[ilds] the longer response to Bruce

James Gifford james.d.gifford at gmail.com
Sat Jan 29 16:16:36 PST 2011


Hey Bill,

I'm looking forward to reading your article on the matter!  Don't look 
at me to write it up>;;)

Alas, I sometimes keyboard faster than I can think too...

Best,
Jamie

On 29/01/11 1:54 PM, William Godshalk 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 <mailto: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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