[ilds] the longer response to Bruce

William Godshalk william.godshalk at gmail.com
Sat Jan 29 15:34:33 PST 2011

I do, I will. Actually I was rereading Middleton's *Black Book* last night.

On Sat, Jan 29, 2011 at 6:03 PM, Bruce Redwine
<bredwine1968 at earthlink.net>wrote:

> Bill,
> As I recall you were about to make provocative comparisons between
> Middleton's Blacke Booke and Durrell's.  Please do so.  I'm anxious to hear
> them.
> Bruce
> Sent from my iPhone
> On Jan 29, 2011, at 1:54 PM, William Godshalk <william.godshalk at gmail.com>
> wrote:
> James,
> I'm puzzled. What was I supposed to be doing -- comparing Middleton with
> Durrell? That's still on the back burner of my mind -- and if no one else
> does, I will in the next year write it up.
> Or were you thinking of something else? You keyboard faster than I read
> (and think).
> Bill
> On Fri, Jan 28, 2011 at 7:53 PM, James Gifford <<james.d.gifford at gmail.com>
> james.d.gifford at gmail.com> wrote:
>> Hi Bruce,
>> Here's a a more detailed response to your thoughtful response...  To let
>> others follow, I'll repeat your note that your comments are the numbered
>> ones.
>> >> Well put, Bruce. I think there have been ongoing worries about
>> >> "academic" and "lay" topics, and I for one don't think it's a real
>> >> issue.
>> >
>> > 1. I do.
>> >
>> >> Academics like to talk about academic issues, lay readers the
>> >> same, and then the vast majority vacillating in between.
>> >
>> > 2. The issue is not what people "like to talk" about, rather about what
>> > they're willing to hear. I like to think I'm open to everything and do
>> > not complain about someone else's hobby-horse, no matter how
>> > energetically expressed.
>> Perhaps I should clarify what I mean.  I don't think "lay" vs "academic"
>> are a necessary conflict -- we all wander between both realms, so I
>> consider it a disagreement based on misunderstandings rather than
>> inextricable differences.
>> I'll admit that there are things with which I disagree, but in my
>> moderator capacity, I wouldn't consider preventing any of them from
>> being said if they don't cross a boundary of taste or decorum in a
>> public forum.  In my participant capacity, I'll jump in and disagree!
>> >> The Australians, evidently, like to talk about wine...
>> >
>> > 3. And so do the French, Italians, and Americans. And so did Lawrence
>> > Durrell, who became the model for such talk about wine and its
>> > pleasures. For a view of Durrellians at the wine table, see p. 8 of the
>> > ILDS /Herald,/ 15 May 2010, and then read the captions to the photos.
>> I believe I've been seen consuming the waters of life on many an
>> occasion...  I just didn't want David to feel left out and perhaps
>> should have noted to joke overtly.  ;)
>> >> Regardless of our various and diverse interests, some of us will and
>> >> won't be interested in each others topics, but that's why the list is
>> an
>> >> open forum in which people can dabble as they wish. The variety of
>> >> interests is a good thing, not a bad, and lurkers are welcome too.
>> >> Folks are free to participate in whatever way suits them best.
>> >
>> > 4. A slightly disingenuous characterization. Seems to me the moderators
>> > are making too much effort to accommodate, as someone else put it, "the
>> > lowest common denominator." I enjoy all kinds of contributions and
>> > discussions. But all issues should be on the table, not simply those
>> > that put old LD in a good light and make him palpable to the masses. And
>> > if that means getting into the nitty-gritty of scholarship and literary
>> > analysis, as I believe Bill Godshalk was on the verge of doing, then
>> > let's hear it and let's discuss it. I find it very ironic that I, a
>> > non-academic, should be the one defending the Academy and its practices.
>> I think this is more a matter of balancing between dissemination and
>> keeping discussion growing...  As a moderator, that's always going to be
>> a tough call -- we've asked people to move discussions along or to
>> consider letting some disagreements lie, but I hope we've not prevented
>> open discourse.
>> It's probably a matter of self-censorship by academics when a feeling
>> emerges that folks aren't interested in the academic work -- by the same
>> token, if Bill's working that up into an article, he may have cut the
>> cord to the internet once he struck gold.  I've done that on a few
>> occasions to avoid spoiling the later surprise in print (or at least my
>> hubris imagines the "surprise" of a reader...).
