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Should Walt Whitman Be #Cancelled? | JSTOR Daily
"Black America talks back to “The Good Gray Poet” at 200."



"In 2013, Timothy McNair, a black, gay graduate student in music at Northwestern University, refused to perform Howard Hanson’s “Song of Democracy,” a musical piece with lyrics derived from Walt Whitman’s legendary poetry collection Leaves of Grass. In his writing beyond Leaves of Grass, McNair discovered racist comments in which Whitman refers to black people as “baboons” and “wild brutes” and questions their inclusion in the American body politic. As McNair said then, “I’m so tired of being forced to promote the myth of white supremacy by performing works by old white men like Whitman who said blacks were stupid, shouldn’t be allowed to vote, and didn’t have a place in the future of America.” The performance of “Song of Democracy” was part of a course requirement and McNair’s professor gave him a failing grade, jeopardizing his graduation. (He did eventually graduate after the controversy blew over.)

The charge of racism was particularly fraught because it was levied against Walt Whitman, the poet who in Leaves of Grass sang of American democracy as a project of radical inclusion, the poet who wrote about tending to the runaway slave, the poet who looked upon the enslaved person on the auction block and saw in them their generations of descendants, the poet who declared that the enslaved were the equal of those who enslaved them.

Shortly after the McNair controversy, poet CAConrad wrote “From Whitman to Walmart,” an essay dedicated to McNair that explains how much Whitman meant to them as a white working-class queer poet, and how Whitman’s racist comments forced them to reconsider, and reject, that admiration.

As for the substance of Whitman’s racism, George Hutchinson and David Drews, in an essay on Whitman’s “Racial Attitudes” reprinted at The Walt Whitman Archive, provide a helpful examination of Whitman’s thoughts on race later in his life. Like many white intellectuals, Whitman seems to have been seduced by the proliferation of racist pseudo-science in the post-Civil War era, a body of thought largely produced in reaction to black emancipation and the prospects of black citizenship rights as voters and office-holders. Whitman’s racism was not limited to black people, but also extended to Native Americans, Hispanics, and Asians. These comments force us to reconsider all those lovely passages in Leaves of Grass where Whitman the poet celebrates the “aboriginal” heritage of America. Whitman, the man, actually hoped that white Americans would absorb the naturalistic traits of Native Americans, but discard the actual people, much in the same way that contemporary sports fans now cling to their Native American mascots while dismissing living Native Americans who have repeatedly told them how these degrading, offensive caricatures contribute to ongoing Native oppression and disenfranchisement."



"So, what do we do with old Uncle Walt now? May 31, 2019, marks the 200th anniversary of his birth and there will be numerous conferences, exhibits, readings, and celebrations of the poet and his work. I submit that this is not a moment for uncritical celebration of the Poet of Democracy. But there is no better place to look for nuanced critical engagement with Whitman’s complicated legacy than in the work of black intellectuals who have talked back to Whitman. As Whitman scholar Ed Folsom writes, “the temptation to talk back to Walt Whitman has always been great, and poets over the years have made something of a tradition of it. There’s nothing quite like it anywhere else in English or American poetry—a sustained tradition, a century old, of directly invoking or addressing another poet.” And in that tradition of talking back to Whitman one finds names like Langston Hughes, June Jordan, Yusef Komunyakaa, and Natasha Trethewey."



"She provocatively uses genealogy as a concept throughout the essay, as reference to the brutal history of rape under enslavement, an allusion to the taboo intimacies of interracial desire despite the nation’s claims of segregation, and as a metaphor for literary influence. Jordan insists that Whitman, because of his queer outsider status, is “the one white father who shares the systematic disadvantages of his heterogenous offspring trapped inside a closet that is, in reality, as huge as the continental spread of North and South America.” By drawing out this distinction between Whitman and the other white fathers of American literature, Jordan clears a space for her own pleasure in Whitman’s work, and also refuses to allow an easy co-optation of Whitman by white Western canon-makers who rejected him in the first place.

June Jordan’s comments also bring to mind James Baldwin’s idea of bastardy as emblematic of the black American condition, that the black intellectual must find a way to use whatever material that she has been given, even the work of imperfect and problematic white fathers. In Notes of a Native Son Baldwin writes, “I know, in any case, that the most crucial time in my own development came when I was forced to recognize that I was a kind of bastard of the West… I would have to appropriate these white centuries. I would have to make them mine—I would have to accept my special attitude, my special place in this scheme—otherwise I would have no place in any scheme.”"



"Like June Jordan, I was also drawn to the queer outsider Whitman. As a New York City tour guide I fell for Whitman the flâneur, the man of the street, the one who saw value in this strange ballet of urban life, and who in poems like “To a Stranger” relished the sparks of intimacy that can happen on the crowded streets. (“Passing stranger! You do not know how longingly I look upon you.”) As a professor, I’ve taught Whitman in American Literature classes. I’ve taken my students on walks from our dingy building on Jay Street in downtown Brooklyn over to Brooklyn Bridge Park, where the old Fulton Ferry terminal once stood, where we read “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” with the East River flowing beside us and the present day ferries docking and departing. I’ve always felt that Whitman predicted the explosion of hip-hop out of the streets of NYC when in the preface to Leaves of Grass he wrote about “the gangs of kosmos and prophets,” a new order of poets that “shall arise in America and be responded to from the remainder of the earth.” Who better fulfills that prophecy than American bards like Biggie, Jay-Z, and Nas? When I see lines from Whitman like, “I know perfectly well my own egotism/And know my omniverous words, and cannot say any less,” I hear the swagger and braggadocio of Kanye West who once said that “If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me, you’re a fan of yourself.” (Speaking of problematic artists who needed to be “cancelled.”)

Look, “cancel culture” is not really a thing. The idea of “cancelling” someone is mostly a Twitter joke about checking certain problematic and powerful men who we know damn well aren’t going anywhere. That said, these conversations can be valuable if they lead us toward honest reckoning with the past, and honest reckoning with our culpability in the atrocities of the present. Reading the works of black intellectuals on Whitman shows that confronting Whitman’s racism is not about erasing Whitman. In fact, by talking back to Whitman, Timothy McNair was engaging in the very practice of communication across time and space that the poet himself encouraged in “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” though maybe he didn’t imagine the conversation would get so testy.

Black artists like June Jordan talk back to Whitman and talk back to America because they believe that America can choose a better self. As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman, I hope that we can celebrate him while also telling the truth about his flaws—and America’s flaws. As June Jordan says, “I too am a descendant of Walt Whitman. And I am not by myself struggling to tell the truth about this history of so much land and so much blood, of so much that should be sacred and so much that has been desecrated and annihilated boastfully.”"
waltwhitman  poetry  race  racism  2019  junejordan  lavelleporter  outsiders  queer  cancelculture  timothymcnair  jamesbaldwin  langstonhughes  yusefkomunyakaa  natashatrethewey  charlesglicksberg  christopherfreeburg  georgehutchison  daviddrews 
april 2019 by robertogreco
Doug Engelbart, transcontextualist | Gardner Writes
"I’ve been mulling over this next post for far too long, and the results will be brief and rushed (such bad food, and such small portions!). You have been warned.

The three strands, or claims I’m engaging with (EDIT: I’ve tried to make things clearer and more parallel in the list below):

1. The computer is “just a tool.” This part’s in partial response to the comments on my previous post. [http://www.gardnercampbell.net/blog1/?p=2158 ]

2. Doug Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework” [http://www.dougengelbart.org/pubs/augment-3906.html ] is “difficult to understand” or “poorly written.” This one’s a perpetual reply. 🙂 It was most recently triggered by an especially perplexing Twitter exchange shared with me by Jon Becker.

3. Engelbart’s ideas regarding the augmentation of human intellect aim for an inhuman and inhumane parsing of thought and imagination, an “efficiency expert” reduction of the richness of human cognition. This one tries to think about some points raised in the VCU New Media Seminar this fall.

These are the strands. The weave will be loose. (Food, textiles, textures, text.)

