These are all the Blogs posted on Tuesday, 28, 2007.
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Governor moves to block mosques with changes in planning regulations
From The Scotsman. I know nothing about Joerg Haider as to whether the description “right wing firebrand” is accurate and why.
THE Austrian right-wing firebrand Joerg Haider said yesterday he plans to change building laws to prevent mosques and minarets being erected in his home province of Carinthia.
Mr Haider, the governor, said he would ask parliament to amend the building code to require towns and villages to consider "religious and cultural tradition" when dealing with construction requests.
"We don't want a clash of cultures and we don't want institutions which are alien to our culture being erected in western Europe," Mr Haider said. "Muslims have, of course, the right to practise their religion, but I oppose erecting mosques and minarets as centres to advertise the power of Islam,"
It's a ridiculous statement to say he fears a clash of civilisations [in Carinthia]," said Omar al-Rawi, a spokesman for the Austrian Muslims' Initiative. "We don't know of any mosque plans there. His move is meaningless, populist, racist and anti-Islamic," he added.
Posted on 08/28/2007 1:31 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
"There is a tide in the affairs of men"
Posted on 08/28/2007 5:15 AM by Robert Bove
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
How societies commit suicide
Theodore Dalrymple writes:
In an effort to ensure that no Muslim doctors ever again try to bomb Glasgow Airport, bureaucrats at Glasgow’s public hospitals have decreed that henceforth no staff may eat lunch at their desks or in their offices during the holy month of Ramadan, so that fasting Muslims shall not be offended by the sight or smell of their food. Vending machines will also disappear from the premises during that period.
Apparently the bureaucrats believe that the would-be bombers were demanding sandwich-free offices in Glasgow hospitals during Ramadan. This kind of absurdity is what happens when the highly contestable doctrine of multiculturalism becomes a career opportunity for the semi-educated and otherwise unemployable products of a grossly and unnecessarily swollen university system.
Meanwhile, the highest court in Italy was confirming an appeals court’s acquittal of the father and brother of a Muslim girl, whom they beat and locked up for becoming too Westernized—that is to say, for having a Western friend. The court ruled that, though they had undoubtedly beaten her and locked her up, this was not because of any culpable ill-feeling toward her. It was, rather, because of “her lifestyle, which did not conform to their culture.”
The sound of a civilization committing suicide can be heard in these stories; for civilizations collapse not because the barbarians are so strong, but because they themselves are so morally enfeebled.
UPDATE: The hospital boards in Scotland have denied the allegations against them, though they admit advising hospitals to consider avoiding working lunches during Ramadan if Muslims would normally participate in them, and to consider altering the route of lunch trolleys to accommodate “sensitive colleagues who adhere to the Muslim faith.” No hospital board, as far as I am aware, has ever advised that one should not eat pork in front of Jews, or beef in front of Hindus; the most likely explanation of the difference in the way religious sensibilities are treated by the hospital boards would appear to be fear. It is characteristic of pusillanimity that it does not recognize itself.
Posted on 08/28/2007 6:04 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Google and the language police
Nouns get used as verbs, some of them flagrantly transitively. "Reference" used as a transitive verb is perfectly good English in my book, and in a number of dictionaries. To Hugh, it is deplorable. Yet he, and others, "google" things with gay abandon. Many's the time Hugh has exhorted us to google his own articles, articles referenced in his posts. I struggle to see any difference of principle between "to reference" and "to google" used in this way. I am at a loss to see why one is deplorable and the other acceptable. Indeed, the main difference between the two transitive verbs is that "reference" has an older pedigree (first used in 1891) and google is an upstart callow youth, deriving moreover not just from a noun but - horror of horrors - a brand name. Not merely a brand name, but one used by management consultants, bankers and other modern day scoundrels, perhaps even to help grow their business. Can things get any worse?
Everything gets worse if you call the lawyers in. I googled a piece from the BBC, which I reference here. It is an old piece in internet terms, from 2003 when google as a verb was new:
In the US Google has mutated into a verb. Singletons will "google" a new boyfriend or girlfriend - run their name through a search engine - to check them out. People now talk about "googling" and "being googled".
But what's good news for Robbie is becoming a headache for folk at Google HQ. The company's lawyers are trying to stamp out this sort of language.
Paul McFedries, who runs the lexicography site Word Spy, received a stiffly worded letter from the firm after he added "google" to his online lexicon.
The company asked him to delete the definition or revise it to take account of the "trade mark status of Google". He opted for the latter.
Google's problem is one of the paradoxes of having a runaway successful brand. The bigger it gets, the more it becomes part of everyday English language and less a brand in its own right.
Just as we talk about "hoovering" instead of vacuuming, people have started to say "google" to mean search. The word has become an eponym....
Companies like Xerox, Kleenex, Portakabin and Rollerblade have teams of lawyers furiously firing off letters to media which mistakenly use their name in a generic sense.
