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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:16 pm 
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as for my would-be-poll: i would end up voting for dostoevsky but it would be extremely close. i'd guess that few people have read as much or more tolstoy than they have dostoevsky (in our community)


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:18 pm 
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pnoom wrote:
Jane Austen dull

:cop:


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:22 pm 
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I guess there's something to be said about describing social relationships but I care about 19th century upper class british social life in all its triviality as little as I care about stereotypical dumb blonde gossiping, no matter how pretty and verbose the language.

Emma is a collection of characters I can't sympathize with doing things I don't care about. So, dull.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:23 pm 
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and dr00, modernism > austen


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:30 pm 
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Wrong is very rapidly accumulating in this thread.

The social life and situations aren't the point of Austen's novels, they are just an excuse for the forms of knowing created through the tones and plays of wit of the language and subtle digressive insights. Do you dislike Hamlet because you're not a Danish prince?

I guess there's an argument to be made that certain modernist poets are superior to Austen.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:36 pm 
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Quote:
The social life and situations aren't the point of Austen's novels, they are just an excuse for the forms of knowing created through the tones and plays of wit of the language and subtle digressive insights.

Explain.

Quote:
Do you dislike Hamlet because you're not a Danish prince?

Straw man.

Go post about why you dislike Derrida in the lit theory thread because I want to read that post of yours.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:50 pm 
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The real "substance" of Jane Austen's novels, to me, isn't to be found in the plots, the morals, the lessons, the ultimate cathartic resolutions. Those are just to keep people reading, just like the bloodshed in Shakespeare was just to keep common butts in seats. If the plots and what these plays seem to be about were what they really were about then they would be no different from Harlequin romances or adventure comic books. The plots (like the characters) are just literary devices to place a stylistic limitation on Austen's witty play with language, which is the real star of the show in how it creates new forms of knowing purely through style. The style is not the messenger, the style is the message. The medium is the message, Marshall McLuhan, etc. This, to me, is why we need literature for a reason different than why we need, say, philosophy. The form of the sentences themselves, on a word by word basis, carve out a form that we can use to understand aspects of our lives that we otherwise couldn't. It's all about tone. Tone, tone, tone, tone, tone, and how it shifts like music. But it's not like music, because Austen's paintbrush are words which create more specific tonal variations than music can. Like music, it not really important for the way it challenges our intellectual ideas, but our powers of perception. It tests our perceptions by seeing if we can catch the subtle flickers of tone, and if we ride those energies, it makes us into better hearers and seers. It's like an exercise that also happens to be hilarious. That's as much as I can really say about it. It's important not to try to get to the "point" of the sentence or simply to get to the next event or dramatic irony. That's not what makes Austen exceptional. Any hack with a basic understanding of literary conventions can do that. With Austen you have to listen and hear rather than just read.

I can't get into Derrida tonight. I'll do it some day after my film professor has frustrated me with him.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 6:55 pm 
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Murp. I asked for explanation and I got a wordier, more fleshed out restatement. I'm still not sure what it means when you say that Austen's wordplay creates new forms of knowing. What's an example?

Although maybe what you're talking about is why my lit theory prof is using her to talk specifically about formalism.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:09 pm 
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What she does with building tone and reversing it and varying it is incredibly complex and an excerpt wouldn't do justice to what she does. I will admit right now that I can't quite "explain" what I'm talking about in writing (though I might be able to do it in person if we both had books in front of us; you would have to hear me because of the importance of tone to Austen's significance). All I can do with pure words is point you in a general direction and try to change the perspective and form of closeness with which you read the book. So: pay attention to the sounds of the words, the tones of the phrases, in relation to what the words themselves actually mean. Do these tones sit comfortably or confusingly with the pure denotation? How does the tone complicate the pure meaning? Those are the new forms by which we can understand. It creates tonal rather than intellectual forms. Learning how to pick up on this stuff (and to recognize its value) is a slow process. One day though I think you may overhear someone say something, and you will think: that (in tone) is so George Knightley. That's what I mean by new forms. The sum of all the tones accumulated vis a vis George Knightley in the novel will create a new form in your mind by which you can understand and process the world, because now you have attached these George Knightley tones to all of the tones accumulated by the characters Knightley has relations with. But Austen doesn't just create forms with characters, she creates form with sentences, paragraphs, chapters, novels. It's a hard thing to explain, but it's there.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:15 pm 
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Thank you, that is helpful. When I read Pride and Prejudice I will watch out for that, and if I see what you're talking about I will reread Emma with the same objective.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 7:17 pm 
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Also, from a more ground-level perspective, paying attention to tone makes her novels not just life-enriching, but incredibly hilarious. In that sense Pride & Prejudice is definitely the best starting place with Austen.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Tue Feb 01, 2011 10:42 pm 
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I'm in that position of knowing what Dreww is talking about but unable to really add to it because it's so fucking hard (one of the things I 100% with Ray Carney on is how Austen's subtlety of construction and form makes her damn near impossible to talk about in condensed terms). I just remember reading P&P and feeling those characters, feeling a part of their world despite the usual upper-class, stiff-upper-lip trappings that ran so much deeper than, say either Charlotte or Emily Brontë (I never read Anne, but she's like the Khloe Kardashian of Brontës anyway). It wasn't just about making a commentary: it feels real. I'm aiming to reread Austen this year because considering how much I loved her in high school, I bet I can find all kinds of new stuff now.


Anyway, I'm almost through with a reread of Blood Meridian, which I'm zipping through yet stopping upon to marvel at McCarthy. I agree with Harold Bloom's view that literature is too politicized, albeit with caveats (i.e. I hate Scarlet Letter because it exists only to be a commentary, but I also think it's natural to get into the politics and readings of a work), but I think his focus on aesthetic construction and ingenuity finds one of its purest proofs in this book. It isn't enough that Holden is easily the best/worst literary villain since Iago: it's how McCarthy sets him up, how he almost lets you think this man might be the moral center of the book despite his open falsity of "outing" the preacher at the start. He's educated, observational; you want him to be the figure of morality in the spiritual void of the book. Then he's slowly revealed as a monster until finally coming out as a man seeking to be lord of this world. Bloom rightly points out that, as much Gnostic and political suggestion abounds in the book, he can't be written off as Manifest Destiny incarnate, nor a demiurge. He's his own being, terrifying in his calm, dispassionate implacability.

And how the fuck does McCarthy pull off the sudden leaps into almost operatic omniscience? His prose-poetry speechifying on how a flame can carry something of man should get an eye-roll and a laugh, but he pulls it off every time.


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:19 am 
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I don't think Dreww likes Mccarthy, too bad =( hes one of my favorites, and i understand the constant comparisons to Faulkner


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:26 am 
I need to read that.

Ok, fuck this I'm all over the place stuff with what I want to read. I'm putting ten books on a list in order and those are what I'm reading. End of story. Absalom Absalom is now, Blood Meridian is next


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 Post subject: Re: Small Topics
PostPosted: Fri Feb 04, 2011 12:38 am 
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Finished Blood Meridian re-read, now going back through Huck Finn because my American Lit anthology has the full text of it and I don't want to buy my own copy until I can save up and get all the Twain volumes through Library of America. Fuck me, I forgot how hysterical this book was, and it's not been all that long since I've some Twain. 30 pages in (which, considering the size of the print and this massive size of the textbook, is worth probably 50 in the normal size novel) and I've had at least one laugh per page. It's magnificent.


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