1. There is no such thing as “just a tool.” McLuhan wisely notes that tools are not inert things to be used by human beings, but extensions of human capabilities that redefine both the tool and the user. A “tooler” results, or perhaps a “tuser” (pronounced “TOO-zer”). I believe those two words are neologisms but I’ll leave the googling as an exercise for the tuser. The way I used to explain this is my new media classes was to ask students to imagine a hammer lying on the ground and a person standing above the hammer. The person picks up the hammer. What results? The usual answers are something like “a person with a hammer in his or her hand.” I don’t hold much with the elicit-a-wrong-answer-then-spring-the-right-one-on-them school of “Socratic” instruction, but in this case it was irresistible and I tried to make a game of it so folks would feel excited, not tricked. “No!” I would cry. “The result is a HammerHand!” This answer was particularly easy to imagine inside Second Life, where metaphors become real within the irreality of a virtual landscape. In fact, I first came up with the game while leading a class in Second Life–but that’s for another time.

So no “just a tool,” since a HammerHand is something quite different from a hammer or a hand, or a hammer in a hand. It’s one of those small but powerful points that can make one see the designed built world, a world full of builders and designers (i.e., human beings), as something much less inert and “external” than it might otherwise appear. It can also make one feel slightly deranged, perhaps usefully so, when one proceeds through the quotidian details (so-called) of a life full of tasks and taskings.

To complicate matters further, the computer is an unusual tool, a meta-tool, a machine that simulates any other machine, a universal machine with properties unlike any other machine. Earlier in the seminar this semester a sentence popped out of my mouth as we talked about one of the essays–“As We May Think”? I can’t remember now: “This is your brain on brain.” What Papert and Turkle refer to as computers’ “holding power” is not just the addictive cat videos (not that there’s anything wrong with that, I imagine), but something weirdly mindlike and reflective about the computer-human symbiosis. One of my goals continues to be to raise that uncanny holding power into a fuller (and freer) (and more metaphorical) (and more practical in the sense of able-to-be-practiced) mode of awareness so that we can be more mindful of the environment’s potential for good and, yes, for ill. (Some days, it seems to me that the “for ill” part is almost as poorly understood as the “for good” part, pace Morozov.)

George Dyson writes, “The stored-program computer, as conceived by Alan Turing and delivered by John von Neumann, broke the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things. Our universe would never be the same” (Turing’s Cathedral: The Origins of the Digital Universe). This is a very bold statement. I’ve connected it with everything from the myth of Orpheus to synaesthetic environments like the one @rovinglibrarian shared with me in which one can listen to, and visualize, Wikipedia being edited. Thought vectors in concept space, indeed. The closest analogies I can find are with language itself, particularly the phonetic alphabet.

The larger point is now at the ready: in fullest practice and perhaps even for best results, particularly when it comes to deeper learning, it may well be that nothing is just anything. Bateson describes the moment in which “just a” thing becomes far more than “just a” thing as a “double take.” For Bateson, the double take bears a thrilling and uneasy relationship to the double bind, as well as to some kinds of derangement that are not at all beneficial. (This is the double-edged sword of human intellect, a sword that sometimes has ten edges or more–but I digress.) This double take (the kids call it, or used to call it, “wait what?”) indicates a moment of what Bateson calls “transcontextualism,” a paradoxical level-crossing moment (micro to macro, instance to meta, territory to map, or vice-versa) that initiates or indicates (hard to tell) deeper learning.
It seems that both those whose life is enriched by transcontextual gifts and those who are impoverished by transcontextual confusions are alike in one respect: for them there is always or often a “double take.” A falling leaf, the greeting of a friend, or a “primrose by the river’s brim” is not “just that and nothing more.” Exogenous experience may be framed in the contexts of dream, and internal thought may be projected into the contexts of the external world. And so on. For all this, we seek a partial explanation in learning and experience. (“Double Bind, 1969,” in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, U Chicago Press, 2000, p. 272). (EDIT: I had originally typed “eternal world,” but Bateson writes “external.” It’s an interesting typo, though, so I remember it here.)


It does seem to me, very often, that we do our best to purge our learning environments of opportunities for transcontextual gifts to emerge. This is understandable, given how bad and indeed “unproductive” (by certain lights) the transcontextual confusions can be. No one enjoys the feeling of falling, unless there are environments and guides that can make the falling feel like flying–more matter for another conversation, and a difficult art indeed, and one that like all art has no guarantees (pace Madame Tussaud).

2. So now the second strand, regarding Engelbart’s “Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework.” Much of this essay, it seems to me, is about identifying and fostering transcontextualism (transcontextualization?) as a networked activity in which both the individual and the networked community recognize the potential for “bootstrapping” themselves into greater learning through the kind of level-crossing Bateson imagines (Douglas Hofstadter explores these ideas too, particularly in I Am A Strange Loop and, it appears, in a book Tom Woodward is exploring and brought to my attention yesterday, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking. That title alone makes the recursive point very neatly). So when Engelbart switches modes from engineering-style-specification to the story of bricks-on-pens to the dialogue with “Joe,” he seems to me not to be willful or even prohibitively difficult (though some of the ideas are undeniably complex). He seems to me to be experimenting with transcontextualism as an expressive device, an analytical strategy, and a kind of self-directed learning, a true essay: an attempt:

And by “complex situations” we include the professional problems of diplomats, executives, social scientists, life scientists, physical scientists, attorneys, designers–whether the problem situation exists for twenty minutes or twenty years.

A list worthy of Walt Whitman, and one that explicitly (and for me, thrillingly) crosses levels and enacts transcontextualism.

Here’s another list, one in which Engelbart tallies the range of “thought kernels” he wants to track in his formulative thinking (one might also say, his “research”):

The “unit records” here, unlike those in the Memex example, are generally scraps of typed or handwritten text on IBM-card-sized edge-notchable cards. These represent little “kernels” of data, thought, fact, consideration, concepts, ideas, worries, etc. That are relevant to a given problem area in my professional life.

Again, the listing enacts a principle: we map a problem space, a sphere of inquiry, along many dimensions–or we should. Those dimensions cross contexts–or they should. To think about this in terms of language for a moment, Engelbart’s idea seems to be that we should track our “kernels” across the indicative, the imperative, the subjunctive, the interrogative. To put it another way, we should be mindful of, and somehow make available for mindful building, many varieties of cognitive activity, including affect (which can be distinguished but not divided from cognition).

3. I don’t think this activity increases efficiency, if efficiency means “getting more done in less time.” (A “cognitive Taylorism,” as one seminarian put it.) More what is always the question. For me, Engelbart’s transcontextual gifts (and I’ll concede that there are likely transcontextual confusions in there too–it’s the price of trancontextualism, clearly) are such that the emphasis lands squarely on effectiveness, which in his essay means more work with positive potential (understanding there’s some disagreement but not total disagreement about… [more]
dougengelbart  transcontextualism  gardnercampbell  2013  gregorybateson  marshallmcluhan  socraticmethod  education  teaching  howweteach  howwelearn  learning  hammerhand  technology  computers  computing  georgedyson  food  textiles  texture  text  understanding  tools  secondlife  seymourpapert  sherryturkle  alanturing  johnvonneumann  doublebind  waltwhitman  memex  taylorism  efficiency  cognition  transcontextualization 
july 2017 by robertogreco
This is what you shall do by Walt Whitman | The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor
"This is what you shall do; Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body."

[via: https://twitter.com/austinkleon/status/869982027654733824
https://twitter.com/austinkleon/status/868266858633457664 ]
waltwhitman  leavesofgrass  manifestos  god  life  living  wealth  integrity  relationships  nature  canon  unlearning  learning  neoteny  deschoooling  unschooling  freedom  criticalthinking  unknowing  humility  outdoors 
june 2017 by robertogreco
When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer… – Arthur Chiaravalli – Medium
"As I reflect back on these experiences, however, I wonder if the standards-based approach gave me a warped view of teaching and learning mathematics. I had apparently done an excellent job equipping my students with dozens of facts, concepts, and algorithms they could put into practice…on the multiple-choice final exam.

Somewhere, I’m sure, teachers were teaching math in a rich, interconnected, contextualized way. But that wasn’t the way I taught it, and my students likely never came to understand it in that way.

Liberating Language Arts

Fast forward to the present. For the past five years I have been back teaching in my major of language arts. Here the shortcomings of the standards-based method are compounded even further.

One of the more commonly stated goals of standards-based learning and grading is accuracy. First and foremost, accuracy means that grades should reflect academic achievement alone — as opposed to punctuality, behavior, compliance, or speed of learning. By implementing assessment, grading, and reporting practices similar to those I’d used in mathematics, I was able to achieve this same sort of accuracy in my language arts classes.

Accuracy, however, also refers to the quality of the assessments. Tom Schimmer, author of Grading From the Inside Out: Bringing Accuracy to Student Assessment through a Standards-based Mindset, states
Low-quality assessments have the potential to produce inaccurate information about student learning. Inaccurate formative assessments can misinform teachers and students about what should come next in the learning. Inaccurate summative assessments may mislead students and parents (and others) about students’ level of proficiency. When a teacher knows the purpose of an assessment, what specific elements to assess…he or she will most likely see accurate assessment information.

Unfortunately, assessment accuracy in the language arts and humanities in general is notoriously elusive. In a 1912 study of inter-rater reliability, Starch and Elliot (cited in Schinske and Tanner) found that different teachers gave a single English paper scores ranging from 50 to 98%. Other studies have shown similar inconsistencies due to everything from penmanship and the order in which the papers are reviewed to the sex, ethnicity, and attractiveness of the author.

We might argue that this situation has improved due to common language, range-finding committees, rubrics, and other modern developments in assessment, but problems remain. In order to achieve a modicum of reliability, language arts teams must adopt highly prescriptive scoring guides or rubrics, which as Alfie Kohn, Linda Mabry, and Maya Wilson have pointed out, necessarily neglect the central values of risk taking, style, and original thought.

This is because, as Maya Wilson observes, measurable aspects can represent “only a sliver of…values about writing: voice, wording, sentence fluency, conventions, content, organization, and presentation.” Just as the proverbial blind men touching the elephant receive an incorrect impression, so too do rubrics provide a limited — and therefore inaccurate — picture of student writing.

As Linda Mabry puts it,
The standardization of a skill that is fundamentally self-expressive and individualistic obstructs its assessment. And rubrics standardize the teaching of writing, which jeopardizes the learning and understanding of writing.

The second part of Mabry’s statement is even more disturbing, namely, that these attempts at accuracy and reliability not only obstruct accurate assessment, but paradoxically jeopardize students’ understanding of writing, not to mention other language arts. I have witnessed this phenomenon as we have created common assessments over the years. Our pre- and post-tests are now overwhelmingly populated with knowledge-based questions — terminology, vocabulary, punctuation rules. Pair this with formulaic, algorithmic approaches to the teaching and assessment of writing and you have a recipe for a false positive: students who score well with little vision of what counts for deep thinking or good writing.

It’s clear what we’re doing here: we’re trying to do to writing and other language arts what we’ve already done to mathematics. We’re trying to turn something rich and interconnected into something discrete, objective and measurable. Furthermore, the fundamentally subjective nature of student performance in the language arts renders this task even more problematic. Jean-Paul Sartre’s definition of subjectivity seems especially apt:
The subjectivity which we thus postulate as the standard of truth is no narrowly individual subjectivism…we are attaining to ourselves in the presence of the other, and we are just as certain of the other as we are of ourselves.…Thus the man who discovers himself directly in the cogito also discovers all the others, and discovers them as the condition of his own existence. He recognises that he cannot be anything…unless others recognise him as such. I cannot obtain any truth whatsoever about myself, except through the mediation of another. The other is indispensable to my existence, and equally so to any knowledge I can have of myself…Thus, at once, we find ourselves in a world which is, let us say, that of “intersubjectivity.”

First and foremost, the language arts involve communication: articulating one’s own ideas and responding to those of others. Assigning a score on a student’s paper does not constitute recognition. While never ceding my professional judgment and expertise as an educator, I must also find ways to allow students and myself to encounter one another as individuals. I must, as Gert Biesta puts it, create an environment in which individuals “come into presence,” that is, “show who they are and where they stand, in relation to and, most importantly, in response to what and who is other and different”:
Coming into presence is not something that individuals can do alone and by themselves. To come into presence means to come into presence in a social and intersubjective world, a world we share with others who are not like us…This is first of all because it can be argued that the very structure of our subjectivity, the very structure of who we are is thoroughly social.

Coming to this encounter with a predetermined set of “specific elements to assess” may hinder and even prevent me from providing recognition, Sartre’s prerequisite to self-knowledge. But it also threatens to render me obsolete.

The way I taught mathematics five years ago was little more than, as Biesta puts it, “an exchange between a provider and a consumer.” That transaction is arguably better served by Khan Academy and other online learning platforms than by me. As schools transition toward so-called “personalized” and “student-directed” approaches to learning, is it any wonder that the math component is often farmed out to self-paced online modules — ones that more perfectly provide the discrete, sequential, standards-based approach I developed toward the end of my tenure as math teacher?

Any teacher still teaching math in this manner should expect to soon be demoted to the status of “learning coach.” I hope we can avoid this same fate in language arts, but we won’t if we give into the temptation to reduce the richness of our discipline to standards and progression points, charts and columns, means, medians, and modes.

What’s the alternative? I’m afraid I’m only beginning to answer that question now. Adopting the sensible reforms of standards-based learning and grading seems to have been a necessary first step. But is it the very clarity of its approach — clearing the ground of anything unrelated to teaching and learning — that now urges us onward toward an intersubjective future populated by human beings, not numbers?

Replacing grades with feedback seems to have moved my students and me closer toward this more human future. And although this transition has brought a kind of relief, it has also occasioned anxiety. As the comforting determinism of tables, graphs, charts, and diagrams fade from view, we are left with fewer numbers to add, divide, and measure. All that’s left is human beings and the relationships between them. What Simone de Beauvoir says of men and women is also true of us as educators and students:
When two human categories are together, each aspires to impose its sovereignty upon the other. If both are able to resist this imposition, there is created between them a reciprocal relation, sometimes in enmity, sometimes in amity, always in tension.

So much of this future resides in communication, in encounter, in a fragile reciprocity between people. Like that great soul Whitman, we find ourselves “unaccountable” — or as he says elsewhere, “untranslatable.” We will never fit ourselves into tables and columns. Instead, we discover ourselves in the presence of others who are unlike us. Learning, growth, and self-knowledge occur only within this dialectic of mutual recognition.

Here we are vulnerable, verging on a reality as rich and astonishing as the one Whitman witnessed."
arthurchiaravalli  2017  education  standards-basedassessments  assessment  teaching  math  mathematics  writing  learning  romschimmer  grading  grades  alfiekohn  lindamabry  gertbiesta  khanacademy  personalization  rubics  waltwhitman  simonedebeauvoir  canon  sfsh  howweteach  howwelearn  mutualrecognition  communication  reciprocity  feedback  cv  presence  tension  standards  standardization  jean-paulsartre  mayawilson  formativeassessment  summativeassessment  interconnection  intersubjectivity  subjectivity  objectivity  self-knowledge  humans  human  humanism 
april 2017 by robertogreco
Against Interpretation
[before quoting the entirety, quoting one line:

"What is important now is to recover our senses. We must learn to see more, to hear more, to feel more."]

"“Content is a glimpse of something, an encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny - very tiny, content.”
- Willem De Kooning, in an interview

“It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible.”
- Oscar Wilde, in a letter

1

The earliest experience of art must have been that it was incantatory, magical; art was an instrument of ritual. (Cf. the paintings in the caves at Lascaux, Altamira, Niaux, La Pasiega, etc.) The earliest theory of art, that of the Greek philosophers, proposed that art was mimesis, imitation of reality.

It is at this point that the peculiar question of the value of art arose. For the mimetic theory, by its very terms, challenges art to justify itself.

Plato, who proposed the theory, seems to have done so in order to rule that the value of art is dubious. Since he considered ordinary material things as themselves mimetic objects, imitations of transcendent forms or structures, even the best painting of a bed would be only an “imitation of an imitation.” For Plato, art is neither particularly useful (the painting of a bed is no good to sleep on), nor, in the strict sense, true. And Aristotle’s arguments in defense of art do not really challenge Plato’s view that all art is an elaborate trompe l’oeil, and therefore a lie. But he does dispute Plato’s idea that art is useless. Lie or no, art has a certain value according to Aristotle because it is a form of therapy. Art is useful, after all, Aristotle counters, medicinally useful in that it arouses and purges dangerous emotions.