It's all about protecting their brand, says Elizabeth Ward, a trade mark lawyer. "You have to see it in context of how much they spend on advertising. If you have a big, big brand such as Google you have to say what's that brand actually worth.
"Once it becomes just a word, it erodes the value of that brand."
For the likes of Google, Hoover's experience is a cautionary tale - it has essentially lost the exclusive right to its name.
I believe Americans vacuum rather hoover, but they do "simonize" their cars - at least Willy Loman did in Death of a Salesman.
Posted on 08/28/2007 6:12 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
John Cage’s 4’33” is described in Wikipedia’s poker-faced entry as follows:
4′33″ is an experimental musical work by avant-garde composer John Cage. It consists of just over four and a half minutes of silence. Though first performed on the piano, the piece was composed for any instrument or instruments and is structured in three movements. The length of each movement is not fixed by the composer, nor is the total length of the piece. The title of the piece should reflect the timings chosen, and could therefore be different at every performance. The modern performance tradition of 4′33″ is to keep the total duration fixed as at the first performance.
I think Cage missed a trick here. An old joke says that if you save money by running behind a bus instead of riding on it, you save even more by running behind a taxi. By the same token, if you’re not going to play a note, don’t just not play it on the piano or “any instrument”. Instead you should not play it on a really quirky instrument, such as the bagpipes, the didgeridoo, the jaws harp, the mbira dzavadzimu or the waterflute. The last would be particularly impressive:
Waterflute (reedless) hydraulophone with 45 finger-embouchure holes, allowing an intricate but polyphonic embouchure-like control by inserting one finger into each of several of the instrument's 45 mouths at the same time.
Or not, as the case may be. Still waters run deep.
It is as well Cage’s work was short. Total silence is hard to sustain. Any longer and the audience might have been tempted to test the water by dropping the odd pin. Alternatively they could listen to their inner landscape. Andrew Waggoner straps on his iPod and finds his interior space colonised:
The "personal music system" makes available to us conditions that are near-anechoic. Crowned with headphones, we plunge into a total aural void, within which the silences of Webern, Feldman, Ligeti, Haydn, Ravi Shankar, or a templeful of Tibetan monks become real and rich for us once again. This would seem the ultimate solution to our problem, the most perfect means of apprehending music's symbiosis with silence, until we consider two discomfiting realities: in voluntarily wearing headphones we are agreeing to the taming, by actual, physical sound, of our own interior landscapes, and we agree to go the process alone, for no one can reach us when we are plugged-in in this way. In this state, we become slaves to a jealous god who seeks to rob us of our deepest capacities for expression and relationship. For the silences of Webern, of Feldman, Haydn, Beethoven, Miles Davis, and Jimi Hendrix were conceived of as shared fields of sonic space. It is only now that they are being parceled off and sold, one by one, to individual buyers. The unanimous hush that fell with Hendrix' final, plaintive, nightmarish phrases in the live new year's eve 1970 recording of Machine Gun, has now receded into the ether; the sense of wonder it inspired has long since been replaced with a knowing sense of style, an aesthetic shorthand of narrowing signification. This is fundamental to the transformation of any art, of course, and is not necessarily a terrible thing. What is pernicious here, pernicious simply because of the ease and semi-conscious assent with which it is happening, is that the common sense of "Oh my God" that greets the best work of any artist is now more likely to occur as a singular, individual event, outside the frame of any human relationship. The hush that Hendrix inspired, the result of genuine stylistic, technical, and expressive transcendence acted out in the real presence of an engaged community, has little to no counterpart in today's media culture. Instead we are offered unlimited choice in our listening, unlimited as to what, where, when, and in what format, but alone, all alone, outside any cultural frame other than that of the marketplace.
Thus is the communal experience, the sharing, of music made a solitary enterprise; thus is the antidote for the poison of unwanted sound made an instrument of isolation and estrangement; thus are thoughts which once sounded only in the imagination drenched in a shower of tones; thus is music rendered impotent to the point of non-existence; thus is the colonization of silence complete.
Better take it off then.
Posted on 08/28/2007 8:17 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
A Castle In Carinthia
Jorg Haider is akin to, but worse than Le Pen. He is one of those Austrians who drove the late Thomas Bernhard to maddened distraction, the kind who claim that Austrians were the "first victims" of Hitler (forgetting those cheering crowds, that delight at Anschluss), and who exhibits every sign of antisemitism except, perhaps, that exhibited by the BBC World Service and The Guardian and Robert Fisk -- that is, not quite so systematically vicious when it comes to the state of Israel.
Haider, by the way, owes his considerable wealth to a fluke. in 1938, someone fleeing Austria had to give up his castle in Carinthia (it's the title of an old book: "A Castle in Carinthia"), selling it , out of desperation, for a song to Jorg Haider's uncle, who then left that bit of booty, when he died, to his nice heel-clicking nephew. Many fortunes in Europe were made that way. Why, the book and antiques trade in Austria and Germany has been living off such goods -- see the sale of Kafka's library, which he left to his sisters who were murdered in Nazi death camps, and ask just how that library came into the possession or this or that antikvariat or auction house, and multiply that by tens of thousands of examples. Oh, there was money to be made, and there still is.
