Category Archives: Words

I would not want Jung to be my psychopomp

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on the way through the pale trees, although I am naturally gratified to use a recently-acquired word.

The mind of this strange man is worth a visit, however, and demonstrates the truism that images and narratives are diminished by their exegesis; even Jung could only make his stories smaller when he enlarged upon them.

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Things to do when you can’t sleep: lxx

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lxx  :  Have an argument

No, not the kind taking place in Room 12A.  In the darkness before today’s sodden dawn the pen scrawled reluctantly across sheet after sheet of file paper (can’t produce a good argument using a word processor, however ten-fingered I may be).

Looking at the result is like looking at holiday packing: gloom at the shabby aspect of one’s possessions, grave doubts that the right things have been selected, wondering what is the essential item you have certainly forgotten, and a growing conviction that this monstrous heap will never all go in.

Not quite incunabula

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I’ve been looking through some photos from last week.  There was little time to go anywhere except the College itself, or a quick doddle round the Close for fresh air.  Luckily, there was a fascinating exhibition in the library, and the cathedral always rewards.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery. If you want to see texts properly, click on link from gallery to full size.)

 

No … please … make it stop …

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The best thing about this book (as far as I am concerned) it that it has informed me of the existence of Hrotsvit, apparently a tenth-century canoness who referred to herself as the Forceful Testimony of Gandersheim, and wrote sacred dramas in the form of Terentian comedy, redeeming the form (she said) from his pagan smuttiness.  How lovely to imagine her beavering away, and thinking “Ha! Take that, Terence!” every time she finished a good bit.

In spite of some interesting ideas, the rest has been a struggle.  I don’t mind the content, or the slightly experimental form.  It’s mostly because of the English.  The constantly repeated use of favourite words is like squeaking chalk – “profound” and “deep”, sometimes even “deeply profound” and “profoundly deep”, multiple times on what feels like every page.  Other words and phrases were almost equally intrusive.  If only the author had gone through and removed every adjective, the book would be ten pages shorter, and if he had eliminated at least 50% of the repetitions, it would be twenty pages more readable.

So I’ve let myself off the concluding chapters.  I’ll deal with the actual ideas elsewhere, and they’ll probably be useful.  But genuine thanks for Hrotsvit.

Inadequate planning

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It’s a classic failure to organise:  fling everything in on top of itself, incomprehensible page following puzzling extract on top of contentious essay, accompanied by alternating layers of tosh, bits of Mesopotamia, defunct television criticism, and (of course) recent investigations into specific gravity.  It may be necessary to jump up and down on the heap. Insofar as there is a plan, this should continue for a few more weeks (barring accidents), at which point everything should receive a good stir-up and be left for a week or two to fractionate.

I wonder if it will work?

Everyone loves an apocalypse

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In a book about apocalypses and endings in fiction, it seemed appropriate to begin with the most recently written segment, which is the epilogue, before returning to chapter/lecture 1, mischievously entitled “The End”.

It was perhaps an error to cook a ginger cake between chapters 2 and 3.  The tin is almost empty.

I don’t have a muse

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but I can see why poets might feel that their poetry comes from outside themselves, and blame their muses, or, occasionally, the Person from Porlock.  Even the small verses which arrive at the point of my inexpert pencil can be beyond all accounting.  Today’s required me to look up the specific gravity of human arms and legs.  And write that value into the verse.

If it’s my subconscious speaking, what in the world is it/she doing in there?

Footnotes -> mere notes

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The removal of footnotes from the pages of academic texts has not, I feel, been a good thing for the reader.  I never found it difficult to skim past footnotes if I didn’t want to read them, but easy to pick them up if I did want to.  But it is so awkward to keep flipping to the back of a book that I nearly missed this note, whose lack of explanation I particularly enjoyed.

Chapter 6, note 24:  Volosinov also appears to go by the name of Bakhtin, and there seems to be some confusion in the literature about this…

From An introduction to theories of popular culture – Dominic Strinati  (2nd ed.)

Regressing to phonics

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Lots of technical vocabulary in this one.  Some of the authors translate or define the Greek terms they use; some just transliterate; and some don’t bother at all.  Which leaves me, with my primitive half-familiarity with the Greek alphabet, painfully sounding out words, and hoping they will come out as something vaguely familiar and guessable.

A few are fairly easy given a context – I could cope with θεολογια; and γνωσις was doable.  But προσαρμοσας?  Urg.

As for the English language parts:  some of these sentences and paragraphs will remain mysterious to me for ever.  But that’s another story.

You epigone, you

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Starting a new subject with a reader is more difficult than picking up an introductory text written with novices in mind.  It does, however, have the advantage of offering a full technical vocabulary, and introducing significant writers in the discipline through their own words.

Sadly, the ‘own words’ of cultural theorists (up to Part 3) seem to be quite remarkably dreary – an uglification of English which is hard to forgive, and there are 450 pages still to go.  Some of the content is moderately interesting, but Oh! if only we could have it better said!  One honourable but momentary exception:  Laclau and Mouffe describing their critics as ‘fading epigones’.  I had to look ‘epigone’ up in Chambers, and joyed in it, a word at once compendious and splendidly disdainful.  Then it was back to uglification for fifteen pages.

This is going to be a long, long, long, long, long, long read.