24 July 2007

Tuesday Meld

Just a few notes on recent items & events:

  • The much, much, much too-hyped CNN-YouTube debate for the Democratic presidential nominees wasn't the failure some predicted it would be, but it wasn't the political watershed moment CNN would have you think it was either. The big winner from last night? Democrats generally. With the Republican version not happening until September, the Dems will get almost two months of credit for engaging "the public" directly. The Republicans, however, are going to get crucified when their questions get sent in; by September, the schisms within the party will be plain and the calls for blood will be positively choral.
  • You Jane Austen fans out there might appreciate this. In the Google age, this is inexcusable and should send more than a few heads rolling.
  • The Guardian put together its list of the fifty greatest film comedies. Note some of the really bottom-of-the-barrel inclusions. We'll see if The Simpsons Movie makes a future version, but if the Guardian review is any indication, it will be; the review falls somewhere between supplication and fellatio.
  • I will not link to any item about the LiLo fiasco. Period. I will only add this: given the paranoiac effects of alcohol and cocaine, and her constant realization that yes, she is being hounded everywhere, one should hardly wonder why she keeps going on and off the, ahem, rails. Remember the old adage: Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean that no one's following you.
  • Recent online discovery: this wonderful reflection by the great lyric critic Helen Vendler. Pious Labours, especially: as RK would say, RLAID; read, learn and inwardly digest.
  • After being reminded recently of Northrop Frye's The Well-Tempered Critic, I decided the other day to reread it in its entirety--- and which I did, in one sitting over pints at one of my locals. The first essay I'd still encourage everyone, of literary bent or not, to read & re-read & re-read yet again: it's brilliant, central and more valuable now than when it was written those forty-plus years ago. It also reminded me why I loathe the current critical trend to discuss literature as "discourse." Discourse, in its current usage, is really just an attempt to conflate the various areas of critical distinction which Aristotle rightly separated: the ethical, the rhetorical, the poetical. It also conveniently allows lit-critters to say and to write whatever the hell they want, regardless of disciplinary considerations, while guising it as scholarship. In short, it's a license to bullshit and has been used, egregiously, as one. No wonder I wince when I see the word in any scholarship in the past forty years; it has become meaningless, save to say that it indicates and enables pretentious prognostication of the broadest order. We'd do well, I think, to re-read our Aristotle--- without the commonplace sniggering about the convenient compartmentalization of elements.

Hair shorn and beard gone, believe it or not, I have been shocking the hell out of people lately. Further to the Ripley's file, from a young woman the other day: So how old are you? 22, 23?

If only, dear lass, if only....

9 comments:

Pious Labours said...

Thanks for the link, J, though I vaguely seem to remember reading that (or something similar) a while ago.

Without expatiating on the piece, I have to admit that it does not speak to me as it would have a few years ago. It's easy for Vendler to say what she is: after all, she is an emeritus professor in her 70s. Not only that, but she would not have gotten into Harvard in this day and age (getting into Grad school was far easier 50 years ago, believe me).

Although I'm a formalist/linguist, etc, at heart, I do see the limitations of such approaches (then again, they all do). Call me what you will, but I've actually grown weary of Eliotic cant.

Just some half baked responses: I'm not committed either way (I'm no Theory nut, but some of it I like). I'd love to talk about this over a beer with you J, like back in the old days (except I'm not as naive now, but just as dull).

Dr J said...

Ah, I remember the days when linguistics, formalism, semiotics & the lot seemed interesting and even exciting. That was a very long time ago.

I do take issue with your assertion about Vendler that "she would not have gotten into Harvard in this day and age." That's a specious hypothesis, and one I'd argue you with you strenuously. Admittedly, the current community would have been as hostile, jading & dispiriting as it was for YT, but your flip assessment does her rather a mean-spirited disservice. I suspect that if you read her again in about ten years, and read her widely, you'll see greater value in her work. Or (dear Lord) I hope so....

Pious Labours said...

I'm not questioning her intelligence or anything like that, but merely pointing out that much has changed in the past 50 years (for better and worse). Not only are departments more political, but because competition is brutally high, I doubt someone who merely took a few English courses after a degree in chemistry would get in. Then again, back then, if you deserved to go to, say, Harvard or Yale, you probably ended up there.

I sometimes wonder whether many of the great critics of the 20th century (the Fryes, the Kenners, the Wimsatts) would get into grad school these days...

nic said...

I'm glad Life of Brian topped the list ahead of the other python flicks. They're all great but the whole 'Romanes Eunt Domus?' scene still brings tears of joy to my eyes. I had trouble getting through a whole year of latin with that scene running through my mind every class...

Ah, some of the other titles (Airplane!, Big Lebowski, Blazing Saddles) just make me want to go home and hug my dvd player.

I can't help it, I'm dying to see the Simpsons movie. If someone can watch the spider-pig trailer and still have no interest in the movie -there is something wrong with that person. (It's probably the same sort of person who would go see 'license to wed' instead...run away, screaming)

sylvia said...

spider-pig, spider-pig
does whatever a spider-pig does...

Dr J said...

Now he's Harry Plopper....

cbeck said...

Wait a minute... there are Jane Austen fans out there?

*shnickers*

j said...

dr j - for some freaky reason, always thought of sassure in association with discourse; to rephrase a philosophy finals exam question ; the university is full of discourse, discuss (would work as well with intercourse? ;) so you shaved?! was she sloshed? buddhists think that's associated with the giving up of worldly desires, gather that's not the case in your case?! hehe...

cbeck- there are paris hilton fans out there, mebbe that's a sobering fact?!

Dr J said...

j, aren't old guys like me allowed to assume youth again? ;-) (yes, it's a facade, but....)

I was confused tonight for-- believe it or not-- 20. I can't decide if that's a good thing or not....

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