When Kurt Waldheim, the late Secretary-General of the U.N. and an unpunished Nazi war criminal, was under siege (stoutly defended by, among others, his own son, "Gerhard Waldheim, Ph.D.,") Haider was among the many Austrians who rallied to his defense.
Let's review the war career of the man he rallied to Waldheim was present during the round-up of Salonika's Jews, who were forced to stand for hours and hours, absolutely motionless, under the sun of the city's main square, while all around them the Nazi soldiers, and especially their wives (who had been allowed to accompany them to Greece), watched and jeered, until those Jews who had not died were sent off to the death camps; Waldheim took part in what was called "Operation Kozara," whose tens of thousands of victims were mostly unarmed civilians, Serbs and some Jews, and he even won a Nazi medal for his performance in that operation; at the war's end, Waldheim was an intelligence officer serving in a small unit that was later held guilty of war crimes but he escaped detection as a member of that unit. And later, when the photographs of him in his Nazi uniform set off the investigation that led to the outcry that led to the...that led to nothing, in the end, did it? he, Waldheim insisted that it wasn't him, or it was he but he was never there, or there, or there, or at least not when people claimed he was, and for at least one of those episodes he absurdly maintained that he had been back home in Vienna, studying or taking an exam. He claimed; they all claim.
Haider is awful, and in ways that are not the usual ways, that even when he has done something that may be right, it cannot be held up for admiration or approval, as in this case. The real right-wing, which must include all defenders or apologists for Nazis, or for other defenders or apologists of the Nazis, cannot be tolerated. Besides, these are exactly the kind of people who, when it looks like the Neu Ordnung of Islam is winning, will quickly go over to the other side, just the way so many Nazis became dutiful and loyal servants of the Soviet Empire in Eastern Europe.
Ordinarily one has to be careful and sparing about the use of "right-wing" and "far right-wing" because these terms are used, by The Guardian (and the inimitable Robert Fisk in The Independent) , to blacken the name of so many who have given no signs of being "far-right" but only signs of recognizing the menace of the Muslim presence in the tolerant, advanced, and so-far helpless-to-resist countries of Western Europe. So we found that charming and articulate Pim Fortuyn, "libertin et egoiste," and the uncowed unlibertine and conservative Geert Wilders, both described as "right-wing." No doubt Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been described, the grateful child of Spinoza's Dutch Enlightenment, as "right-wing." Whole communities, such as the Maronites of Lebanon, fighting for their lives during the PLO-imposed civil war in Lebanon, were demonized in the Western press as "right-wing." It was Eugene Ionesco who noted thirty years ago, that the phrase "right-wing Christians [of Lebanon]" was always employed by "the newspaper that everyone reads" -- i.e., Le Monde -- to describe not plutocrats, but Christian villagers, farmers, small merchants, and he wondered what could conceivably make them "right-wing" except their desire to stay alive and not suffer the fate of the Christian women and children disembowelled by Muslims at Damur and other cities.
Today the phrase "right-wing" is systematically placed before the name of any person or group or journal or website that sturdily tells the truth about Jihad and Islam. Many called "right-wing" or "far right-wing" may merely be victims of a campaign to undo them in the public's mind before they can be listened to, and judged on their merits, by what they actually say and do But Jorg Haider is not one of them. By what he has, over the past few decades, said and done, he does deserve the epithet "far-right" so that, even when he does something that is correct, he should not be noticed, and passed over in silence. One can be sure that Muslims will be delighted to pretend that they are outraged by this act by what they will call a "neo-Nazi," though they and Jorg Haider, in many respects, should get along with each other very well.
So there it is. He supports the right legislation -- the baninng of futther building of mosques and minrets, and no doubt his support will be cleverly used by Musims everywhere to undercut such measures, supported by much better people. And he's also a far-right-wing swine, and if you accidentally stepped into his galère to be ferried around the lake, get out of that boat at once, and take another.
What more is there to say?
Posted on 08/28/2007 9:12 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
If You Have To Ask...
Former Islamist Abdullah Gul has been elected president of Turkey following a contest that has split the nation and drawn opposition from the army. --from this news item
But he studied in the West. He knows English. So how can he be bad or mad or dangerous to know, or at least to vote for? I just endured something of the sort from the BBC World Service, being true to itself. Those Turkish "secularists" are depicted, in ways little and big, as prone to hysteria. Besides what's wrong with Islam, and more Islam, if that's what a majority of those Muslims in Turkey want?
If you have to ask "what's wrong with Islam," then you certainly can't afford it.
Posted on 08/28/2007 10:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Refuse To Privilege One Discourse Over Another
One more thing. Those "language police" you write about -- I trust you didn't have me, or my mother, or Jacques Barzun, in mind, as part of the linguistic mutawwa to which you devote such attention, did you? I just want to be clear on that, before I bother to compose another reply, this one to your previous exercise in sweet-reasonableness and new-found admiration for Nabokov.
