Thursday, September 29, 2011

Two bits

I'm supervising two independent studies this semester, and in both cases our first substantive meetings are today. (Usually I think I'm going to try and cram them into Tuesday, when I'm in my office to do office hours anyway, but this week it simply wasn't plausible, and in fact it may be a generally unrealistic notion as I also use Tuesdays for a committee meeting I attend regularly, for department faculty meetings and for meetings with grad students doing oral exams or needing substantive meetings on drafts.)

Today's readings provide a particularly incongruous juxtaposition!

From Alain Robbe-Grillet's Project for a Revolution in New York:
"What do you see from the window of this apartment?"

"Central Park."

(That's what it had looked like to me.)

"Is this part of it lit?"

"Yes, dimly . . . There's a streetlamp."

"And what can be seen near the streetlamp?"

"Three people."

"Of which sex?"

"Two men, a woman. . . She's wearing pants and a cap, but you can see her breasts under her sweater."

"What is this lady's name?"

"Her name--or at least what they call her--is Joan Robeson, or sometimes Robertson too."

"What does she do?"

"She's one of the fake nurses who works for Doctor Morgan, the psychoanalyst whose office is in the Forty-second Street subway station. The other nurses are blond, and . . ."

"But what is she doing here, now, in the bushes bordering the park, with those two men? And who are those two men?"

"That's easy: one is Ben-Said, the other is the narrator. The three of them are loading cartons of marijuana cigarettes disguised as ordinary Philip Morrises into a white Buick."
From Hume's Essays, more particularly the essay "Of Simplicity and Refinement in Writing":
There is no subject in critical learning more copious, than this of the just mixture of simplicity and refinement in writing; and therefore, not to wander in too large a field, I shall confine myself to a few general observations on that head.

First, I observe, That though excesses of both kinds are to be avoided, and though a proper medium ought to be studied in all productions; yet this medium lies not in a point, but admits of a considerable latitude. Consider the wide distance, in this respect, between Mr. POPE and LUCRETIUS. These seem to lie in the two greatest extremes of refinement and simplicity, in which a poet can indulge himself, without being guilty of any blameable excess. All this interval may be filled with poets, who may differ from each other, but may be equally admirable, each in his peculiar stile and manner. CORNEILLE and CONGREVE, who carry their wit and refinement somewhat farther than Mr. POPE (if poets of so different a kind can be compared together), and SOPHOCLES and TERENCE, who are more simple than LUCRETIUS, seem to have gone out of that medium, in which the most perfect productions are found, and to be guilty of some excess in these opposite characters. Of all the great poets, VIRGIL and RACINE, in my opinion, lie nearest the center, and are the farthest removed from both the extremities.

1 comment:

  1. Whenever I have the words "David Hume" and "latitude" in my mind at once, I immediately think of this: