May 7 2014

26. Milton: freedom and necessity, the tyrant’s plea

Last class of the semester, with a brief summary of the first books of Paradise Lost, with special attention to the similarities, intersections, and overlaps between Satan and God.

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May 5 2014

19. Last film class: Peeping Tom and lots of psychoanalytic talk about scopohilia

Last film class of the semester, on Peeping Tom and some of the ideas of scopophilia behind it, especially from Freud and Fenichel.  What is the MacGuffin in Peeping Tom?  In a way (though I run out of time to say it this way): it's a meta-MacGuffin: we are trying to figure out which of many possible things the MacGuffin is going to turn out to be.  That's what we're looking to discover.

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25. Some more on Paradise Lost

Ideas of freedom in Milton -- mind vs. world analogized to independence or dependence of idea of justice.  In a nutshell: if justice is independent of God's will, the mind is its own place, as Satan says.

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April 28 2014

24. First class on Milton

I spend more time maybe than ever before on the opening of Paradise Lost and the idea of invoking the Muse.  This naturally involves a long excursus on psychoanalytic technique and its relation to prayer.  Naturally.

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18. Peeping Tom, sort of but mainly Freud on instincts, pleasure, unpleasure, and scopophilia

The film assigned was Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), but mainly we discussed Freud on pleasure vs. unpleasure, instincts, their vicissitudes, what we want and what we don't, with just a very little attention to scopophilia itself, to which we'll return in the last class Tuesday April 29th.

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April 22 2014

23. Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House” (briefly) and then “The Unfortunate Lover”

Brief considerations of the historical, political and personal background of "Upon Appleton House," and then the rest of the class on "The Unfortunate Lover."  Worst love poem ever written?  Or amazing and strange outlier.  Hint: the latter.  Some talk of vexillogy, in particular of heraldic blazons, for those who get excited by that sort of thing.

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18. Vertigo and Freudian repetition

We start by viewing one of the film projects that a student did for his midterm: blinking eyes.  This will be more or less silent in the podcast, for a minute or two.  Then a discussion of blinking, partly Erwin Goffman style.  And then on to Vertigo, another movie about repetition: one's own; the world's; the other's.  Comparison to Groundhog Day and Source Code.  Opening considerations on Freudian repetition, as in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, via an account of the relation of pleasure to instinct or drive (the incentive that a drive aims at or the incentive to reduce unpleasure that drives the drive), and the the beginning of a discussion on repetition compulsion among shell-shocked veterans of the Great War.

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April 17 2014

22. Marvell - The Garden

A class sort of entirely on Marvell's Garden: sort of because we have occasion to talk about synecdoche vs. non-synecdochal metonymy, which naturally gets us talking about W.V. Quine, and therefore his nephew Robert Quine (guitarist who recorded the Velvets and worked with Lou Reed), and then Anthony and the Johnsons, because of course.

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April 9 2014

21. Marvell: Damon the Mower and The Garden

First class on Marvell: Introduction mainly about what we (what I) don't know, but with some historical context.  (There's a new biography, which I haven't read, which apparently has lots of new information.)  Empsonian explanation of pastoral.  Eliot on minor vs major, good vs great poetry.  "The Mower Against Gardens," and being rich in hay.  Figuration in "The Garden."  A lot of this course is about the fascinating subtleties of figuration in our poets, and this is something we'll concentrate on in "The Garden," both this class and next.

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April 5 2014

16. Other worlds and other minds in Source Code and Groundhog Day

Final class on Source Code and Groundhog Day.  Acting.  Repetition.  Subject and object.  Death and other minds.  Why Groundhog Day is a more radical movie than Source Code (in case you need to know).  Counterparts.  Would you transport yourself to another world where you'd switch places with your counterpart in order to be with the surviving counterpart of your dead love here?  Would that be enough?

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20. Last class on Herbert: The Forerunners; The Pulley

Never got to "Love" (III).  We go through "The Forerunners" again and the relationship of the soul to language and expression in that poem, and Herbert's addresses to his own language; then on to "The Pulley" and the interplay of wealth and poverty there (as in "Redemption").

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March 30 2014

19. George Herbert: Jordan (I), The Flower, Easter Wings, etc.

Herbert's view of poetic subject.  "Jordan" (I); "Easter Wings" and its prosody.  "The Flower," and a start to "The Forerunners."

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15. Source Code

The plausibility of Source Code.  Possible worlds in Lewis.  Truth-makers.  ("If a sentence is true, there's something that makes it true." --Donald Davidson)  Some vague, but licensed BS about quantum theory and the many worlds interpretation, and how that fits in with Source Code.  Differences between Source Code and Groundhog Day,

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March 28 2014

14. Groundhog Day

A class on repetition in Groundhog Day; a little bit of discussion of Kierkegaard and the idea that repetition is always a step behind.  How this plays out in the movie: what comes first before it's repeated.  How much is left to elision.  How philosophical issues in the movie overlap with technical and narrative demands of film making.  Groundhog Day compared to Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, and to the Mr. Magoo version of A Christmas Carol.

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18. First class on George Herbert

His relation to his vocation as priest and as person.  His ministry.  Typology - prefiguration and correlative types.  Being an Aaron: "Aaron Dressing," "Denial," and "The Collar."

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March 26 2014

13. Skepticism and Zeno’s paradoxes, again

A class on the difference between external world skepticism and other mind skepticism: their conceptual independence.  Parmenides and Zeno on why to be skeptical of the external world.  Filming Achilles and the tortoise: what you'd see. Egerton. Berkeley's solution to Zeno's paradoxes.

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17. 17th century poetry: a class on Robert Herrick

The wonderful Robert Herrick, and a few of his poems: his relation to Jonson; his erotic lyrics.  Just a class on Herrick, really.

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March 25 2014

16. 17th c poetry, mainly Jonson’s Cary-Morrison Ode

Last class on Ben Jonson: a little time on his Weston-Stuart Epithalamion, and then most of the case on the Cary-Morrison Ode, with special attention, in both poems, to Jonson's stunning formal brilliance.

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March 13 2014

12. Film and Philosophy: Akerman’s La Captive

Mainly a discussion of La Captive and the question of other minds, and of what the male lead (Simon) wants from his captive (Ariane): what kind of thing wanting more from her or something different from what she gives him could possibly be.  Discussion therefore about replicants, zombies, and other minds.  The sheer fascination of looking in La Captive.  Some discussion of Jeanne Dielman, but without the spoilers that would indicate how Jeanne turns out (to herself even) to have a mind -- an other mind.

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March 12 2014

11. Film and Philosophy

A class mainly on Blade Runner, and how it is practically the same movie as Chantal Akerman's La Captive: both Cartesian explorations of the reality of others, and of other minds.  Tyrell as the evil genius in Descartes.  Seeing souls in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Emerson, and Blade Runner.  The ontology of voiceover.  

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15, 17th Century Poetry: Ben Jonson, mainly “The Hourglass”

A little bit about Jonson's urbanity, and his different voices, then a reading mainly of "The Hourglass," and a comparison with Herbert's "Church Monuments."  The hourglass as symbol of vanity, but the dust also the literal remains of the dead, so that it's both the sign of time and its result (like the skull).  And then a brief look at "Inviting a Friend to Supper" (and some discussion of the nature of rhyme), and "To Penshurst."

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March 9 2014

14. 17th C Poetry: Ben Jonson’s songs

Mainly a close reading of the unutterably subtle effects of the Song to Celia "Drink to me only with thine eyes."

Drink to me only with thine eyes,

         And I will pledge with mine;

Or leave a kiss but in the cup,

         And I’ll not look for wine.

The thirst that from the soul doth rise

         Doth ask a drink divine;

But might I of Jove’s nectar sup,

         I would not change for thine.

I sent thee late a rosy wreath,

         Not so much honouring thee

As giving it a hope, that there

         It could not withered be.

But thou thereon didst only breathe,

         And sent’st it back to me;

Since when it grows, and smells, I swear,

         Not of itself, but thee.

What makes it a song? What makes it a story?  What's their relation?  A look at "So Beauty on the water stood," in this context:

So beauty on the waters stood, 

When love had sever’d earth from flood. 

So when he parted air from fire, 

He did with concord all inspire.

And then a motion he them taught, 

That elder than himself was thought, 

Which thought was yet the child of earth, 

For Love is elder than his birth.

And then a brief return to "On my first son":

Farewell, thou child of my right hand, and joy;

My sin was too much hope of thee, lov'd boy.

Seven years tho' wert lent to me, and I thee pay,

Exacted by thy fate, on the just day.

O, could I lose all father now! For why

Will man lament the state he should envy?

To have so soon 'scap'd world's and flesh's rage,

And if no other misery, yet age?

Rest in soft peace, and, ask'd, say, "Here doth lie

Ben Jonson his best piece of poetry."

For whose sake henceforth all his vows be such,

As what he loves may never like too much.

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March 5 2014

10. Film and Philosophy: Berkeley and Beckett’s

Then another class that I thought went pretty well (two decent classes in one day!) on Beckett's Film.  To put in the form of a paradoxical tweet: the title refers to Buster Keaton's irreducible and insoluble condition, existing in a film of perception, not to the fact that it's a film.

But what I was glad to have articulated was the distinction opposing what I was calling the Descartes/Kant/Emersonian view that the difference between the perceived (empirical) self and the perceiving self redounded to the absolute, transcendental priority of the perceiving self's noetic vector towards freedom to the Beckett/Berkeley view that the perceived self is what actually exists (esse is percipi) and therefore our own feeble, foible-filled, failing, febrile facticity is what we actually are and what we can't escape.  Beckett's Berkeley prevents (paradoxically, again) any sublimation towards idealism, and keeps us as the inescapable sum of our accidents, always covered by, always in fact identical to, a sticky film of the local, limited, particularized being that I am.  (What Philip Roth, in The Counterlife, was parodying when Zuckerman meets a guy who plans to be cryonically frozen in order to achieve immortality when the science catches up with death.  Zuckerman shakes his head at the idea of the guy -- Barry Shuskin -- looking forward to "a billion more years of being himself.... Forever Shuskin.")  "Alas for characteristics," as James Merrill put it.
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13. 17th C Poetry: Trinity and then Ben Jonson

I thought this class went pretty well: first a discussion of the Trinity based on a really fine letter to the TLS by someone named Neville Martin Gwynne (hello! if you're Googling yourself: that was a great letter!).  Then a brief intro to Jonson and a close reading of Jonson's beautiful epigram/epitaph "On My First Daughter," here:

Here lies, to each her parents’ ruth,
Mary, the daughter of their youth;
Yet all heaven’s gifts being heaven’s due,
It makes the father less to rue.
At six months’ end she parted hence
With safety of her innocence;
Whose soul heaven’s queen, whose name she bears,
In comfort of her mother’s tears,
Hath placed amongst her virgin-train:
Where, while that severed doth remain,
This grave partakes the fleshly birth;
Which cover lightly, gentle earth!
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March 3 2014

12. 17th c poetry: Done with Donne

We finish discussing the Trinity, and then go through the seven La Corona sonnets, where the interesting question of their temporality -- of the eternal vs. the sempiternal, of endless time vs. being outside of time -- comes up in the very question of how or where the sequence may be said to begin, since the first sonnet sums up the fact that the sequence is the crown which seems to spring out of that very first sonnet,

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