In the meantime, I will be happy to read your in-depth study of language change, and I promise not to privilege any particular discourse over another or to be judgmental. You wouldn't have it any other way.
No, I'm not about to pass judgment on that kind of thing, now that I have been repeatedly chastened by you and chidden by God. And had Jacques Barzun, or Vladimir Nabokov, or my mother, if they had only realized that the severe purity of their unrivalled Sprachgefuhl made them unwitting recruits to the "language police," wold have certainly changed their ways and their attitude toward what they apparently foolishly regarded (and my mother, and possibly Barzun at 97, still regard) as unacceptable usages or neologisms to be quickly red-penciled, and always shunned. Now it is true that Nabokov, as part of a distant joke to trap some of his critics, once submitted poems under the pseudonym "Shishkov," but that was not a tribute to the linguistically reactionary Admiral who back around 1820 founded the society of "Lovers of the Russian Word" (those were the days of the "Aglitskij Klub")in order to keep Russian "pure" and free of foreign words and turns of phrase, especially those gallicisms brought by all those French-language teachers and dancing-masters who escaped from Revolutionary France), with that society then leading to the counter-founding of literary Arzamas, and that in turn to the founding of the politico-cultural Green Lamp -- and this was in the days when you didn't have to join clubs in order to swell your resume in order to get into the College Of Your Choice.
I get it. I get your message. I'm going to go with the program. Panta Rei. You never step into the same river twice. Let it go, let it flow. Amarantha, sweet and fair, ah braid no more thy shining hair. But as thy glittering hand or eye, round about thee let it fly. Let those nouns and verbs and adjectives fly. Go fly that kite, high or low as you wish, or high and then low, and don't ever comment on the kite-flying of others. Language is a natural phenomenon, just like the wind; it bloweth where it listeth. Describe, but never prescribe. Do not judge, lest ye be judged. Don't fight this. Gracefully accept it. Allow everyone his own idiolect. Even if you think, o'erweeningly, that someone by your lights may be conceivably corrigible, allow them to remain as they wish to remain -- utterly incorrigible.
Right. That in-depth study. That refusal to privilege one discourse over another. It'll be graduate school redux, but this time I'll be teaching myself. And that study will give me a much-needed quantum leap in my understanding of language and what to do with words. My knowledge will grow exponentially. I'll be able to recognize paradigms and parameters. I'll avoid worse-case scenarios. It'll be able .... well, first I think I need to take a hiatus. Everybody is taking a hiatus, or is already in hiatus, these days. Have you noticed?
Posted on 08/28/2007 11:52 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Discourse. Privilege. Refuse.
I have never said, in my posts here, or in my article (not "in-depth", but very much to the point) that anything goes. I can be as pedantic as the next old codger, as you know. My argument is that pedantry should be used with caution - pride comes before a fall - and with some historical perspective, and that we should be aware that our judgement is not absolute and should not be set in stone.
So why is a verb "google" acceptable and a verb "reference" deplorable? And why do you say "realise" in its modern sense where once people - some as clever as you - deplored it?
Still repeating the same old question - still no answer.
Well, since we're getting Biblical, if you don't watch those anacolutha - and that's just for starters - I'll start talking about motes and beams.
Posted on 08/28/2007 11:57 AM by Mary Jackson
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Homo Pollex Purpureus var. Mes.
Purple-thumbed, Robert. It's my adjective, and I'm sticking to it. Homo pollex purpureus. Purple-thumbed man. Nothing to do with rosy-fingered Dawn. Just as the bumbling policymakers in this Administration (and those of their critics who mirror-image them in wilful ignorance of Islam) remind us not of Homer, but rather of Homer Simpson.
Meanwhile, there are all kinds of wily Odysseusses out there, unentangled by any Circe, unentranced by any Sirens, unhindered by any Polyphemus, who are willing -- who are eager -- to work. Some of us, by god, need the money, and saving the world is a good gig, isn't it? I'm still waiting by the phone. I could have saved the country something like $700 billion of the $880 billion now spent or committed in Tarbaby Iraq. Okay, mail those offers in today -- and I mean it. Consultancies, board membershps, humble sinecures also welcome,in order to buy time, in order to buy space.
Homo pollex purpureus is not only the proper taxonomic Latin for those Shia voters in that famous election about which the sentimentalist and confused Bush continues to make so much, because he understands so little, about both Islam and about Iraq. And it lends itself to further use. For now, as the Americans seem to be encouraging their "Sunni allies" in Anbar Province, and attempting to force greater Shi'a concessions to the Sunnis of Iraq, and now attacking Shi'a groups right in Baghdad, many examples of that same Shi'a voter, Homo pollex purpureus var. Mes., can be seen giving the finger to the American soldiers. No, not that finger. I mean the thumb, in the downward dooming Roman manner: Pollice verso.
