marx that identify his “numbers” as part of the perfection of writing–apparently because Steiner doesn’t know that virtually all of those numbers were wrong.

In several other places, we get other odes to the ways in which Steiner thinks modern poetry and drama (Becket, Genet) express findings in things like physics and cosmology.

It reads like the most embarrassing “philosophy of science” nonsense, and in every case where I know the facts of the science, it is again wrong.

Remember the Sokal hoax?

Well, this is like that, except Steiner is doing it for real.

But that brings me back to where I wanted to go:  the trajectory of Western civilization since the Enlightenments, both of them.

Right now, though, I’m going to spend the rest of the day indulging in a disaster movie called Category 7, which I’m pretty sure is a sequel to one called Category 6, which I watched the other day.

It was everything a disaster movie ought to be–a maximum of disasters and a minimum of lecturing.

That’s about the level my brain is working on today.

Happy New Year.



Written by janeh

January 1st, 2013 at 7:52 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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