>> The same thing goes in the other direction when "lay" readers feel shy
>> asking questions on commenting for fear of being "corrected" or not
>> fitting in.  I'd hope they'd jump into the fray -- I personally welcome
>> such participants, even if I don't have a lot to offer them.
>> >>> Nor do I see it as a cheering section for Lawrence
>> >>> Durrell's life and work.
>> >>
>> >> My academic hat tells me to say "cheering" is beside the point,
>> >
>> > 5. No. Entirely the point. See no. 4.
>> I think I see what you mean.  I don't agree, but I understand.  I'm
>> certainly not trying to stop anyone from bringing uncomfortable facts to
>> light -- I disagree with your personal interpretation of them, and to
>> some degree, we're just going to have to live with our disagreements
>> there since it's not likely we'll move forward by repeating them.
>> That said, you shouldn't feel like you can't give air to them.
>> Plagiarism, sexism, alcoholism, incest, and violence are probably the
>> points of contention, and I'd imagine we'll find a range of perspectives
>> on those here as ways of interpreting Durrell's works.  My hunch is that
>> we'd be in agreement on all of those issues but one: plagiarism.  As for
>> incest, I think it's an example of where biographical speculation leads
>> to false results, as Mary Hamer's book on the topic demonstrates.
>> An apologia for an author leads to no good and a blurred vision.
>> Durrell was certainly an alcoholic with sexist and violent parts of his
>> personality, though to some degree feminist and pacifist tendencies as
>> well.  We simply disagree on how to look at creative texts, and I deal
>> with plagiarism in my administrative capacity, for which no one has
>> accused me of being too easy...  I simply want to note that reasonable
>> disagreement is possible on that.  As for incest, I think accusations
>> against Durrell in that regard reflect a search for attention -- shock
>> journalism.  Hamer's an instance of how badly that can go.
>> >> but I suspect some would enjoy a cheer now and again (or the
>> >> opposite), and I
>> >> don't think they should be silenced. I just won't provide the pom poms.
>> >
>> > 6. As you're doing now, it would be nice to have the moderators
>> > occasionally provide reasoned opinions, in addition to quips and
>> > citations. Charles used to do this well. No longer, sadly.
>> Charles is a mere mortal, and I think his recent find is keeping on the
>> road quite a bit at present.  I'll do my best, such as it is...
>> >> I might also add, a good deal of answers are sent off-list, which I
>> >> believe has been the case for several recent academic queries.
>> >
>> > 7. Which is a very big mistake. Why aren't the answers to academic
>> > queries made public? I'd like to see them.
>> I mean things such as locations of books, tips for local resources,
>> etc...  I make a point of putting things on the list that have any
>> chance of being of public interest.
>> > 8. I praise the moderators for their time and effort. No irony here.
>> Shucks, Bruce, I'm blushing...  Charles, though, is the Boxer to our
>> animal farm.  I suspect I'm more of a stubborn mule.
>> > Or, perhaps I can stir the pot by going after Bruce's flagrantly dangled
>> > hook & bait: [that's me]
>> >
>> >> Like Chatwin and de Man, Durrell had a few
>> >> things to expunge or expiate. [Bruce]
>> >
>> > I might look sideways at Cleanth Brooks from time to time, but Bruce, I
>> > thought you had a good ol' New Criticism vein (or artery) running in
>> > you. Surely this falls foul of some kind of intentional fallacy or
>> > conversation with dead people. Barthes might ask about the reader too...
>> >
>> > 9. Name-dropping is not an argument, James. Bruce Chatwin and Paul de
>> > Man share similarities with Lawrence Durrell. Chatwin had a hard time
>> > distinguishing fact from fiction, and de Man covered up some sordid
>> > behavior. Both topics have been discussed on this List and in
>> > considerable detail.
>> I'll agree with this.  Chatwin had good reasons for failing to make that
>> distinction toward the end, and Durrell admitted repeatedly to mainly
>> living in his mind rather than the world outside.  Paul de Man had
>> rather darker things to cover up though...  I think that's where I
>> hesitate.  Durrell certainly had things to hide and a life of the
>> imagination, but the de Man approach would go back to the incest topic,
>> which I think is a red herring in Durrell's case.  He certainly was not
>> saint, but even without redeeming him, I'd not be as jaded as de Man's
>> Nazi ties would suggest.