Posted on 08/28/2007 2:56 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Why Greenblatt Calls "Il Cortegiano" A "Behavior Manual"
From the Stanford University Press website, this discussion of a study by Harry Berger,Jr., with particular attention to "sprezzatura":
"The Absence of Grace is a study of male fantasy, representation anxiety, and narratorial authority in two sixteenth-century books, Baldassare Castiglione’s Il libro del Cortegiano (1528) and Giovanni Della Casa’s Galateo (1558). The interpretive method is a form of close reading the author describes as reconstructed old New Criticism, that is, close reading conditioned by an interest in and analysis of the historical changes reflected in the text. The book focuses on the way the Courtier and Galateo cope with and represent the interaction between changes of elite culture and the changing construction of masculine identity in early modern Europe. More specifically, it connects questions of male fantasy and masculine identity to questions about the authority and reliability of narrators, and shows how these questions surface in narratorial attitudes toward socioeconomic rank or class, political power, and gender.
The book is in three parts. Part One examines a distinction and correlation the Courtier establishes between two key terms, (1) sprezzatura, defined as a behavioral skill intended to simulate the attributes of (2) grazia, understood as the grace and privileges of noble birth. Because sprezzatura is negatively conceptualized as the absence of grace it generates anxiety and suspicion in performers and observers alike. In order to suggest how the binary opposition between these terms affected the discourse of manners, the author singles out the titular episode of Galateo, an anecdote about table manners, which he reads closely and then sets in its historical perspective. Part Two takes up the question of sprezzatura in the gender debate that develops in Book 3 of the Courtier, and Part Three explores in detail the characterization of the two narrators in the Courtier and Galateo, who are represented as unreliable and an object of parody or critique."
Posted on 08/28/2007 4:38 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Put That Man In A Skinner Box. The Girl Too.
I'll tell you why. Because I say so, that's why.
Now I'll give you another reason.
"Google" the verb naturally arises from the existence of a search engine that has come to dominate, even overwhelm all others in the collective consciousness. In the same way, we can "xerox" something, and we still do, many of us, despite an early attempt by the Xerox Corporation, a strange opposition in my opinion, and a hopeless one, to prevent "xerox" as a verb meaning "to copy on one of those newfangled copying machines" that were in this country first manufactured by the Xerox Corporation, and helped make Sol Linowitz an ambassador and, of course, an Expert on how to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But "to reference" does not naturally arise, is not almost irresistible. Far from filling a felt need, it gets in the way of already-existing words that fit the bill, and as the original thread, in which I sweetly did not admonish you, but merely repeated the phrase with a quizzical ? at the end, giving you the chance to quietly, even silently, see the light, and your reply, with that interrogative "?" showed, damningly in my book, that you weren't even aware of the objection that not just I, but many people have, to your use of that verb "to reference." You were genuinely surprised; you had no idea. And then, instead of entertaining that idea, you fought reflexively against it -- just as, long ago, you who now present yourself as a champion of linguistic freedom against the constrainers fought against my use of "pied" (and in your final conceding remarks, pretended that all along you were fine with the use of what you deemed to be "archaic" terms - whereas I, the supposed fuddy-duddy and brevetted colonel in the language police, don't even recognize "archaic" or "dialect" as terms that ought to give one pause, if the word fits, and besides, as I demonstrated, "pied" occurs in many ways other than as an epithet for animals, or in the fixed phrase that you adduced, "Pied Piper"). "To reference" is ambiguous; for god's sake go back and read the intelligent comment by the on-line commentator who responds sympathetically to the English teacher who complains (I think the blog is from March of this year) about the barbarism "to reference." I reference this email. I reference your reference. What have I just done with that email? With your book?
And for that matter, what do you think of the academically modish verb “to privilege”? Do you use it? Do you like it? Do you ever feel the desire to mock the use of that verb by others? Would you dare to judge those who used that verb unthinkingly ? Would you dare to suggest that the verb is completely unnecessary, and merely a waste-product of the cult of Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, Baudrillard, and that it will soon be leaving us, because enough people have attended graduate school themselves to be able to mock that word, and much of the professional study of literature as it is currently conducted, and by whom? What would you say if I said that “to google” is fine, and “to Xerox” is fine, but “to reference” is not, because it is ambiguous and mucks up the use of the phrases it apparently is attempting to replace, and that “to privilege” is not fine at all, not least because there is a perfectly good verb – “to favor” – that does whatever “to privilege” thinks it is doing, but does it better.
