19 May 2007

Forgetting Us Perfectly

Like many people, I keep notebooks. Unlike most people, however, I seldom maintain mine. I have certainly never done so faithfully, or with any attention to vision, revision or-- least of all-- posterity. Yet today I discovered a notebook in which I had scrawled notes for a lecture on King Lear. (Did I deliver it? G-d only knows. Probably.) I was struck, however, by the straight-to-paper and completely unrevised nature of these lines from a prospective introduction:
Today I'm going to talk about Albany and his "story," a story that, once understood, takes us deeper into an appreciation of what is really going on in Lear. To understand Albany is to begin to understand Lear, not just as a play about the fall of a king, but as a tragedy about the mysteries of love and death, a tragedy which seems to suggest [that] the truth of either [love and death] depends upon the other. In effect, to understand the absolute value of one, one needs to understand the value of the other. But more on this later. First: Albany.
The notes that follow, about six pages worth, are actually pretty good-- something I seldom say about anything of my own making. The irony, however, is this: I have only a vague sense of where I was going with this. The notes are incomplete, and marked with a date in March of 2002. Sure, I used to do quite a bit on Albany when I taught Lear, but the connexion to love & death, as grand sublime issues, or however the hell I once conceived all this, largely eludes me now. Shame, that. I feel a bit like Guy Pearce in Memento, trying to solve a riddle I unknowingly created for myself but am now too addled to remember. The only thing more amazing, I'm convinced, than one's capacity to forget is one's capacity to remember-- and yet, I'm pretty sure I'd rather remember the stuff I've forgotten, and forget the stuff I remember. 'Tis the way, 'tis always the way....

8 comments:

Pious Labours said...

Anyway you could upload that paper?

BTW, I recall you delivered a guest lecture on Lear. I wasn't there, but I recall after your lecture, your acolytes and you came to the Open End for a Beer blast (as I recall, I didn't participate, but only cuz I was busy reading or working on something). I remember you raising your arms in the air and saying "I feel vindicated!" Strange what one remembers and forgets, as you said. sigh

Dr J said...

They're just scrawled notes, PL, and almost as illegible to me as to anyone else. Unfortunately, they also end before they get to the "meat." (Hence my pseudo-mystification.)

I delivered quite a few lectures on Lear over the years, so they're all pretty hazy. I prolly did more lecs on that play than any other text, so who knows....

As for vindication, no idea there, either. Ah, I remember vindication-- like young love and the days before allergies.

nic said...

hmmmn... I think I kept most of my notes from your class. I'll have to see if I find Albany's story.

Dr J said...

Dear me, nic, WHY?!?!?! Not sure whether to think that's silly or sweet. ;-)

j said...

nic: glad to find I was not the only "weird" one who used to keep lecture notes, only dumped univ and a level notes a couple of years ago

dr j: students tend to keep notes for 2 main reasons either they(notes) are great or they(students) couldn't find the time to clear out the past. unless you're clinton, in which case, think "gap dress" , ew!

but if you were really terrible in the lecture you might also be rememberedfor all the wrong reasons like eagleton for his e=mc2 lecture(crappy and incoherent)

nic said...

oh dear, well it's not really sweet or silly. Didn't stop to think that might sound idiotic (or "weird", thank you j!!!!!) since I'm an archivist I have a tendency to collect things and always have! I'll honestly have to dig out my box of stuff from Y and take a look now...

sylvia said...

Yes, I'm sure I've still got all mine, too, all the way back to elementary-school exercise books. Including even the two weeks' worth of beautifully need and completely incomprehensible calculus notes that I took in the second semester of Grade 11, before I finally convinced my mother and the IB department head to let me drop the course. Why? Well, my mom still has the glazed pottery dinosaurs I made in art class when I was in kindergarten, the hideous self-portrait I painted in about Grade 7, the comic books my brother wrote and illustrated in elementary school, and (buried deep in the basement) a box of leftover invitations to her first wedding -- does that answer your question? :^P

But, of course, I don't have them here -- they live at my mom's house, which means that someday, when she's tired of living in two storeys, four bedrooms, plus basement, and we're still perching in 750 crammed-to-the-rafters square feet, they'll all be for the recycling depot.

sylvia said...

Aaaarrrgggghhhh!!!

That's "beautifully neat and completely incomprehensible".

Sigh.

Blog Archive