[ilds] Mr. Esposito

Panaiotis Gerontopoulos pan.gero at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 28 11:45:13 PDT 2016


Whack, pow, thud. bang! Uurrah for teachers and critics, beware of and shame to irriverent grocers and pub-tenants dealing with high literature seated on their toilets where they belong. We heard all this, in this List in the few past days. The fact is that nobody put in question the need to have teachers and critics, provided they base their teachings and critiques on the contents of a text and on what we know about the circumstances under which the author wrote it. In other words in plain words, understandable by the "common reader"and the next door grocer. They are not so stupid after all. What is to avoid is to speak about simple texts using high flown words and post-modern lingos neglecting solidly established facts.
Good examples of the accomplisments of this school of thaught are the various readings of Bitter Lemons as a marvellous travel book, taking  in serious the first words written in 1957 by Lawrence Durrell in his preface:
           This is not a political book, but simply a somewhat impressionistic study of the moods and atmpspheres of Cyprus during the                 troubled years years 1953-1956.
In 1957, the atmosphere in Cyprus continued to be troubled and in December, Bitter Lemons won for its author the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize. The Queen Mother told him during the ad hoc ceremony held at Kensington Palace that she had enjoyed the book and Lord Salisbury, top exponent of the ultra-conservative Tories asking for tougher measures against the revolted Cyps, disected the book with a tender little speech (Mac Niven, A Biography, 464). 
Actually, Bitter Lemons was an awkward attempt to white-wash the blind British policies in dealing with the decades-old demand of Greeks (including Cavafy) and Creek-Cypriots for self determination. Durrell was not a policy-maker and he is not to blame if he lied for his country but make of him a Philhellene is quite another story. Nonetheless, at the insistance of Dr. Spyros Georgas, "physician of elderly British aristocrats and retired civil servants who moved in the island from India in the 50s and 60s" and Richard Price [Pine?] director of the Durrell School of Corfu, the Bosketto Park of Corfu was renamed in 2006 Durrell Park (Helena Smith, the Guardian, September 22, 2006). In addition, in 2008, the Municipality of Corfu erected in the Park two brass-busts to honor furtherly the two authors and philhellene brothers.
I believe that if Bitter Lemons were read with the pragmatism of a grocer, taking into account Durrell's letter to the Governor of Cyprus on February 17 1954, published by Barbara Papastavrou-Koroniotaki this embarassing situation could have been avoided and if only they could both brothers would agree. 
Panayotis Gerontopoulos
From: dtart at bigpond.net.au
Date: Sun, 27 Mar 2016 07:55:35 +1100
To: ilds at lists.uvic.ca
Subject: Re: [ilds] Mr. Esposito

Whack, pow, thud, academics cop another hit: teaching English lit badly. Well yes, I had that experience too but mainly because the texts seemed to be a pretext for teaching the socialist advance. But the scholarly world was a wonderful place full of books and bars and broads, not too mention alliteration and it here amongst all these appalling scholars that I discovered Wilde, Keats, Whitman etc and Lawrence George Durrell. The quartet I knew about, my mum had the set, but there were all these other books too. Durrell is unique for sure, a great writer and personality which the ilds, composed of many academics as I gather, has done much to promote. And yes, we may teach literature through a direct relationship between reader and text (a very Puritan approach) but this does not invalidate literary criticism, much of which is in fact very good, or context. Writers rarely exist in a vacuum. Much as Larry liked islands he too was part of a wider world which I sometimes think he did not like very much. His books often strike me as a revolt against the present, the future. I intend to mine Tunc and Nunquam in this vein.
David Whitewine

Sent from my iPad
On 27 Mar 2016, at 5:16 AM, Frederick Schoff <frederick.schoff at gmail.com> wrote:


This matches my own experience. I found my literature classes in college stultifying. I would show up with enthusiasm after reading, say, Faulkner or Woolf, and left wondering 'What book(s) did these people read?'. They were too busy talking about various references (presumably to show their erudition) to discuss the actual book. I was only bored, and bid adieu to lit classes. One reason I like Durrell so much is that he seems unique.