I don’t think that cult will disappear entirely. But that other Cult, the Cargo Cult of Academic Life outside the hard sciences, the one in which the natives dance around in certain prescribed ways and then the Big Birds, the Department, the University, the lady-bountiful Foundations – rain down those grants and fellowships and one damn sabbatical after another, and those publishing advances, and State-Department-supported lecture tours, and then there are, simultaneously, those ever-lighter, disappearing teaching loads, now down at some of the tip-top “world-class” universities to four or five hours a week, some of those hours taken by Teaching Fellows, and then that hour of required, optimistically-named “Office Hours,” and that leaves all kinds of time to get into all kinds of mischief, or to do nothing at all, or type-writing “Will in the World” (do take a look at “Stephen Greenblatt: An Introduction,” at this website). But the students, ever-more ill-prepared, ever-more in need of teachers who are learned but convey that learning lightly and with allure, can’t find what they want in the professional students professionally studying literature, and coming to realize that that study has become over-professionalized, and is based on deliberately avoiding the obvious: that more and more students have less and less familiarity with words, how to read and write, much less how to write well, and read well, and this inexorable world-historical development is not being reversed or remedied by colleges and universities, but made worse by the selfishness and narrowness of the too-professional study by those whose main interest is their “scholarship” (go ahead, take a look at the latest papers being called for, and then being delivered, by the MLA, if you can stand it) in reducing those “contact hours” still further, unless a special situation – say, an unusually good-looking and vulnerable-to-those-wily-academic-charms female or even male student, depending – requires not fewer but even more of those “contact hours.” Or perhaps the contact will be with one of the carefully-chosen Teaching Fellows, with whom the senior professor must meet, once a week or biweekly, in order to give a little direction on grading those papers and exams which that senior professor no longer has to bother with, in the brand-new world of the brand-new “world-class” university.
What about taste? What about intelligence? Finesse? A sense of humor? Sprezzatura? The widow of Professor Rupert Emerson, Alla Emerson, née Grosjean, was a Russian, and attended some of Nabokov’s lectures at Harvard (Humanities 2, held in Sander’s Theatre in 1952), and described him to as a “man of great charm,” “chelovek bol’shogo sharma,” meant admiringly not condescendingly – and do you doubt it? -- with that great charm put to use to get the students to pay attention to words, to think about how good writers could do things with those words, and what techniques they employed, and how to think. Yuriy Lotman was apparently such a teacher at Tartu. Others one has known, or studied under, or heard about – such as William Alfred at Harvard, or John Finley (who taught the other semester of that 1952 edition of Humanities 2), or Theodore Baird at Harvard, or Randall Jarrell in Greensboro, North Carolina, or Joseph Brodsky as the Five-Colleges Professor (see his discussion in a class round and about a poem by Frost, published in “In A Room And A Half”)—would very likely not, nowadays, not for one minute, be considered for jobs with tenure in the current climate, with the current competition, and the current reigning gods. And you need never have heard of these names, for you can supply your own names, from your own experience, in your own university in your own country. And then you have to ask yourself what you would most like your own children to be taught in literature classes, and what you would most desire in such a teacher, and then ask yourself if you have reason to believe that the hyper-professionalization of the study of literature makes it likely that such people will enter, much less come out unscathed from, graduate study, and then go on to find reasonable jobs, that is not those now-necessary but insulting jobs to teach remedial English to those who are disgracefully permitted to enter schools that pretend to be colleges, pretend to be universities, and able as well to rise and reach the safe harbor of tenure. Likely? Or now practically unheard-of, and usually explained by some special situation, some useful connection, or some wiliness grading into unpleasant careerism, on the part of the few who do manage to make it without a passion for words, and for teaching about the ways in which they can be, and have been, arranged on the page.
The latest issue of “Harvard Monthly” contains an essay by Professor Stephen Greenblatt on the writing of...Stephen Greenblatt. One must assume that, knowing that this would appear in the Harvard Monthly, and be subject to the strictest scrutiny, by important gift-giving alumni and not merely colleagues,that Greenblatt took great care with each word. After all, the study of those who took great care with words is what Stephen Greenblatt does at Harvard; it is what he has done for his entire life. So how is he doing? Well, early on he mentions the word “sprezzatura” as a quality he admires in others – the nonchalance, the easy display of mastery of a subject, the wearing-learning-lightly quality, that he attributes to someone for whom he wrote a Festschrift article. He explains that the word “sprezzatura” is taken from Castiglione’s “Il Cortegiano” or “The Book of the Courtier.” Then Professor Stephen Greenblatt, the celebrated “New Historicist” who studies literature in its historical context, by putting his ear carefully to the ground in order to pick up the ambient hum of history (for Shakespeare, that would include the voyages and explorations to the New World, and the practices of the Elizabethan stage, and Dr. Lopez, and what Shakespeare learned as a schoolboy in the King Edward VI grammar-school in Stratford, and how Catholics were treated in England in the period roughly between 1560 and 1620, and what the groundlings paid, and what was going on in the Liberty of the Clink with foreigners and bear-baiting, and what, way beyond Tillyard, was the Elizabethan world-picture, and how men thought of women, and women thought of men, and how Queen Elizabeth was regarded, and what the Ridolfi Plot tells us about the view of Catholics, and what Heming and Condell had for breakfast the day after they appeared in Play X, and what sweet airs by Campion sounded like, and whether Shakespeare ever told the Rosary) and then puts that ambient hum right back in the past where it belongs so that his students may study it, and study Shakespeare, in situ (both in time and space), shows that he has a very tin ear indeed.
