recentpopularlog in

rainermariarilke

The Book That Made Me: An Animal | Public Books
"The Lives of Animals was the first book I read in college—or at least the first book I read in a strange, amazing seminar that rewired my brain in the first semester of freshman year. The course was about animals, and I signed up for it probably because it was a course my dad, who had been advising me on all things college, would have taken himself. He kept animal effigies all over the apartment: portraits of a donkey and a marmot in the bathroom; a giant poster of “The External Structure of Cock and Chicken” in the living room; dog figures of many breeds; pigs, his favorite, in all shapes and sizes, in every single nook and cranny. In the dining room he had a huge pig sculpture made of leather, which in retrospect was a strange and morbid combination: one animal skinned to make an image of another. Our cocker spaniel had chewed its face beyond recognition by the time my mom got around to throwing it out.

My dad passed away in 2016, two years after they got divorced, and I faced the monumental task of disposing of his menagerie. I kept many things, of course, but couldn’t keep them all. It was so easy to throw out or donate clothes, housewares, furniture, even books. I didn’t know what to do with the creatures, who seemed to contain his spirit more than anything else. I laughed when I found a key chain in a random drawer: a little brass effigy of one pig mounting another. That was his humor. That was his mind, his way of seeing, his culture—which was based, like all cultures, in certain ideas about nature. Frankly, he was a difficult man to know even when he was alive. The animals offered me a way in, as they probably did for him.

Anyway, he was the one who saw the listing for a course named “Zooësis” and thought I might like it. And I really did, from the moment our indefatigably brilliant professor, Una Chaudhuri, asked us to read J. M. Coetzee’s weird, hybrid book. The Lives of Animals is a novella, but Coetzee delivered it as a two-part Tanner Lecture at Princeton in 1997, and it centers, in turn, on two lectures delivered by its aging novelist protagonist, Elizabeth Costello. During her visit to an obscure liberal arts college, she speaks hard-to-swallow truths about the cruelties we visit upon animals, making a controversial analogy between industrialized farming and the Third Reich. But the content of her lectures is almost less important than the reactions they generate and the personal consequences she incurs, which Coetzee shows us by nesting the lectures within a fictional frame. People get incensed; the academic establishment rebukes her argument, her way of arguing, everything she represents. Even her family relationships buckle under the weight of a worldview that seems to reject reason.

Her first lecture is about the poverty of philosophy, both as a basis for animal ethics and as a medium for thinking one’s way into the mind of another kind of creature. But her second lecture is about the potential of poetry, and it’s captivating in its optimism about the ability of human language to imagine radically nonhuman forms of sensory experience—or, perhaps more radically, forms of sensory experience we share with other species.

As a person who has worked within the field commonly known as animal studies but has never worked with real animals (unlike so many great boundary-crossing thinkers: the late poet-philosopher-veterinarian Vicki Hearne, the philosopher-ethologist Vinciane Despret, et al.), I often find myself bummed out by the inadequacy of representation: Specifically, what good are animals in books? Are they not inevitably vessels of human meaning? In Flush, her novel about the inner life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Virginia Woolf has another way of putting the problem: “Do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” To which I would add: Do they not destroy, or at least ignore, the creature beyond the symbol as well?

Coetzee has a different view. Or Costello, at least, has some different ideas about what poetry can do. She celebrates poems like Ted Hughes’s “The Jaguar” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”—“poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him.” She finds value in poems that try to capture the fluid complexity of a moment of contact across species, rather than try to preserve an imagined essence of the animal in amber. She also defends the human imagination as something more powerful than we give it credit for. My favorite line from the book is her response to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel insists that it’s impossible for a human to know the answer to his titular question. Costello rebuts: “If we are capable of thinking our own death, why on earth should we not be capable of thinking our way into the life of a bat?” I think it takes an effort of heart, more than mind, to follow her train of thought.

