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Showing posts from December, 2010

A Slightly Marxist Reading of Forster's 'Maurice'

A somewhat bizarre conjunction of reading recently: Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment (a book I was supposed to read, possibily in full, for my MA, but never actually appear to have finished) and E.M. Forster's unpublished 'gay' novel, Maurice.

One thing about Adorno's aesthetics that I like is the focus on the unresolvable, the non-identical and the rift as the critical privilege of an artwork: hence, the motif of tension. For Adorno, whilst formal flawlessness is one of the great dreams of (bourgeois) art, were it to be actually achieved one would end up with a text or work that conservatively counter-signed the world 'as it is'. It is precisely because artworks cannot construct seamless worlds that we realise our world is itself not seamless.

Maurice, being a novel with a triad of lovers, involves a very obvious internal tension between two loves. The affair that Maurice begins with Clive Durham at Cambridge ends when the latter decides he…

We Prove Mysterious By This Love

Had a very interesting discussion with an ex-student on John Donne which sent me back to perhaps my favourite collection of poetry (Songs and Sonnets), and I can't help but feel I've stolen some of her ideas: so consider this little piece to have a ghostly co-author, which is kind of appropriate, given its conclusions. What I argue here is not dissimilar to what I have thought before on Donne (e.g. here), but maybe is more systematic.

The Elizabethan love sonnet tradition thrived on rhetoricising the physical: on translating the body, and its sensations, into heightened images. The Renaissance blazon - with its eyes like suns and lips like coral - created a stylised vocabulary of amatory passion which, driven by hyperbole, inevitably ended up hardened into formulae. Even by Shakespeare's time ('her eyes are nothing like sun') poets were turning against these images, representing a counter-beauty that claimed to be beautiful precisely because of its realism.
As my stu…