For Greenblatt comically describes “Il Cortegiano” as a “behavior manual.” But it is always described, rather, as a Courtesy-Book. Even if Greenblatt couldn’t allow himself to use the word “courtesy-book” he might have mentioned such possibilities as a manual of conduct, or made an appeal to etiquette-books, but being careful to de-Emily-Post them. To call “Il Cortegiano” a “behavior manual” smacks of rats running around in the Department of Psychology and proves that that ear that new-historicistically-inclined Greenblatt puts to the ground is a tin ear indeed, (even Walter Kaiser got that right). Baldassare Castiglione’s “behavior manual.” Jesus H. Christ. Put that man in a Skinner Box, and lock him up, and throw away the key.
So it comes down to in life what it comes down to at this website in the recent back-and-forth about the hideous verb “to reference,” which gave rise to the discussion of why, as I insist, all kinds of other verbs become hideous when used with certain direct objects but not others (“to grow a plant” is sublime,”to grow a business” is ridiculous), or why “to privilege” is unacceptable and its use telling, as telling as would be the use of the verb “to impact.” Perhaps my groggy sparring partner does not realize just how groggy she is, but I do, and while she staggers about I suggest that she avoid such phrases as “your replies to me at this website have not impacted me the way you think they have, mister hoity-toity” or did I make an initial mistake, as George Bush might say, of misoverestimating her in the first place?
Meanwhile, here’s a useful exercise for everyone. I think it should be a favorite at certain campus parties. Fun for young and old, or perhaps especially for the young, the undergraduates, and the old, the retired professors who can look back in horror at what has become of their department of literature or, in some cases, of history. First, distribute those red pencils to all participants. Now google (third-person imperative, both singular and plural, of the verb “to google” which is derived from the noun “google” which in turn comes the collected works, or whatever works are on-line, of likely candidates for that red pencil exercise. Go ahead: see Homi Bhabha, passim; see Gayatri Chakravarty Spivak, passim, see Cornel West, passim, see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, passim, see Judith Butler, passim, see, see, see. Then start using that red pencil. Start figuring out what words and phrases, though in widespread use, are to be deplored, and excised, and plain English put in their place, and then put that English in). Now the dim deities of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Baudrillard, and so on, who have been the dim but damaging deities of a fashionable but luckily transient cult, are, or should be, on their way out. The cattle to be sacrificed have run away and are mooing in safety. The fanes are under attack, and the tenured high priests are being mocked by the populace as they are dragged out.
So what cult should succeed this disastrous cult? How about going back to the cult we once had – the cult of literature. What about, for example, from France taking as our imported deities not Derrida, Foucault, etc. but rather, gods named Marot, Du Bellay, La Fontaine, Chateaubriand, Hugo, and Proust. Or if you don’t like those names, offer your own. Or if you think those gods must be up-to-date, twentieth-century gods, because the past has so very little to tell us, because it is so damn far away, then let’s make up another list of French imports which might be distributed among faculties of literature who need a little inspiration from France and a hint of the parley-voo. What about those who wouldn’t dream of being deities in any Pantheon in any replacement-cult, but wouldn’t mind being considered to be intelligent men who applied their intelligence in a que scais-je way, with the skeptic’s raised eyebrow as their facial tic. Why not bring into fashion Alain, Henri Focillon, Raymond Aron, Pierre Rosenberg, Jacques Ellul, Raymond Queneau, Yves Bonnefoy, Georges Perec, Alain Finkielkraut?
At some point I will have a go at responding to the ostentatious display of sweet-reason-at-the-ready, in a posting yesterday. But just a little-go, and not a Little-Go, for that might turn me into an Apostle and I'd have a hard time of it, not believing in God and all. Some of those remarks ignore or gloss over the ways in which you condescendingly presumed to explain the facts of linguistic life to me, someone whom it has become clear, you see as someone who just won’t listen, or won’t read article, is apparently incapable of understanding. And then there is that business that you added about never having had any preconceptions about Nabokov, which doesn't jibe with my memory of how, on February 22 2007, without knowing his work at all, but determined to stand by your man George Orwell, coute que coute, you chose to dismiss his bodkin-sharp criticism of Orwell’s “publicistic fiction.”
One more thing. You wrote "[m]y argument is that pedantry should be used with caution - pride comes before a fall - and with some historical perspective." It is not "pedantry" to deplore the use of the verb "to reference" or the use of the verbal phrase "to grow a business" or the use of the verb "to privilege." You are misusing the word "pedantry." This is taste, involving a thousand considerations, all instantaneously and simultaneously being taken into account.
Posted on 08/28/2007 4:26 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Paper defends Muhammad dog cartoon
Leading figures in Sweden's media industry have backed newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, which has been criticised by Iran for publishing a cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a dog. The paper itself has meanwhile defended its decision to publish.