The novella reflects her resistance to the imperious voice of human reason—and her embrace of the messiness of the subjective imagination—on many levels. She’s uneasy at the bully pulpit, as was Coetzee himself. For the longest time I thought that the narrator was omniscient—an impersonal God figure aligned with Coetzee’s own position at that Princeton lectern. But then I read the novella again, preparing to teach it in a lit class where we were also reading Jane Austen. I realized that the narrator filters everything through the perspective of John Bernard, Costello’s son, who has a strange tendency to obsess over his mother’s body (paging Dr. Freud: “Her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby”) and profoundly ambivalent feelings about her. He is torn between sympathy and repulsion, connection and alienation. He is torn, also, between her perspective, which persuades him to an extent, and the perspective of his wife, Norma, a philosophy professor who loathes her and has no patience for her anti-rationalist message.

The question this novella raises is always that of its own construction: Why is it a novella in the first place? What does Coetzee communicate through fiction that he couldn’t have communicated through a polemic? I think the technique of focalization, which grounds everything in John’s perspective, shows us exactly what an abstract polemic about animals couldn’t: the impossibility of speaking from a position outside our embodiment, our emotions, our primordial and instinctual feelings toward kin. In other words, the impossibility of speaking about animals as though we were not animals ourselves.

Every time I read the book—definitely every time I teach it—the potentialities of its form grow in number. I find new rooms in the house of fiction that reveal how grand a mansion it is. I display it proudly, in the center of a bookshelf lined with animal books like Marian Engel’s Bear, Woolf’s Flush, J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, Kafka’s stories, and John Berger’s Pig Earth. The shelf is my own version of my father’s menagerie, brimming with all manner of complex and contradictory creatures. All of them are representations, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real, or any less alive.

I regard my father with some of the ambivalence that John, the son in Coetzee’s story, feels toward his own mother and her thoughts on animals. But I encounter the creatures he left behind with warmth, solidarity, and hope."
via:timoslimo  jmcoetzee  multispecies  morethanhuman  senses  writing  howwewrite  language  whywewrite  fiction  animals  bodies  unachaudhuri  philosophy  elizabethbarrettbrowning  virginiawoolf  vincianedespret  animalrights  vickihearne  rainermariarilke  tedhughes  narration  thomasnagel  imagination  messiness  janeausten  perspective  novellas  kafka  johnberger  marianengel  jrackerley  hope  solidarity  communication  embodiment  emotions  persuasion  mattmargini  canon  books  reading  howweread  teaching  howweteach  farming  livestock  sensory  multisensory  animalstudies  poetry  poems  complexity  grief  literature  families  2019 
july 2019 by robertogreco
On the Blackness of the Panther – Member Feature Stories – Medium
"At least once a day, I think: “another world is possible.” There’s life yet in our dreams. The pan-African political project is still alive. The memory of whatever was good in the Bandung Conference or the Organization of African Unity still makes the heart race. Flashes of common cause among the Darker Nations can be illuminating and sustaining. But “Africa” as trope and trap, backdrop and background, interests me ever less.

I am more fascinated by Nairobi than by Africa, just as I am more intrigued by Milan than by Europe. The general is where solidarity begins, but the specific is where our lives come into proper view. I don’t want to hear “Africa” unless it’s a context in which someone would also say “Asia” or “Europe.” Ever notice how real Paris is? That’s how real I need Lagos to be. Folks can talk about Paris all day without once generalizing about Europe. I want to talk about Lagos, I don’t want to talk about Africa. I want to hear someone speaking Yoruba, Ewe, Tiv, or Lingala. “African” is not a language. I want to know if a plane is going to the Félix-Houphouët-Boigny International Airport. You can’t go to “Africa,” fam. Africa is almost twelve million square miles. I want to be particular about being particular about what we are talking about when we talk about Africa.

* * *

I grew up with black presidents, black generals, black kings, black heroes, both invented and real, black thieves too, black fools. It was Nigeria, biggest black nation on earth. I shared a city with Fela Kuti for seventeen years. Everyone was black! I’ve seen so many black people my retina’s black.