In Plato and Aristotle, the mimetic theory of art goes hand in hand with the assumption that art is always figurative. But advocates of the mimetic theory need not close their eyes to decorative and abstract art. The fallacy that art is necessarily a “realism” can be modified or scrapped without ever moving outside the problems delimited by the mimetic theory.

The fact is, all Western consciousness of and reflection upon art have remained within the confines staked out by the Greek theory of art as mimesis or representation. It is through this theory that art as such - above and beyond given works of art - becomes problematic, in need of defense. And it is the defense of art which gives birth to the odd vision by which something we have learned to call “form” is separated off from something we have learned to call “content,” and to the well-intentioned move which makes content essential and form accessory.

Even in modern times, when most artists and critics have discarded the theory of art as representation of an outer reality in favor of the theory of art as subjective expression, the main feature of the mimetic theory persists. Whether we conceive of the work of art on the model of a picture (art as a picture of reality) or on the model of a statement (art as the statement of the artist), content still comes first. The content may have changed. It may now be less figurative, less lucidly realistic. But it is still assumed that a work of art is its content. Or, as it’s usually put today, that a work of art by definition says something. (“What X is saying is . . . ,” “What X is trying to say is . . .,” “What X said is . . .” etc., etc.)

2

None of us can ever retrieve that innocence before all theory when art knew no need to justify itself, when one did not ask of a work of art what it said because one knew (or thought one knew) what it did. From now to the end of consciousness, we are stuck with the task of defending art. We can only quarrel with one or another means of defense. Indeed, we have an obligation to overthrow any means of defending and justifying art which becomes particularly obtuse or onerous or insensitive to contemporary needs and practice.

This is the case, today, with the very idea of content itself. Whatever it may have been in the past, the idea of content is today mainly a hindrance, a nuisance, a subtle or not so subtle philistinism.

Though the actual developments in many arts may seem to be leading us away from the idea that a work of art is primarily its content, the idea still exerts an extraordinary hegemony. I want to suggest that this is because the idea is now perpetuated in the guise of a certain way of encountering works of art thoroughly ingrained among most people who take any of the arts seriously. What the overemphasis on the idea of content entails is the perennial, never consummated project of interpretation. And, conversely, it is the habit of approaching works of art in order to interpret them that sustains the fancy that there really is such a thing as the content of a work of art.

3

Of course, I don’t mean interpretation in the broadest sense, the sense in which Nietzsche (rightly) says, “There are no facts, only interpretations.” By interpretation, I mean here a conscious act of the mind which illustrates a certain code, certain “rules” of interpretation.

Directed to art, interpretation means plucking a set of elements (the X, the Y, the Z, and so forth) from the whole work. The task of interpretation is virtually one of translation. The interpreter says, Look, don’t you see that X is really - or, really means - A? That Y is really B? That Z is really C?

What situation could prompt this curious project for transforming a text? History gives us the materials for an answer. Interpretation first appears in the culture of late classical antiquity, when the power and credibility of myth had been broken by the “realistic” view of the world introduced by scientific enlightenment. Once the question that haunts post-mythic consciousness - that of the seemliness of religious symbols - had been asked, the ancient texts were, in their pristine form, no longer acceptable. Then interpretation was summoned, to reconcile the ancient texts to “modern” demands. Thus, the Stoics, to accord with their view that the gods had to be moral, allegorized away the rude features of Zeus and his boisterous clan in Homer’s epics. What Homer really designated by the adultery of Zeus with Leto, they explained, was the union between power and wisdom. In the same vein, Philo of Alexandria interpreted the literal historical narratives of the Hebrew Bible as spiritual paradigms. The story of the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the desert for forty years, and the entry into the promised land, said Philo, was really an allegory of the individual soul’s emancipation, tribulations, and final deliverance. Interpretation thus presupposes a discrepancy between the clear meaning of the text and the demands of (later) readers. It seeks to resolve that discrepancy. The situation is that for some reason a text has become unacceptable; yet it cannot be discarded. Interpretation is a radical strategy for conserving an old text, which is thought too precious to repudiate, by revamping it. The interpreter, without actually erasing or rewriting the text, is altering it. But he can’t admit to doing this. He claims to be only making it intelligible, by disclosing its true meaning. However far the interpreters alter the text (another notorious example is the Rabbinic and Christian “spiritual” interpretations of the clearly erotic Song of Songs), they must claim to be reading off a sense that is already there.

Interpretation in our own time, however, is even more complex. For the contemporary zeal for the project of interpretation is often prompted not by piety toward the troublesome text (which may conceal an aggression), but by an open aggressiveness, an overt contempt for appearances. The old style of interpretation was insistent, but respectful; it erected another meaning on top of the literal one. The modern style of interpretation excavates, and as it excavates, destroys; it digs “behind” the text, to find a sub-text which is the true one. The most celebrated and influential modern doctrines, those of Marx and Freud, actually amount to elaborate systems of hermeneutics, aggressive and impious theories of interpretation. All observable phenomena are bracketed, in Freud’s phrase, as manifest content. This manifest content must be probed and pushed aside to find the true meaning - the latent content - beneath. For Marx, social events like revolutions and wars; for Freud, the events of individual lives (like neurotic symptoms and slips of the tongue) as well as texts (like a dream or a work of art) - all are treated as occasions for interpretation. According to Marx and Freud, these events only seem to be intelligible. Actually, they have no meaning without interpretation. To understand is to interpret. And to interpret is to restate the phenomenon, in effect to find an equivalent for it.

Thus, interpretation is not (as most people assume) an absolute value, a gesture of mind situated in some timeless realm of capabilities. Interpretation must itself be evaluated, within a historical view of human consciousness. In some cultural contexts, interpretation is a liberating act. It is a means of revising, of transvaluing, of escaping the dead past. In other cultural contexts, it is reactionary, impertinent, cowardly, stifling.

4

Today is such a time, when the project of interpretation is largely reactionary, stifling. Like the fumes of the automobile and of heavy industry which befoul the urban atmosphere, the effusion of interpretations of art today poisons our sensibilities. In a culture whose already classical dilemma is the hypertrophy of the intellect at the expense of energy and sensual capability, interpretation is the revenge of the intellect upon art.

Even more. It is the revenge of the intellect upon the world. To interpret is to impoverish, to deplete the world - in order to set up a shadow world of “meanings.” It is to turn … [more]
art  interpretation  philosophy  theory  essays  susansontag  plato  artistotle  film  representation  innocence  nietzsche  proust  kafka  tennesseewilliams  jean-lucgodard  rolandbarthes  erwinpanofsky  northropfrye  walterbenjamin  yasujirōozu  robertbresson  culture  thought  senses  oscarwilde  willemdekooning  content  appearances  aesthetics  invisibile  myth  antiquity  karlmarx  freud  jamesjoyce  rainermariarilke  andrégide  dhlawrence  jeancocteau  alainresnais  alainrobbe-grillet  ingmarbergman  ezrapund  tseliot  dgriffith  françoistruffaut  michelangeloantonioni  ermannoolmi  criticism  pierrefrancastel  mannyfarber  dorothyvanghent  rndalljarrell  waltwhitman  williamfaulkner 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Due North | VQR Online
"I arrived in New York in October 2005 and immediately began walking all over the city, exploring for hours at a time. As I traversed its landscape, I discovered a topography of social conditions. Some days, I would linger on Thirty-Fourth Street among the glamorous workers of Midtown Manhattan rushing to and from their high-rise buildings—in swift pursuit of their ambitions, I’d assumed. I’d watch them zigzag around and dart past the enthusiastic tourists filing into the Empire State Building, that colossus rising majestically above as a beacon of hope and symbol of American derring-do.

Then I’d stride northward, eager to explore Whitman’s “Numberless crowded streets – high growths of iron, slender, strong, light, splendidly uprising toward clear skies.” A little over two hours later, I would end up in Harlem at the courtyard of a housing project on 125th Street, where residents lounged on benches and welcomed each other with cheerful banter. They also welcomed me, and I sat beside them, took one of the kiddie’s box drinks they offered, and enjoyed their jovial talk in that relaxed, open space in Harlem far removed from the hurried dynamism of Midtown.