PeO Wärring, deputy chairman of the Swedish Newspaper Publishers' Association (TU), said that regardless of what people thought of the cartoons it was important that they could be published and debated.
"The strength of freedom of expression lies in the fact that it tolerates - and protects - not only comfortable, harmless and uncontroversial opinions, but also those that are tasteless, controversial, upsetting and offensive," he said in a statement.
The cartoon in question, by Swedish artist Lars Vilks, depicted Muhammad's head on the body of a dog. Apparently he is depicted in the style of a roundabout dog, a current enthusiasm in Sweden about which more here. Vilks had found it hard to find a gallery willing to display his work, and Nerikes Allehanda published the cartoon alongside an editorial on freedom of expression.
A Swedish diplomat was summoned to the Iranian Foreign Ministry on Monday to receive a protest from the Iranian government about the cartoon.
Wärring said that TU fully supported Nerikes Allehanda, an Örebro-based regional paper. He also called on the Swedish government to stand up for Sweden's tradition of press freedom, religious freedom and other forms of free expression.
Nerikes Allehanda on Tuesday published an English translation of the editorial by leader-writer Lars Ströman. In it, he argues that while a liberal society "must be able to defend Muslims' right to freedom of religion and their right to build mosques," it must also allow the ridicule of "Islam's foremost symbols - just like all other religions' symbols."
Ströman told The Local on Tuesday that Nerikes Allehanda had decided to publish after a number of other papers had printed Vilks' cartoons. "I was a bit surprised by the reaction, as we were the last of a number of publications to publish the picture. I also think that the context in which we published should make it more acceptable for Muslims." He said he thought it strange that the Iranian government contacted the Swedish government about the matter, saying it could just as easily have contacted the newspaper itself. The article, he said, points out "that the right to caricature a religion and the right to practice a religion are connected."
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that "Zionists" were behind a cartoon in Swedish newspaper Nerikes Allehanda, which depicted the head of the Prophet Mohammed on a dog's body. The drawing sparked an official protest by Tehran to Stockholm.
"They do not want the Swedish government to be a friend of other nations. I strongly believe they are behind it (the cartoon). They thrive on conflict and war," he said. The claim came during a tirade against Israel, in which Ahmadineja accused Zionists of sowing conflict, publishing offensive cartoons and "lying about being Jewish." "Zionists are people without any religion," Ahmadinejad, who has repeatedly predicted that Israel is doomed to disappear, told a news conference in Tehran. "They are lying about being Jewish because religion means brotherhood, friendship and respecting other divine religions," he said. "They are an organised minority who have infiltrated the world. They are not even a 10,000-strong organisation," he said.
Posted on 08/28/2007 5:04 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
Islamic group incites war on West
More on Hizb ut-Tahrir, being their AGM in Copenhagen recently, from the Copenhagen Post.
Sunday’s national meeting for the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir included incitement to destroy Israel and a re-establishment of the Caliphate Islamic empire
Controversial Islamic organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir celebrated its annual congress in Copenhagen on Sunday with words of anger against Jews and the West, reported daily free newspaper Nyhedsavisen.
Nearly 600 Muslims attended the meeting at KB Hallen in the city’s enclave of Frederiksberg, where religious leaders spoke of the rise of an new Islamic Caliphate and the fall of Western powers.
‘The Caliphate can arrive in an hour, two months or two years from now,’ said Fadi Abdullatif, Hizb ut-Tahrir’s president, who owns a previous conviction for publicly urging his members to kill Jews. ‘We are working for a Caliphate from Morocco to Indonesia and from Khazakhstan to Saudi Arabia.’
The union of nations under a common Islamic law could be created by force if necessary, according to another of Hizb ut Tahrir’s leaders, Atta bin Khalil. Khalil also told those in attendance to ‘continue their state of war against the Jewish nation’.
A third speaker at the congress, Emir Shamil, said that ‘heads may roll’ in the recreation of the Caliphate.
Many politicians have unsuccessfully attempted to dissolve the organisation in the past, but Sunday’s congress may have been the straw that breaks its back. Nearly all political parties are in agreement that some type of action must be taken against the organisation.
‘The sooner the organisation is broken up the better,’ said Tom Behnke, the Conservative judicial spokesperson.
The Social Liberals cultural spokesperson, Simon Emil Ammitzbøll, is now requesting the Justice Ministry to conduct surveillance on Hizb ut-Tahrir, saying the congress proved that it is not merely individual members inciting racial and religious violence but the organisation as a whole.
Posted on 08/28/2007 5:38 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Tuesday, 28 August 2007
At The OK Corral in Karbala
BAGHDAD - Fighting erupted Tuesday between rival Shiite militias in Karbala during a religious festival, claiming 51 lives and forcing officials to abort the celebrations and order up to 1 million Shiite pilgrims to leave the southern city. --from this news item
Better pack some heat the next time you visit the Vatican.
Posted on 08/28/2007 7:37 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald