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Showing posts from November, 2011

De Quincey: Irony, Addiction, Culture

It's been a year since I lectured - and blogged - on de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium-Eater. Well, it's come around again and although I didn't manage to reflect it in the imperfect repetition of the lecture, I do wonder if I'm now seeing a different kind of text (as always, the text that is always new as we re-read is the one with the true value...)

One thing I'm becoming interested in is the lightness of touch - and the flamboyance of prose - that we find in the Confessions. From the way that the text suspends itself teasingly above the very genre of the confession ('guilt, therefore, I do not acknowledge' (p.2), he claims) to the way it is shot through with Greek and Latin references, de Quincey initially occupies a position of textual and linguistic control. One dimension of this mastery is irony. Although he poses his own personal experience as an alternate authority to the contemporary medical discourse around opium, he does so with ch…

Kadare/Kafka: Concreteness and Absurdity

Having returned from a trip to Albania in September, perhaps the strangest and least-known corner of Europe, I read a novel in a handsome Vintage edition I had picked up in Tirana by Ismail Kadare, the country's most famous writer. As I read it, I became subtly but insistently conscious of what I thought might be echoes of Kafka's The Castle. I hesitated because I have no idea whether the dialogue I was perceiving was conscious or purely something that happened to scratch against my memory of studying Kafka at MA level, but when I found Kadare's Broken April slots next to Kafka on my bookshelf, I felt serendipity at work (and as I google the two names, I find that I am hardly the only one to awaken to the comparison).

Like Kafka's nightmarish village, ruled over by the inscrutable authority and impassable bureaucracy of the Castle, the world depicted in Broken April - that of the binding blood feuds of the Albanian mountains - is haunting and disorientating. Enigmatic f…

October Notes and Thoughts

Some random notes and thoughts:
1. The poetics of the diaphanous (embers, washes of light, evanescence, the aerial) in Shelley. How related to the poetics of the veil? If the veil is a negation – a visible mark of the invisible – then what is the diaphanous? The invisibility of the visible? A gesture of pure light – not excess of light perhaps, not an aesthetics of incandescence – but a gesture at the conditions of possibility of the visible itself. Looking at the sky on a summer day: one can see the light that would frame objects, but no objectivity itself. The object withdraws, but not in any negative theological or sublime sense.
Ruskin on water, the aerial and Turner.
2. Derrida on the suspension of reference (cf. the ‘poetic’ function in Russian Formalism and Czech Structuralism, the eclipse of the message by the medium): the hesitations of the ‘veil’, the ‘flight’, ‘the leap’, as they condense down toward the point of an idea or of a dancer’s toe…are always, in addition, descr…