But as I’ve circulated through New York’s streets, nothing reveals the city’s opposites in stark juxtaposition like the walk from the Upper East Side to the South Bronx, two neighborhoods separated by a brisk ninety-minute walk, or a quick twelve-minute subway ride. I’d call them neighbors were it not so clear that they occupy such distinctly different worlds. To walk the streets from one to the other, as I often do, is to bear witness to a landscape of asymmetry. The city that comes into view is one of uneven terrain, vistas of opportunity alongside pockets of deep poverty too often lost in the periphery.

In early 2006, almost six months after moving to the city, I was hobbled from roaming around because of a botched surgery on my right knee. A few months later, I switched hospitals to the Hospital for Special Surgery, located on the Upper East Side, where I eventually underwent two more surgeries to get back to walking the streets without chronic pain. As a result of the operations and follow-up physical therapy, the Upper East Side became a regular destination. I spent a lot of time watching people go about their lives, many of whom were middle- and working-class people employed in hospitals, museums, universities, hotels, and elsewhere on the Upper East Side. Plentiful as these workers were, they didn’t define the neighborhood—at least, not in a way that forcefully impresses itself upon the mind when you think of the Upper East Side. No, the population that embosses its mark on the neighborhood is the wealthy—the extraordinarily wealthy, to be precise.

The Upper East Side houses one of the richest zip codes in the US. This wealth touches almost everything in its vicinity. Many of the less-flush people I met going about their days worked at institutions that were among the world’s finest—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Hospital for Special Surgery—and that were easy access for their upper-class neighbors. In addition to stellar medical care and world-class museums, I’d walk past some of the city’s best private schools, public libraries abuzz with parents and nannies—many of whom were foreigners—playing with children, and music schools with eager and not-so-eager kids developing their skills. Here was a neighborhood stocked with the resources for worldly success.

Walking through that part of the Upper East Side was not unlike a jaunt in a museum. On Park or Fifth Avenue, for example, one could walk for hours and admire magnificent buildings fronted by well-manicured gardens and quiet, clean sidewalks. Serenity suffused the atmosphere. Nothing seemed out of place, and, to my untrained eye, it all looked unspoiled.

There are stunning apartment buildings that look like cathedrals in high heels. Überchic boutiques—throne rooms of specialization meant to cater to people with the most rarefied, and demanding, of tastes—abound. You can pick up scented shoelaces for your teen daughter from a store filled with accessories for tweens, buy a bra for a few hundred dollars from an Italian lingerie store, and then drop off your puppy for a spa day, all in under a half hour. And, shhh, the stores were very quiet, I’ll-glare-if-you-speak-loudly quiet. I was often hushed, too, since sticker shock often dumbfounds me. Though, I should confess, something perverse in me wanted me to scream upon entering those hush-up stores.

All around are luxe restaurants with patrons to match, and sophisticated bistros with fresh-looking, pleasant-smelling—oh, those lovely scents!—upscale clientele. And for outdoor relaxation and play, Central Park is a quick stroll away—across the road, even. It’s as if the neighborhood was curated to cater to the needs and pleasures of its wealthy residents. Dig through the historical record and you’ll find that, indeed, starting with Fifth Avenue in the late nineteenth century, later joined in the early twentieth century by Park (formerly Fourth) Avenue, elegance and convenience have characterized the Upper East Side’s moneyed class and its tony residences.

Yet, for all its beauty, the neighborhood today feels like a welcome mat with spikes, or, more aptly, like a museum after closing time. You could stand nearby and look in, but that’s as far as you could go: admiration from a distance. My feet met their limit.

So much of the lives of the very wealthy was a mystery to me, not least because I couldn’t hope to stand and chat with them. The city was this enticing language I was learning, but they were a cipher. They lived, as my friend and walking companion Suketu once put it to me, in vertical gated communities—fortresses within layers of insulation. I’d see them shuttle from cabs or chauffeur-driven cars into their elegant buildings fronted by attentive doormen. Or I’d see them interacting with each other as I strolled past a posh establishment. They were sharply dressed ghosts; I would see them for a brief moment, only for them to quickly disappear into vehicles or buildings as mysteriously as they came.

There was a come-hither-stay-away quality to it all. Apartment lobbies looked inviting, but dapper doormen in their white shirts and black ties stood between you and them. Brownstones were beguiling, but you dared not sit on their steps. And I couldn’t shake the feeling that someone my shade, the color of the neighborhood’s nannies and gardeners and janitors but not their neighbors (at least, none that I saw), was more unwelcome on a stranger’s stoop.

Nor would I ever see people hanging out on their own steps. The beauty of the Upper East Side, the visual allure, had a placidity I felt detached from. There was something disquieting about all that silence. Certainly, one of the joys of living in the city is the wonderful solitude it affords, the option to, as E. B. White memorably put it, opt out and announce, “I did not attend.” The city is a place of escape as much as it’s one of pilgrimage, and, to someone outside of their circle passing through, the affluent inhabitants of the Upper East Side resemble a group who entered a compact to “not attend.” The serenity felt fragile, and I feared that if I did anything that was perceived as a threat to it, no matter how simple—approaching that friendly face to have a chat, leaning over to inhale perfumy flowers—that I would be promptly reminded that I could inhabit those streets only so much.

When I leave the Upper East Side on foot, the streets declare it to me almost immediately. I cross Ninety-Sixth Street—on Park Avenue, say, and the picturesque quickly recedes. Islands of gardens are supplanted by train tracks that tear out of the ground and rise alongside and above houses, transporting streams of Metro-North trains and dispersing noise across the neighborhood. Pristine sidewalks are replaced by dusty ones, and time and again micro-dirt tornadoes, with candy wrappers within, whirl around. And luxury mansions are replaced by tenement-type buildings, row houses, and “superblocks” of housing projects.

And the population becomes increasingly darker. A lot more. And friendlier. A lot more. More Spanish is heard (significantly so), more bodegas are seen on corners, and the hum of the Upper East Side gives way to a skipping, sometimes clamoring, beat. (On weekends with good weather, there are block parties aplenty). You almost begin to wonder—at least, I often do—if East Harlem is the town crier announcing, “Yeah, you’ve left the Upper East Side. The South Bronx is three miles, and an hour’s walk, thataway.”"



"On the way back home, Suketu drove through the Upper East Side, past glittery boutiques and sexy bistros, enticing department stores and showy high-rise apartment buildings. At that moment, I recognized that, for me, there wasn’t much difference between cutting through the neighborhood on foot and in a car. There was, of course. But leaving from Hunts Point, where time in a car away from residents removes so much of the neighborhood’s pleasure, and arriving in the Upper East Side around fifteen minutes later, only to recognize that I felt at arm’s length from a lot of its residents even when I walked through, reminded me that inequality also deprives the very wealthy. In ensconcing themselves in their circles, the very wealthy had cut themselves off from a range of perspectives and temperaments and stories—stories that are a central part of their city’s vibrancy and appeal. In Hunts Point, I witnessed deprivation due to an absence of resources; in the Upper East Side, I witnessed deprivation of a different, but related sort: the absence of enriching interactions.

I became an obsessive walker as a matter of necessity. Too poor to take taxis when I was growing up in Jamaica, and living in a … [more]
walking  serendipity  2014  garnettecadogan  nyc  inequality  discovery  wonder  possibility  ebwhite  wealth  waltwhitman  rebeccasolnit  micheldecerteau  observation  flaneur 
july 2016 by robertogreco
Walking While Black | Literary Hub
"Within days I noticed that many people on the street seemed apprehensive of me: Some gave me a circumspect glance as they approached, and then crossed the street; others, ahead, would glance behind, register my presence, and then speed up; older white women clutched their bags; young white men nervously greeted me, as if exchanging a salutation for their safety: “What’s up, bro?” On one occasion, less than a month after my arrival, I tried to help a man whose wheelchair was stuck in the middle of a crosswalk; he threatened to shoot me in the face, then asked a white pedestrian for help.

I wasn’t prepared for any of this. I had come from a majority-black country in which no one was wary of me because of my skin color. Now I wasn’t sure who was afraid of me. I was especially unprepared for the cops. They regularly stopped and bullied me, asking questions that took my guilt for granted. I’d never received what many of my African-American friends call “The Talk”: No parents had told me how to behave when I was stopped by the police, how to be as polite and cooperative as possible, no matter what they said or did to me. So I had to cobble together my own rules of engagement. Thicken my Jamaican accent. Quickly mention my college. “Accidentally” pull out my college identification card when asked for my driver’s license.

