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Showing posts from September, 2010

The Red Stuff

I tend to use my summers to hit seriously long texts that I would probably never get through otherwise. 2008 was Being and Time. Last year, it was The Phenomenology of Perception by Merleau-Ponty (see my posts here, here, and, oh!, here). This summer, I finished Marx's Capital, or at least volume one: still a thousand pages, and the only bit that was actually published. As someone who has more or less consistently considered himself left-wing, it's obviously taken me quite a while to work out how to even begin to respond to the text.
One thing that I did think about long and hard was the way that the critique of political economy had an impassioned substrate: an unwavering and highly-evidenced attack - sometimes satirical, sometimes moralistic, always fierce - on the conditions of factory workers. The epic sweep of chapter 10 on the 'working day' is the brutal empirical proof, for Marx, of the theories of commodity and surplus-value he has worked out in the measured abs…

Romola and the 'Feminist Bildungsroman'

To me George Eliot is the supreme English novelist, with only Woolf rivalling her in my affections. Whilst on the one hand mastering realism with the perfectly constructed Middlemarch, her other late novels are also wonderfully ambitious, experimental in content if not form, taking her Victorian readers into strange territories such as Jewish Zionism (Daniel Deronda) and the intellectual world of Renaissance Florence (Romola).

Romola, having sat on various shelves for literally nine years, was my latest read. It is the story of a Greek man, Tito Melema, who becomes embroiled in and corrupted by both Florentine politics and his own narcissistic ambition. It is also the story of his wife, Romola, the daughter of a humanist scholar and acolyte of the revolutionary monk Savonarola. Like Middlemarch, a loveless and corrosive marriage comes to take centre-stage, with the meticulously researched world of fifteenth-century Italy as the backdrop. Although not a feminist novel in any unqualifi…