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Sunday Cavell: criteria are ours (1)

Continued from here (quotes taken from “The Claim of Reason”, Stanley Cavell, reprinted 1999, Oxford University Press.

A measure of the quality of a new text is the quality of the texts it arouses. (p. 5)

I really don’t know where this is going. Nowhere, probably, but that’s not a bad thing. The really bad thing is this typically modern feeling that things need to go somewhere; where the somewhere is both sufficiently vague to gather a following, and sufficiently specific to trust a leader to go there. I’m sure the quality of this text is in itself not a measure of that of Cavell. This text is probably a dead end. Still, it was aroused – took as its starting point – the text of Cavell and a text is alive only insofar it invites to be interpreted rather than to be preached.

This is a Gadamerian point to make and that’s no coincidence.

The case is rather that, as I wish to put it, both statements of fact and judgments of value rest upon the same capacities of human nature; that, so to speak, only a creature that can judge of value can state a fact. (p. 15)

It’s not that science perverted us but that we have perverted science. We have imported, in these modern days, into science the certainties that, of old, came with the power of God. If we look at it this way, what we achieved is just a metamorphosis: one more effective at the expense of beauty. One of the great points Cavell makes, I think, is that the inspiration of ordinary language philosophy is to look at what we all say; to look at the inner logic – let us say, with Wittgenstein: grammar – of humanity as a talkative animal.

Let’s see how that, inherently, bridges not only philosophical traditions but, significantly, the two-faced nature of modern man (top down ‘reason’ and bottom-up ‘passion’).

Continue reading


February 28, 2016 Posted by | boredom, Tuesday Quought | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Kafkosh B’Gosh

All realist stories are alike. All non-realist stories are non-realist in their own way.

Over a decade later, I am still fuming over Harold Bloom’s popularizing and unhelpful book How to Read and Why (2001), where, among many vapid generalizations, he says that there are only two routes the short story can take: The Chekhovian route of realism, and the Kafkian route of fantasy. Well, it may be the case that the kind of psychological realism practiced by writers stylistically as diverse as Henry Fielding, Henry James, Thomas Mann, and Hillary Mantel are all the same: since realism operates in the world (it thinks) we share, it presumably cleaves to the same standard across the Western world and wherever the disenchantment of everyday life has taken place. (Note to self: re-read Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis one of these days.) But non-realism? Each novelist, each novel, can play by its own rules, and not cleave to the trail blazed by the one non-realist author, however great, favored by Mr. Western Canon. Furthermore, it’s pretty sloppy thinking to say that all of Kafka’s non-realistic writing constitutes “one” route: “The Metamorphosis” is different from The Trial and The Castle, and both differ from “The Judgment,” and they all differ from “The Penal Colony,” und so weiter.

Well, I’m glad I got that out of my system. Because in the great wide landscape of the fantastic that is available for any non-realistic writer, so far The Flame Alphabet seems to be choosing to invoke a whole lot of aspects of the Kafkaesque for its project. Continue reading

June 7, 2015 Posted by | The Flame Alphabet | , , | 2 Comments