On Mar 26, 2016, at 2:17 AM, james Esposito <giacomoesposito72 at gmail.com> wrote:

What teacher employs a 'method'? My view of teaching literature does not amount to a 'method'! It is a way of looking at texts without recourse to the opinions and aesthetic perceptions of any except the teacher and his/her students.
I do not argue with the view that a text can be explicated, teased out, probed, but it is like a mine - you delve in to extract whatever ore you can discover, not what a mineralogist tells you to discover. A good teacher shows you the way - hands you a drill, even a stick of dynamite! but essentially the relationship is you and the text. 
When - many years ago! - I was a student our teacher presented us with Eliot's The Waste Land and pointed us towards Jessie Weston's "From Ritual to Romance" - why? because Eliot makes specific reference to her work, and suddenly a whole world of the Grail Quest, the meaning of the Waste Land and the Fisher King, was opened up to us. But Weston was an integral part of the poem, not an external aid to comprehension. We needed nothing other than what was on the page and what stood behind the page. 
That same teacher offered us what he referred to as 'a medieval maxim','Man by the exercise of his free will fulfils the pattern of his destiny'. I have spent sixty years trying to find the source of that, and failing, but I never cease to bless the man who provided it. (Does anyone know its source?)
Of course we need to discuss what is 'meant' by the text. Keats's (and I refer to the author of 'Ode to a Nightingale', not Durrell's character!) 'beauty is truth, truth beauty...' could occupy a reader delightfully for a lifetime and never yield its meaning, but no amount of help from Messieurs Derrida or Ricoeur can make an iota of difference to our own judgement. I think many critics suffer from a lack of an ability to make judgements of their own, and fall back vicariously on sources like les messieurs (for whom I do have considerable respect) rather than make the big jump towards shaping their own innate aesthetic.
James Esposito


On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 6:19 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
I don't think your method will result in much enlightenment.
Bruce

Sent from my iPhone
On Mar 25, 2016, at 9:08 AM, james Esposito <giacomoesposito72 at gmail.com> wrote:

I am very sorry indeed to learn that you disagree with the following statement:
"Education surely exists to enlighten young minds (and older!) and to 
give them a better understanding of themselves and the world."
James Esposito
 
On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 5:55 PM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
This whole approach seems to me a grossly oversimplified approach to the appreciation and teaching of literature, which after all is not some exercise in logical positivism.  Words are tricky and not reducible to pat meanings, and how writers use words is even far more complex.  So I disagree with all your statements.
Bruce

Sent from my iPhone
On Mar 25, 2016, at 1:58 AM, james Esposito <giacomoesposito72 at gmail.com> wrote:

By 'teaching their students how to enjoy texts' I meant that I see the principal purpose of teaching as the widening of students' appreciation of their chosen subject, be it literature, science or any other discipline. Education surely exists to enlighten young minds (and older!) and to give them a better understanding of themselves and the world. That may seem very old-fashioned but I think such purposes are diminished by what Keats called (paraphrase) unnecessary reaching out for reason - that is, the searching for explanations of what, ultimately, cannot be explained - credo quia absurdum. We owe it to ourselves and others (we, being teachers, writers and readers) to focus primarily on what the texts say, not what they don't say, or what a critic may think they say.
James Esposito


On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 1:25 AM, Bruce Redwine <bredwine1968 at earthlink.net> wrote:
I wonder what it means “to enjoy texts?”  Isn’t that what we’re doing?  I think James Gifford is on target.  And I, a non-academic, thank him for his insights, which increase my enjoyment.  Keep it up, James!



Bruce











> On Mar 24, 2016, at 3:32 PM, james Esposito <giacomoesposito72 at gmail.com> wrote:

>

> I perhaps did not make myself clear on the subject of Durrell's relationship to the modernists. Of course he was well aware of the Eliots, Huxleys, etc, but what I meant was that we should not necessarily assume 'the anxiety of influence' - the fact that there are echoes of Eliot etc in Durrell's work does not allow us to infer that he deliberately set out to imitate them or to make obvious references to them - merely that, as a (still) apprentice writer in the first 2 novels he was setting out his own stall, not theirs.

> And as for Keats, if I remember correctly, he got killed.

> As for the mud bricks, I think it's completely far-fetched to read political persuasions into the fact that Durrell referred to a basic building material. They were just mud-bricks, not political slogans.

> I think there is far too much time and effort spent on trying to analyse what Durrell may or may not have ingested into his writer's subconscious. It may be an amusing pastime for academics, but they should be teaching their students how to enjoy texts and not how to tear them apart. It isn't 'hunting of the snark' territory.

> James Esposito

>

>





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