But, against the high gloss white of anti-black America, blackness visible is a relief and a riot. That is something you learn when you learn black. Marvel? Disney? Please. I won’t belabor the obvious. But black visibility, black enthusiasm (in a time of death), black spectatorship, and black skepticism: where we meet is where we meet.

Going on twenty six years now. I learned African and am mostly over it. But what is that obdurate and versatile substance formed by tremendous pressure? What is “vibranium”? Too simple to think of it as a metal, and tie it to resource curses. Could it be something less palpable, could it be a stand-in for blackness itself, blackness as an embodied riposte to anti-blackness, a quintessence of mystery, resilience, self-containedness, and irreducibility?

Escape! I would rather be in the wild. I would rather be in a civilization of my own making, bizarre, contrary, as vain as the whites, exterior to their logic. I’m always scoping the exits. Drapetomania, they called it, in Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race (1851), the irrepressible desire in certain slaves to run away.

* * *

Ten years pass and I still dream about that cat. The eyes slide open, an image enters. Where are you now, Mirabai? Euthanized years ago by the animal shelter? Or successfully adopted and now gracefully aging in some home in Brooklyn? With people, young or old, merciful and just? Dream cat, leaping up to meet me."
tejucole  2018  blackpanther  africa  culture  race  film  blackness  identity  cats  animals  knowledge  racism  zoos  capitalism  monarchism  rainermariarilke  switzerland  colonialism  tonimorrison  lagos  nigeria  immigration  edwardsnow  eusébiodasilvaferreira 
march 2018 by robertogreco
*: how to write literary criticism
"1

In the summer of 1926, Marina Tsvetaeva corresponded with Rainer Maria Rilke. In December 1926, Rilke died. In 1929, Tsvetaeva wrote: "I don't feel like writing an article about Rilke." She wrote:

An article about Rilke is all the more useless because he didn't write articles about others, and didn't read ones about himself . . . To reveal essence is impossible, approaching from the outside. Essence is only revealed by essence, from within--inward--not investigation, but absorption. Mutual absorption. Allow the thing to absorb you and--thereby--absorb it. As one river flows into another. The point where the waters merge--but it isn't ever a point because--the meeting of the waters--is a meeting without parting, for the Rhine--takes the Main into itself, as the Main does the Rhine. And only the Main knows the truth of the Rhine (its own truth, Mainian, just as the Moselle--knows the Mosellian; the whole truth of the Rhine--of Rilke--is not given to us to know). Like a hand in a hand, yes, but even more: like a river in a river.

Absorbing, I am absorbed.


2

In 1952, C.L.R. James was interned on Ellis Island as an illegal immigrant and political subversive. There he wrote a study of the American classic Moby-Dick. In the final chapter of the book, he shifts from a discussion of Melville to an account of his detention on the island, describing his illness there, the treatment of the prisoners, and the structures by which both prisoners and security officers were entrapped, much like the men aboard the Pequod. He included his record of prison life in the study on Melville because, he wrote, "the book as written is part of my experience. It is also a claim before the American people, the best claim I can put forward, that my desire to be a citizen is not a selfish nor a frivolous one."

James sent a copy of the manuscript to every member of Congress, asking for $1 in return to put toward his legal costs. His efforts to gain citizenship failed; he was deported in 1953.

"I believe my total experience should be told," he wrote."
2016  literarycriticism  criticim  absorption  clrjames  marinatsvetaeva  sofiasamatar  rainermariarilke  mobydick  hermanmelville  essence  experience  moby-dick 
february 2016 by robertogreco
a poem a day - 1497: Let Everything Happen | Rainer Maria Rilke
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
poetry  rainermariarilke 
may 2015 by hearteq
‘Goodbye to Language’ is Jean-Luc Godard in 3-D. ’Nuff said. - Movies - The Boston Globe
"Yes, there are people here. A few black-suited German security forces dash through the early scenes (the director is of the opinion that we lost World War II — we were fighting fascism, remember?) and we get shards of an adulterous romance between a quintessential Godardian couple, a woman who’s anchored in reality and a man who keeps disappearing up the hindquarters of his own intellect. (See 1965’s “Pierrot Le Fou” — a movie that’s in this writer’s personal Top Five — for the purest treatment of the theme.) Godard films them often nude, often cropped from the neck down, upstaged by vases and other foreground bric-a-brac. You almost can’t hear the characters for all the visual noise, which is at least partly the point.