>> Would a better comparison be Chatwin and Graham Greene or Iris Murdoch.
>>  Neither of the last two were saints, but neither had the same kind of
>> skeletons in the closet as de Man.  Perhaps a tibia or femur or two, but
>> not the legion de Man or Heidegger might command.
>> > Isn't some of the brilliance of LD's prose, and perhaps most of all the
>> > poetry, the fact that it is gorgeously ambiguous in the sense of Keats'
>> > Negative Capability?
>> >
>> > 10. Keats's "Negative Capability" is hard to understand.
>> I'm not trying to minimize Keats' complexities.  They're well known.
>> What I mean is that an easy bridge between author and text is always
>> going to be fraught with perils.  We can't have that brilliant
>> complexity *and* and easy path back to the author...  Much like Keats'
>> masks.
>> > Robert Duncan makes nice work of Durrell's
>> > ambiguous objects in Greek poems like "Carol on Corfu" in his "Ark for
>> > Lawrence Durrell," which strikes me as having a bit of the bite you're
>> > looking for without falling into the myopia of clear vision...
>> >
>> > 11. I'd like to learn more about "the myopia of clear vision."
>> Seeing something too clearly usually tells me I'm finding what I set out
>> to find rather than what's really there...  My dissertation looked at
>> instances of this in Durrell and Miller -- critics have often described
>> events in both authors' works that don't actually exist.  Sometimes the
>> gaps are so provocative that we fill them in and fail to notice where
>> the contents came from -- I try to keep myself humble in that area
>> (trust me, it's hard!  Hubris away!).  When I think I've finally
>> achieved a clear vision of something I begin to suspect that I'm being
>> myopic about the unresolvable ambiguities (Empson's 7th type) that are
>> invariably present.  My certainly blinds me to the rich uncertainties...
>> > If I think I've puzzled out what a poet really *meant*, then I second
>> guess
>> > myself and wonder if my certainty is blinding me to the gloriously
>> > ambiguous that doesn't actually have a non-readerly resolution.
>> >
>> > 12. Hard to discuss this without specifics [...] You're emphasizing
>> > readers over authors, as Barthes famously spoke of the "death of the
>> > author," along with the impossibility to recover authorial intentions,
>> > as Bill likes to stress. All this I largely disagree with, for the most
>> > part. I see a text as mainly under the control of its author — but not
>> > everything in it. Authors don't always know what they're doing. Frank
>> > Kermode makes this point well in "Secrets and Narrative Sequence"
>> (1980).
>> Precisely, and I suppose we're just going to disagree.  Much of it is a
>> matter of polemics and tendencies.  When I see a cheque, I don't imagine
>> the kind of death of the author that Barthes (who got royalties!)
>> suggests.  By the same token, when I see Darley I don't see Lawrence
>> Durrell.  I try to be very tentative when I talk of biographical
>> matters, often restricting myself to tying two texts together,
>> contextualizing sources or language, or trying to draw out an overlooked
>> interpretive possibility.  Otherwise, I tend to leave interpretive
>> matters to the reader rather than the writer.  The writer sold me the
>> book, and now I'll do with it just as I please...  ;)
>> But there are reasonable reasons to disagree here, perhaps most often to
>> keep each other to reasonable degrees of difference.
>> > I'm also curious why "expiate" rather than "express" or "deal with"? Is
>> > there a Catholic vein too, my eucharistic friend?
>> >
>> > 13. There is a "Catholic vein" to my thought, being a lapsed Catholic.
>> > If you accept the de Man analogy (which I expect you do not), then
>> > "expiate" is exactly the right word.
>> Don't worry, Bruce, they seem get people back in the end...  Hence
>> "lapsed" rather than "lost"... ;)
>> You're right, I don't accept the de Man analogy, but I do see what you
>> mean by expiate.  Is there a reasonable middle ground between de Man and
>> Mother Theresa?  I'm sure Durrell had things to expiate, but I don't
>> think they were on the same order as de Man.  Does that make sense?
>> Moreover, I'm not always convinced that retracing that expiation will
>> lead to the author, à la Eliot's catalyst in "Tradition and the
>> Individual Talent," though he was trying to expiate some sins and hide
>> some skeletons as well...
>> Best,
>> James
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