My survival tactics began well before I left my dorm. I got out of the shower with the police in my head, assembling a cop-proof wardrobe. Light-colored oxford shirt. V-neck sweater. Khaki pants. Chukkas. Sweatshirt or T-shirt with my university insignia. When I walked I regularly had my identity challenged, but I also found ways to assert it. (So I’d dress Ivy League style, but would, later on, add my Jamaican pedigree by wearing Clarks Desert Boots, the footwear of choice of Jamaican street culture.) Yet the all-American sartorial choice of white T-shirt and jeans, which many police officers see as the uniform of black troublemakers, was off-limits to me—at least, if I wanted to have the freedom of movement I desired.

In this city of exuberant streets, walking became a complex and often oppressive negotiation. I would see a white woman walking towards me at night and cross the street to reassure her that she was safe. I would forget something at home but not immediately turn around if someone was behind me, because I discovered that a sudden backtrack could cause alarm. (I had a cardinal rule: Keep a wide perimeter from people who might consider me a danger. If not, danger might visit me.) New Orleans suddenly felt more dangerous than Jamaica. The sidewalk was a minefield, and every hesitation and self-censored compensation reduced my dignity. Despite my best efforts, the streets never felt comfortably safe. Even a simple salutation was suspect.

One night, returning to the house that, eight years after my arrival, I thought I’d earned the right to call my home, I waved to a cop driving by. Moments later, I was against his car in handcuffs. When I later asked him—sheepishly, of course; any other way would have asked for bruises—why he had detained me, he said my greeting had aroused his suspicion. “No one waves to the police,” he explained. When I told friends of his response, it was my behavior, not his, that they saw as absurd. “Now why would you do a dumb thing like that?” said one. “You know better than to make nice with police.”"



"Walking had returned to me a greater set of possibilities. And why walk, if not to create a new set of possibilities? Following serendipity, I added new routes to the mental maps I had made from constant walking in that city from childhood to young adulthood, traced variations on the old pathways. Serendipity, a mentor once told me, is a secular way of speaking of grace; it’s unearned favor. Seen theologically, then, walking is an act of faith. Walking is, after all, interrupted falling. We see, we listen, we speak, and we trust that each step we take won’t be our last, but will lead us into a richer understanding of the self and the world.

In Jamaica, I felt once again as if the only identity that mattered was my own, not the constricted one that others had constructed for me. I strolled into my better self. I said, along with Kierkegaard, “I have walked myself into my best thoughts.”"



"Walking while black restricts the experience of walking, renders inaccessible the classic Romantic experience of walking alone. It forces me to be in constant relationship with others, unable to join the New York flaneurs I had read about and hoped to join. Instead of meandering aimlessly in the footsteps of Whitman, Melville, Kazin, and Vivian Gornick, more often, I felt that I was tiptoeing in Baldwin’s—the Baldwin who wrote, way back in 1960, “Rare, indeed, is the Harlem citizen, from the most circumspect church member to the most shiftless adolescent, who does not have a long tale to tell of police incompetence, injustice, or brutality. I myself have witnessed and endured it more than once.”

Walking as a black man has made me feel simultaneously more removed from the city, in my awareness that I am perceived as suspect, and more closely connected to it, in the full attentiveness demanded by my vigilance. It has made me walk more purposefully in the city, becoming part of its flow, rather than observing, standing apart.

* * * *

But it also means that I’m still trying to arrive in a city that isn’t quite mine. One definition of home is that it’s somewhere we can most be ourselves. And when are we more ourselves but when walking, that natural state in which we repeat one of the first actions we learned? Walking—the simple, monotonous act of placing one foot before the other to prevent falling—turns out not to be so simple if you’re black. Walking alone has been anything but monotonous for me; monotony is a luxury.

A foot leaves, a foot lands, and our longing gives it momentum from rest to rest. We long to look, to think, to talk, to get away. But more than anything else, we long to be free. We want the freedom and pleasure of walking without fear—without others’ fear—wherever we choose. I’ve lived in New York City for almost a decade and have not stopped walking its fascinating streets. And I have not stopped longing to find the solace that I found as a kid on the streets of Kingston. Much as coming to know New York City’s streets has made it closer to home to me, the city also withholds itself from me via those very streets. I walk them, alternately invisible and too prominent. So I walk caught between memory and forgetting, between memory and forgiveness."
garnettecadogan  racism  blackness  race  walking  nyc  neworleans  nola  serendipity  anonymity  fear  judgement  fatswaller  waltwhitman  kingston  jamaica  us  via:ayjay  racialprofiling  police  lawenforcement  possibility  possibilities  grace  favor  faith  hermanmelville  alfredkazin  elizabethhardwick  janejacobs  memory  forgiveness  forgetting  freedom 
july 2016 by robertogreco
VINCIANE DESPRET: Lecture (part 1 of 2) - YouTube
"WHERE ARE WE GOING, WALT WHITMAN?

An ecosophical roadmap for artists and other futurists

Conference -- festival that took place from 12--15 March, 2013 at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam.

Gabriëlle Schleijpen, head of Studium Generale Rietveld Academie invited Anselm Franke, Binna Choi, Carolyn Christof - Bakargiev, Natasha Ginwala and Vivian Ziherl to each inaugurate a discursive and performative program of one day.

Friday March 15

POIESIS OF WORLDING

Bringing together research, art, and various approaches and concerns relating to ecology, artist Ayreen Anastas, author, researcher, organiser of events and exhibitions, Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, writer, philosopher and ethologist Vinciane Despret, artist Rene Gabri, artist and rural sociologist Fernando García-Dory and interdisciplinary artist Marcos Lutyens explored collectively what a 'poiesis of worlding' could involve. What could be a process of re-apprehending and re-animating worlds which our current systems of knowledge and understanding exclude? And how do such foreclosures relate to some of the most pressing challenges of our time? Departing from a lecture program by playing with predefined lecture protocols and later opening a space for shared doing-thinking, the day's journey was split into two parts which were sewn together by a collective hypnosis.

http://wherearewegoingwaltwhitman.rietveldacademie.nl/
http://gerritrietveldacademie.nl/en/ "

[part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD77gU0XjMk]
vincianedespret  animals  storytelling  2013  via:anne  ethology  ecosophy  perspective  science  pov  multispecies  empathy  knowing  waysofknowing  waltwhitman  agency  poiesis  worlding  interdisciplinary  art  arts  ayreenanastas  meaning  meaningmaking  carolynchristov-bakargiev  perception  renegabri  fernandogarcía-dory  marcoslutyens  knowledge  future  futurism  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  worldbuilding  being  feeling  seeing  constructivism  richarddawkins  theselfishgene 
march 2015 by robertogreco
3quarksdaily: Sam Hamill Interviewed
"Shadab: What is the translator’s first allegiance: the original poem in all its cultural specificity (context, tradition-based allusions, nuanced language) or the poem’s more “translatable” aspect— its essence and meaning from a universal viewpoint?

Sam: Each translation brings its own particular challenges. Every translation is unique. Many classical Chinese poems can be translated in a very literal way—like Tao Te Ching for instance. And yet we have perfectly awful translations of it from people like Stephen Mitchell when the translator intrudes on the text. It’s a delicate dance. Mitchell reads no Chinese, so he simply invents and interprets from what others have done. I go through the poems character by character and try to make the poem a poem in English that is true to the original. We can’t replicate the 5 or 7-syllable line of classical Chinese poetry, nor mirror the interior and exterior rhymes, so I seek a speaking music in English to convey the sense of rhythm in our own tongue. In my Crossing the Yellow River: Three Hundred Poems from the Chinese, there are a variety of styles and distinctly different voices. We lose a lot of nuance and subtlety when bringing them into English.

Shadab: What are some of the glaring and subtle differences between the Western tradition of poetry and the Eastern, in your experience as a translator?

Sam: This would take a book to answer properly. Chinese is rhyme-rich, while English is rhyme poor. Chinese and Japanese poets use “pillow words,” a fixed epithet that gives a double-meaning. When our Asian poet speaks of “clouds and rain,” it may be about weather, but it also may be about sex. Clouds are masculine, rain is feminine. And individual Chinese characters often contain two or three or even four distinct meanings all at once, so the translator must choose a primary single meaning in English and “dumb it down” for the western reader. Classical Chinese poetry is chanted, not simply spoken. Classical Japanese poetry is loaded with sensibility, nuance and social awareness and often makes use of “honkadori,” “shadows and echoes” of classics both Japanese and Chinese. Translation is a provisional conclusion and great poetry needs to be translated freshly for each generation.

Shadab: What can we learn from Eastern aesthetics— in particular, the Chinese tradition?

Sam: Confucian exactitude of language, Taoist-Buddhist “non-attachment,” and most of all something about great human character at its core. Rexroth called Tu Fu “the greatest non-epic, non-dramatic poet ever,” and I think that reflects what he saw as Tu Fu’s character. As Heraclitus says, “Our character is our fate.” I think most classical Chinese poets would concur. I could make a similar case for Basho or Saigyo in Japanese.

Shadab: Is there such a thing as a “poem for all times”?

Sam: Sure. “Ode to the West Wind” would be a great poem in any language any day. Same with the great Zen poets or Rilke’s “Archaic Bust of Apollo” or… I could make a very long list.

Shadab: Are poets duty-bound to include a political consciousness/conscience in their work?

Sam: “Duty-bound?” I think not. But it’s almost impossible to write “apolitical” poetry in a world in which everything has political ties either directly or indirectly. A simple love poem is loaded with politics: is it heterosexual love we celebrate today? Is the “she” submissive or assertive? Is the “he” passive or dominant? Is “she” objectified or are her complexities reflected in the poetry? We’d have no “romance” in our poetry were it not for the meeting of Arabic and European tradition in Provence in the 12th century. I can’t imagine a poetry without conscience. Poetry, because it’s meant to communicate, is a social medium. Art is a social activity because it reaches out. Whether it’s Hopper or Goya, Plath or Rich or Gary Snyder, there is a social engagement that reflects back on culture and history.

Shadab: Is activist poetry effective as a catalyst for change in our times?

Sam: The “women’s movement” of the 60s and 70s was mostly begun by poets: Margaret Atwood, Adrienne Rich, Robin Morgan, Susan Griffin, et alia. They were inspired by Sappho, by Akhmatova, etc. Poetry has almost always been a part of social revolution. Think of the great poets of the Spanish resistance to fascism or the role of poets in Latin America and elsewhere. Nazim Hikmet struck terror into the hearts of his oppressors.

Shadab: How would you define the term world poet? Has America produced such a poet?

Sam: Whitman. He was read all over Latin America before we northerns realized how important he was. And to a lesser degree, Ezra Pound, and many of the post-modern poets transcend our borders.

Shadab: You once said: “You can’t write about character and the human condition and be apolitical—that’s not the kind of world we’ve ever lived in.”
Unlike most politically inclined poets, “apolitical” poets, such as the supremely popular former poet laureate Billy Collins (and a number of others), seem to have received tremendous success in earning laurels and even money. Why is that?

Sam: They entertain the lowest common denominator. They ask (or demand) almost nothing from their audience. They are the Edgar Guests of our age. They also ask very little of themselves, and certainly nothing the least bit revolutionary. They don’t present any threat to the status quo. Billy Collins was Poet Laureate when the USA invaded Iraq. But you’ll find no protest in his poetry."



"Sam: A poet’s first duty is to open his or her heart and stand naked in the act of revelation. I wouldn’t be a poet laureate even if asked. My “master” is revolution—nonviolent anti-capitalist humane revolution. The greatest threat to the world today is American imperialism, just as it was a hundred years ago. The body count is almost beyond comprehension—millions dead in Iraq and Afghanistan, genocide against Palestinian peoples whose lands are being stolen day by day, 30,000 gun deaths in the USA every year, drone bombings of children in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan, the sabotage of democratic governments in Latin American and elsewhere, sweatshops in Indonesia and China… the list goes on and on. Who will listen to the cries of the world? Who will dare speak for those who have been silenced?"
samhamill  poetry  capitalism  pacifism  imperialism  2014  interviews  activism  writing  politics  billycollins  translation  waltwhitman  garysnyder  margaretatwood  adrennerich  robinmorgan  susangriffith  basho  rilke  zen  buddhism  sappho  language  taoteching  asia  saigyo  tufu  taosim  confucianism  non-attachment  kennethrexroth 
september 2014 by robertogreco
LUNARES: seré arquitecta
[Related: "Hay algo intenso en el espacio público, está oculto, pero es evidente, se siente en el cuerpo, los pasos hablan por nuestra mente." http://derere.tumblr.com/post/84495668413/

and https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:35d240b69891 ]
comments  2014  waltwhitman  urban  urbanism  chile  edfolsom  urbanaffection  publicspace  sharedspace  intensity 
may 2014 by robertogreco
Something About How Steve Roggenbuck's Poetry Will Save the Internet
[See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Roggenbuck ]

"Twenty-six-year-old Roggenbuck, a self-declared “internet poet,” is the antidote. Since 2010 Roggenbuck has been an obsessive user of Twitter, Facebook and multiple Tumblrs, but his best work is his YouTube videos. In these videos, he spews hysterical riffs and one-liners of wildly varying comprehensibility to a camera he points at himself, usually to the backing of an exhilarating electronic soundtrack, usually somewhere beautiful outside.

His most popular video is "make something beautiful before you are dead." I first saw it two years ago on a friend’s Tumblr and I was struck by Roggenbuck's raw vlogger solipsism, which would be grating if it weren’t backed up by equally raw virtuosity. The video starts quietly. Roggenbuck's in a room, affecting a piercing nasal midwestern twang as he muses to the camera about how he's "going to find the best deal."

It's a parody of every boring YouTube video blog you've seen, which Roggenbuck sets up only to explode seconds later in a dizzying epiphany. Suddenly he's outside in the woods, still holding his camera, popping out from bushes, shouting "two words, Jackass: Dog the Bounty Hunter," swinging an enormous tree branch and berating a dead tree stump for not being alive. Roggenbuck appears to have just broken out from a dark basement where he'd been imprisoned from a young age, raised entirely on AOL chatrooms, reality TV and Monster Energy Drinks. He's exhilaratingly callous about his own body, holding his camera inches from face despite a pretty intense outbreak of acne, at times so excited by his own words that the camera jerks crazily up and down with every cheesy self-help exhortation. When Roggenbuck yells "Get me in control of ABC Family and I will fuck this country up" while sprinting through a drizzly field to a dubstep soundtrack you feel like you're watching neurons firing and forging strange connections in real time. It's a selfie of the soul.

As impressive as the video is the outpouring of adoration in comments under "make something beautiful before you are dead." Most YouTube comments are petri dishes of cutting-edge hate speech, but a community of ebullient Roggenbuck worshipers has turned his comments sections into a virtual self-help seminar."



"Steve Roggenbuck would horrify the Jonathan Franzens of the world. Poetry is supposed to be serious and introspective—the opposite of the superficial, buzzing, electronic hellscape that critics imagine the internet to be. According Roggenbuck’s own creation myth, he's a product of that polarity: As an MFA student, he began to focus on the internet after one of his instructors commented on his misspelled, dashed-off-seeming poems, "save this for your blog." (He dropped out of the MFA program.)

But "save this for your blog" isn't quite the insult an MFA professor might image. New York Times economics columnist Paul Krugman (!) recently wrote about how poetry was once passed among networks of elites, "allow[ing] people both to discuss sensitive topics elliptically and to demonstrate their cleverness." Elliptical demonstrations of cleverness: Imagine what they would have thought of Tumblr! And the internet is more than just a staging ground—it's a huge source of inspiration and material for young artists, poets, technologists and writers.



Anyone who wants to understand the internet generation would do well to pay attention to Roggenbuck's oeuvre. It can be hard to get past Roggenbuck's aggressive naivety and goofy schtick, which can come across like the twee mirror to the strident net freedom diatribes of Wikileaks fanatics and hacktvists. You could say he's way too uncritical about the incentives embedded in the technologies he uses—created by huge corporations whose exact goal is to encourage the sharing he craves—and how that might negatively affect his work. But this is just to point out that are as many flaws in the the structures of the internet as there are in the people embedded in them. The best of Roggenbuck's work shows there's equally as much promise."

[See also: http://htmlgiant.com/author-spotlight/ultimately-beautiful-an-interview-with-steve-roggenbuck/

NC: Why did you drop out of your MFA program?

