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Showing posts from January, 2012

Two Types of Nakedness

Reworking an article on Donne, I have recently been immersing myself in a strange but compelling world of eyes, hands, flesh, beams, mediums and membranes: that is, the world as seen through the speculative prism of pre- and early-modern anatomy and medicine. Among other things, I have been trying to work out what it meant to touch, and to be touched, in the early modern period, in order to sharpen my (apparently interminable) account of Donne's erotic verse. One thing that immediately seized me was an initially unpromising question in Aristotle's treatise On the Soul: the question as to whether touch, almost uniquely among the senses, does not need a medium: that is, something interposing between the organ of sensation and the object to be sensed.

The necessity of a medium was taken as axiomatic by Aristotle and hence by virtually the whole of Western thought on perception: the Renaissance anatomist Helkiah Crooke described it as 'an Oracle 1,000 times repeated' that …

Reflection: Digital Humanities

Yesterday, a friend posted this article by Stanley Fish. She researches specifically in the digital humanities, at NUI Maynooth's An Foras Feasainstitute, and we exchanged a few ideas (appropriately enough, on Facebook) about the role 'information and communication' technology plays in arts and humanities research. 
In one sense, Fish is self-evidently right. Digital culture is, and has already, changed the academic humanities. As a Romanticist, who works within a series of critical paradigms largely dating from the second half of the twentieth-century, and on fairly traditional and 'canonical' poetry, I am not obviously part of the digital humanities. Yet even in the last 24 hours, I have:

Had the above exchange on Facebook, and discussed setting up a research network with someone on the same site (an academic from UCC) who had just 'added' me. I also had vaguely academic exchanges about Wordsworth and touch, and illustrations in Victorian magazines, with …

100th Post

As well as offering me enticing geographical statistics (I'm always excited when Maddalo gets apparent readers from somewhere like Iran or South Korea), the blogger interface has also pleasingly noted that I have now posted 99 times: making this the 100th.

This is mixed news. Obviously, I'm happy that something I almost did on a whim (probably first envisaged in NumberTwenty over a Becks Vier or three) has gone so far. It gets a respectable amount of page views (academic impact, perchance!), and has really helped me to draw out ideas and readings, and to think outside my own academic niche. I hope it's helped some students along the way too. On the other hand, with a rough length of 1000 words per post, and thus 100,000 words of text, I realise there is theoretically more than enough text here to constitute a respectable second monograph....Hmmm.

Anyway, to mark the century, I thought I'd pick six of my favourite posts from the last three and a half years.

1. A Note on…

Literary Effect

'We murder to dissect'. William Wordsworth.

Love of literature is a strange thing (as Donne says, pleasure is none, if not diversified). Ever since I abandoned the idea of studying a BA in History and turned to English Literature instead, under what turned out to be the rather misguided proposition that I was a 'poet', there has been no doubt in my mind that what I do, as a student then a lecturer and I suppose, now, a literary critic, is a passion. It is a vocation. The relationship is visceral: closer, I imagine, to being a priest than a estate agent (and I also have no doubt that were I born in the 17th or 18th centuries, I would have been a priest...) Nevertheless, there is a continual stream of students who feel that what is done at university is antithetical to their own passion for literature: that analysis rips the beauty apart, that it stills the string of the violin to measure the tautness, that the life - as Wordsworth intimates - flows instantly away under …

Notes and Thoughts on Genre

1. Excellent by Susan Wolfson: 'Even poster-boys for the figure of the great poet - Wordsworth and Byron, in different poses - wrote of truths less in the absolute than in the multiple, variable, doubtful, and wrote of themselves with more questions than certainties about the origins and stability of poetic authority'.*

2. As Derrida understood, the centre is perhaps the strangest place of all. The intervention of Echo, the echo of Echo, by the side of Narcissus.

3. As if 'lyric' is ever really monologic: the careless critical gesture passing on to the allure of the margin (although doesn't all literary criticism demand a straw centre somewhere?) How could a voice with no absolute addressee and always breaking on the difficulty of saying 'I', always a little out of time and sometimes fully in love with easeful death, be anything but haunted? If the purest lyric would simply be 'I am', je suis, آنا‎, then this instantly dissolves in a choral sparkle: