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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9. Film and Philosophy: Berkeley

A quick exposition of Berkeley's idea that to be is to be perceived, followed by a viewing of Beckett's Film, starring Buster Keaton.

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February 28 2014

8. Film and Philosophy Plato’s Cave

I finally discuss, somewhat clumsily, Plato's Allegory of the Cave, after a brief introduction to Berkeley.  A short class because the second half was given over to a viewing of Buster Keaton's Sherlock, Jr.

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11. 17th Century Poetry: Satire 3 Concluded and Some Holy Sonnets

We conclude Satire 3, and talk about the difference between an aesthetics of difficulty (Donne's) and of effortlessness (e.g. Herrick and the Cavaliers).  Satire 3 as promoting difficulty as promoting thought.  Then on to "Batter My Heart..." and "Father, part of his double interest..." Some discussion of the NIcene Ring.

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February 23 2014

10. 17th Century Poetry: Satire 3 (”Kind pity chokes my spleen”)

A line by line exposition of most of Satire 3 (TBC).  More discussion on metonymic relations among a series of metaphors.

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February 13 2014

7. Film and Philosophy — Mainly on Dark City

A class where we mainly discuss Dark City (1998, Alex Proyas).  Question of memory, personal identity, love, and of course space and time. Some of the same issues as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.  Me, I felt that the class didn't cohere, but the students seemed to like the more extensive conversation.

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9. 17th C Poetry: Donne’s Valediction Forbidding Mourning

A full class on the poem, and on teasing out the metonymic interaction of its metaphors.  The interesting sexual switch at the very end.  A discussion mid-class about whether people liked Donne passionately or not: are his wit and strangeness a bug or a feature. Is his poetry poetry you want to quote?

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February 8 2014

8. 17th century poetry: Donne’s “To His Mistress Upon Going to Bed” and “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning.”

More on the different speakers in Donne's "Songs and Sonnets."  The idea of the most capacious intelligence: the one who gets most others.  How this plays out in kinds of narrative, especially fantasy fiction.  Who gets whom better: Aslan or the White Witch? Voldemort or Dumbledore? Sauron or Gandalf?  Yoda or Palpatine?  The surprise when we're surprised that the good guys get the evil guys being a staple of narrative interest, because more generally being able to understand others' limitations is central to our assessment of literary characters.  Then on to the two poems: "To his Mistress" and a beginning of "A Valediction: forbidding Mourning."

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