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.


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.


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.  


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."


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.


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.

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!

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,


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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."


February 5 2014

6. Ontology and the image, from Plato to Cavell

...which is an overgrand way of saying that I try to give a quick view of Heidegger on the worldhood of the world, its relation to the image, and the sorts of ontological discussions that ontologists have.  A quick summary of the periods of Platonic dialogue, and a little of the Parmenides.  Achilles and the tortoise.  The relation of object to image, in Cavell and Blanchot.  A start....


7. Seventeenth Century Poetry: Donne’s poem “Love’s Alchemy”

A class devoted entirely to puzzling out the figurative language in "Love's Alchemy," and the way it's partly about puzzling out figurative language. The punctuational crux of the last lines. The idea that Donne's "Songs and Sonnets" have multiple speakers and that they address each other.


February 1 2014

6. 17th Century Poetry — Donne’s “Ecstasy” and “Love’s Alchemy”

More on Donne's "Ecstasy."  The strange proto-modernism of Donne's addressees.  Their consciously dramatic quality -- that is we're supposed to be conscious that their speaker is being dramatic, and that the drama is for us. As in "The Sun Rising," with its female speaker.  Why a female speaker?  Then we begin on "Love's Alchemy."


5. Film and Phil: Bazin on Theater vs. Film - clip of rear window

Some open considerations of Bazin.  Long excursus on lumping vs. splitting.  A spiel I liked about truth-makers (as in Armstrong, and Davidson, just to give a couple of references.  Davidson's Tarski-style idea: if a sentence is true, there is something that makes it true).  All claims that A=B, if not tautological, are not strictly speaking true.  They need to be made true.  What makes something true if you lump: A and B are the same.  What makes something true if you split: A isn't really A.  Lumping: A is something else that is not A.  Splitting: A is not A.  Application to Film vs. Theater vs. verbal narrative vs.... TV.  Rear Window as emblematizing TV-watching.  Bazin on identification and resistance to identification in film and theater respectively.  Subjective camera in Rear Window.


January 29 2014

4. Film — A couple of scenes from Out of the Past, and discussion of La Jetée

Giving up on going through all of Out of the Past, class is confined to two more scenes and some discussion of the plot.  Then on to La Jetée and the way its fixed images work: as memory, as estrangement.  Some remarks on making lemonade, i.e. great art out of the foul rag and bone shop of various technical, economic, social, manufacturing constraints.


5. 17th Century Poetry Donne’s “Go and Catch a Falling Star” and “The Ecstasy”

The puzzling -- even mysterious last lines of "Go and Catch a Falling Star."  How not to read them.  Their relation to "The Ecstasy" and the questions of bodies and minds, thus absence and presence.  And the odd presence in Donne of a third person there, in so many poems.


January 25 2014

4. 17th c poetry — some of Donne’s secular poems against fidelity

We turn to the secular Donne, in Songs and Sonnets, and look at his views of fidelity and his arguments against it.  "Woman's Constancy," "The Indifferent," "The Flea."  His way of story-telling: the backstory he expects his readers are sophisticated enough to pick up in his dramatic monologues or implicit dialogues.  Hilarity and subtlety combined.


January 24 2014

Film 3. Aura and Maguffin. Close viewing of Out of the Past

Some remarks on Walter Benjamin's view of aura, and its disappearance in the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction.  Its return thematized in the maguffin.  Maguffin defined, with examples, from Pulp Fiction, Kiss Me DeadlyMI: 3, etc.  Women as maguffins, in La Jetée and a host of other films.  Then a close viewing of the first third of Out of the Past.  Continuities and discontinuities.  (NB: Marsellus, not Marcus, as I misspoke.)  


January 22 2014

3. 17th century poetry

Mainly a bare-bones exposition of salvation through faith (Protestant doctrine) vs. through works (Catholic): with the role that (double) pre-destination and the bondage of the will plays in the distinction, and the spirals of inwardness that arise for the Protestant poets, in particular Donne and Herbert.  Excursus on Luther's reading of the Lord's hardening Pharaoh's heart in Exodus. Herbert's


HAVING been tenant long to a rich Lord, 
            Not thriving, I resolved to be bold, 
            And make a suit unto him, to afford 
A new small-rented lease, and cancell th’ old. 

In heaven at his manour I him sought : 
            They told me there, that he was lately gone 
            About some land, which he had dearly bought 
Long since on earth, to take possession. 

I straight return’d, and knowing his great birth, 
            Sought him accordingly in great resorts ; 
            In cities, theatres, gardens, parks, and courts : 
At length I heard a ragged noise and mirth 

            Of theeves and murderers :  there I him espied, 
            Who straight, Your suit is granted, said, and died.

Excursus on the plurality of the heavenly powers, and the E and J writers of the first four books of Moses.

January 18 2014

2. 17th century poetry. Why death? - more on Donne’s “At the round earth’s imagined corners”

Pretty much a close reading of that poem, and its paradoxes, partly via Donne's paradox V that "All things kill themseluses."  We raised and thought about the question what makes death an appropriate punishment for sin.  What is it that Donne is "mourning for a space"?  I thought this was a pretty good discussion.  

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