SR: i think if my life conditions were different, i never would have gone. i never had any illusons that it was going to magicaly transform my writeing, or that teaching was the perfect career fit for me. after undergrad i was in a long-term relationship, and we were planning to have a family in the next ~5 years. i felt like i needed to pursue a “career” that would bring in an income big enough to support a family. but i am also very stubborn about doing what i want with my tiem. i hate having a job, last year i maxed out my credit cards instead of getting a summer job. the mfa was kind of a compromise between what i really wanted (to be an artist all the time) and what was expected of me (standard middle-class career path)

i gained some things from my mfa experience.. i now have an acute awareness of what i don’t like about academic/lit culture, for exampel. i started fully embraceing my identity as an “internet poet” only after my workshop teacher left me a condescending comment on my poem, “save this stuff for your blog.” with my misspellings too, i was fueled by my teacher’s disapproval

i never really liked the progam too much, but when my long-term relationship ended, i felt like i finaly had other options. i could live with my dad for free (or with various friends, as i eventualy decided), or i could at least split rent with more roommates in a cheaper neighborhood, without bothering/disappointing my partner

also my school started grating on me in more fundamental ways this past fall. my core audience is not poets in academia.. so why should i be seeking feedback from (only) poets in academia? i would get comments from my teachers, for example discouraging my misspellings, and i would kind of just dismiss them because i know they arent realy my main audience. but if i they’re not my audience, why am i asking for their feedback in the frist place? the feedback ive gotten from friends online has been much more valuable" ]

[More: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/11/is-this-loud-youtube-loving-poet-the-bard-of-the-internet/281189/ ]
via:timmaly  steveroggenbuck  poetry  internet  twitter  socalmedia  mfa  youtube  writing  reading  spelling  teaching  learning  graduateschool  highered  highereducation  literature  jonathanfranzen  daveeggers  kennethgoldsmith  piotrczerki  youth  life  living  thoreau  waltwhitman  yolo  commenting  video  literacy  schooliness  creativity  education 
november 2013 by robertogreco
My body’s plant and animal companion species | Design Culture Lab
"Since my research tends to focus on large-scale, public issues in this area, I thought it might be interesting to look at what’s going on at more small-scale or personal levels, and maybe even explore what a multispecies autoethnography might involve."
medicine  symbiosis  companionspecies  plants  nature  animals  davidrelman  bacteria  humanmicrobiomeproject  biomes  microbiomes  multitudes  songofmyslelf  waltwhitman  ecosystems  humanbody  body  2012  annegalloway  microethology  bodies 
december 2012 by robertogreco
A New, Noisier Way of Writing - NYTimes.com [Definitely not an OR, but and AND. Room for mix, room for both.]
"This opening up of the process may fit the zeitgeist, but it terrifies many writers. Yet is Mr. Coelho right? Must the writer, like corporations & governments everywhere, accept a fundamental shift in what is kept open & what kept closed?

Some serious writers show a way forward. Teju Cole…is an avid user of Twitter, using it not to expound on the Super Bowl, but to remix and rewrite Nigerian headlines in a deft, literary way. Salman Rushdie, a defender of Writing with a capital W, has found a way to balance that literary seriousness with new habits of launching tweet-wars, informing us where he is, and reviewing books in 140 characters, always with his trademark wit.

The question, perhaps, is this: As the writer surrenders to these new possibilities, what will be her role in the instantaneous, feedback-driven, open world? Will there be a place for those other, slower thoughts, ideas that take time and quiet to flower, truths that cannot be crowdsourced?"
slow  concentration  online  web  entrepreneurship  meritocracy  wikipedia  isolation  attention  anandgiridharadas  vsnaipaul  jonathanfranzen  salmanrushdie  waltwhitman  leavesofgrass  twitter  crowdsourcing  distraction  writing  2012  paulocoelho  tejucole 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Guernica / Forgotten but Not Gone
"There was at least one place, I would discover, where that “instant” of Borges persisted, a land where Borges lived on as both Borges and “I,” legend and life. That place is Texas. Starting in 1961, Borges made five visits to the state—first, to teach for a semester in Austin as a visiting professor; then to lecture on Cervantes and Whitman as a literary celebrity. When Borges died on June 14, 1986, the University of Texas’s main campus lowered its flags to half-mast, a rare tribute for a writer and a perplexing honor for one without deep Texas roots. Why had Texas so embraced Borges? And why had Borges continued to return there throughout the final twenty-five years of his life?

In early January, I began to investigate what seemed a long-forgotten romance."
borges  texas  history  ut  literature  childhood  reading  writing  aging  age  meaning  2011  kafka  kierkegaard  blindness  utaustin  carterwheelcock  ercibenson  argentina  waltwhitman  cervantes  ficciones 
july 2011 by robertogreco
Paris Review - The Art of Fiction No. 39, Jorge Luis Borges
Too much to choose, but here's one interesting bit: "Now as for the color yellow, there is a physical explanation of that. When I began to lose my sight, the last color I saw, or the last color, rather, that stood out, because of course now I know that your coat is not the same color as this table or of the woodwork behind you—the last color to stand out was yellow because it is the most vivid of colors. That's why you have the Yellow Cab Company in the United States. At first they thought of making the cars scarlet. Then somebody found out that at night or when there was a fog that yellow stood out in a more vivid way than scarlet. So you have yellow cabs because anybody can pick them out. Now when I began to lose my eyesight, when the world began to fade away from me, there was a time among my friends . . . well they made, they poked fun at me because I was always wearing yellow neckties. Then they thought I really liked yellow, although it really was too glaring."
borges  interview  literature  writing  fiction  parisreview  1966  film  language  books  numbers  religion  colors  words  languages  oldnorse  metaphor  georgeeliot  childhood  robertlouisstevenson  treasureisland  marktwain  tomsawyer  huckleberryfinn  milongas  adolfobioycásares  rudyardkipling  kafka  henryjames  waltwhitman  carlsandburg  poetry  josephconrad  argentina  buenosaires  tseliot 
february 2011 by robertogreco
Amazon.com: Wanderlust: A History of Walking (9780140286014): Rebecca Solnit: Books: Reviews, Prices & more
"Walking, as Thoreau said and Solnit elegantly demonstrates, inevitably leads to other subjects. This pleasing and enlightening history of pedestrianism unfolds like a walking conversation with a particularly well-informed companion with wide-ranging interests. Walking, says Solnit, is the state in which the mind, the body and the world are aligned; thus she begins with the long historical association between walking and philosophizing. She briefly looks at the fossil evidence of human evolution, pointing to the ability to move upright on two legs as the very characteristic that separated humans from the other beasts and has allowed us to dominate them. She looks at pilgrims, poets, streetwalkers and demonstrators, and ends up, surprisingly, in Las Vegas--or maybe not so surprisingly in that city of tourists, since "Tourism itself is one of the last major outposts of walking." …"
rebeccasolnit  flaneur  walking  books  toread  history  pedestrians  philosophy  evolution  science  anthropology  culture  thoreau  waltwhitman 
november 2010 by robertogreco
Snarkmarket: Personality and Urban Affection
"Whitman feels the power of the city of strangers. He’s looking at a city of strangers and how something we might now call urban affection begins to develop. How do you come to care for people that you have never seen before and that you may never see again?

Every day we encounter people, eyes make contact, we brush by people, physically come into contact with them, and may never see them again.

But Whitman’s notebooks at this time are filled with images, just jottings, of these people, what they’re doing, what they look like, what their names are. ‘What is this person doing? What’s the activity that defines this person?

“If I were doing that activity that person would be me. If I were wandering the other way, rather than this way, that person could be me. That could be me. That could be me. What is it that separates any of us?’"

[Also here: http://snarkmarket.com/2009/2545 ]
waltwhitman  urban  urbanism  place  noticing  observation  affection  bionicnoticing  cities  strangers  belonging  engagement  surroundings  environment  empathy  city 
february 2009 by robertogreco
13. To You. Whitman, Walt. 1900. Leaves of Grass
"STRANGER! if you, passing, meet me, and desire to speak to me, why should you not speak to me? And why should I not speak to you?"
poetry  quotes  communication  society  people  human  interaction  english  waltwhitman 
september 2007 by robertogreco

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