The main character of “Goodbye to Language,” though, is a dog: a soulful black-and-tan mixed breed named Roxy Miéville that belongs to the director and his longtime partner, filmmaker Anne-Marie Miéville. Godard films the animal with rough iPhone-level camerawork, trailing Roxy through lakefronts and rivers, urban wastelands, forests of lush, Rousseau-ian greenery. For a film obsessed with language, these scenes are an island of respite, honoring the simple dogness of being. “What is outside can be known only via an animal’s gaze,” says Godard, quoting Rainer Maria Rilke.

“Goodbye to Language” is a film of dualities, then — the yin/yang of male and female, of nature (all that is real) and metaphor (everything we use to refer to reality: words, images, the cinema), of dog and human, of idealism and earthiness, of the left and right eyes we use to order perception into graspable shape."

[trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ibffxoK5gs0 ]
jeanluc-goddard  2015  dogs  film  towatch  animals  pov  perspective  3d  goness  rainermariarilke  pets  human-animalrelations  multispecies  language  communcation  human-animalrelationships 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Productivity is Taking Over Our Lives | New Republic
"The paradox of the autodidactic productivity industry of GTD, Lifehacker and the endless reviews of obscure mind-mapping or task-management apps is that it is all too easy to spend one’s time researching how to acquire the perfect set of productivity tools and strategies without ever actually settling down to do something. In this way, the obsessive dream of productivity becomes a perfectly effective defense against its own realization. 

As Samuel Johnson once wrote: “Some are always in a state of preparation, occupied in previous measures, forming plans, accumulating materials and providing for the main affair. These are certainly under the secret power of idleness. Nothing is to be expected from the workman whose tools are for ever to be sought.”

Nor is there any downward cut-off point for “our current obsession with busyness”, as one researcher, Andrew Smart, describes it in his intriguing book Autopilot: the Art and Science of Doing Nothing. Smart observes, appalled, a genre of literary aids for inculcating the discipline of “time management” in children. (Time is not amenable to management: it just keeps passing, whatever you do.) Not allowing children to zone out and do nothing, Smart argues, is probably harming their development. But buckling children into the straitjacket of time management from an early age might seem a sensible way to ensure an agreeably docile new generation of workers."



"This ordinary usage encodes an ordinary wisdom: that mere quantity of activity—as implied by the get-more-done mania of the productivity cult—has nothing to do with its value. Economics does not know how to value Rainer Maria Rilke over a prolific poetaster in receipt of an official laureateship. (One can be confident that, while mooching around European castles and writing nothing for years on end, Rilke would never have worn a T-shirt that announced: “I’m doing work”.) And his life sounds like more fun than one recent Lifehacker article, which eagerly explained how to organise your baseball cap collection by hanging the headwear on shower-curtain hooks arrayed along a rail."
gtd  gttingthingsdone  productivity  control  leisure  artleisure  leisurearts  idleness  stevenpoole  2013  time  management  efficiency  davidgraeber  andrewsmart  rainermariarilke 
october 2014 by robertogreco
Detail Oriented - selecting love poems for love letters
A male character is writing love letters to another male, and is including love poems in the letters. So far only W.B.Yeat's poetry has been used, but I'd like to include more poets/poems. The poems need not not be homo-erotic or even especially erotic in content - just well-written love poetry without too many gender-specific terms.
poetry  slash  lgbt  literature  reference  storyref  pabloneruda  rainermariarilke 
january 2010 by timberwolfoz

Copy this bookmark:





to read