Wednesday, June 5, 2013

5 June 2013

Susan Howe [Modern American Poetry]

When such Sundays loomed into view Fanny and I sat at the front of Memorial Chapel beside the great person of great-aunt Muriel. She tried every covert trick in her book to make us laugh out loud while great-uncle Willy wrapped in his great black robe was going on about something holy oh she was serious in regard to us and all the people listening. Later we might sit in the dining room of Longfellow House eating lunch on one side of a roped-off area while the resident poet-caretaker guided sightseers single-file along the other side of the barrier pointing out ornaments, furnishings, portraits, structural details; as if we were ghosts. If private space is the space of private writing, objects must be arranged in position (witnesses and vanishing points) not looking both ways at once. Something about nature “nice” children good manners in architecture. Space is a frame we map ourselves in. . . .

[quoting from Pierre Bayle's Historical and Critical Dictionary: A perfect history is “unacceptable to all sects or nations; for it is a sign that the writer neither flatters nor spares any of them.” . . .

What is it about "documents" that seems to require their relegation to the bedroom (a private place) as if they were bourgeois Victorian women? . . .

According to Pyrrho of Elis since nothing can be known the only proper attitude is imperturbability. Pyrrho of Elis, here is infantile anxiety. While I am writing pieces of childhood come away. How do I put the pieces back?

from Diogenes LaërtiusLife of Pyrrho, translated by Robert Drew Hicks (1925):

Pyrrho of Elis was the son of Pleistarchus, as Diocles relates. According to Apollodorus in his Chronology, he was first a painter; then he studied under Stilpo's son Bryson: thus Alexander in his Successions of Philosophers. Afterwards he joined Anaxarchus, whom he accompanied on his travels everywhere so that he even forgathered with the Indian Gymnosophists and with the Magi. This led him to adopt a most noble philosophy, to quote Ascanius of Abdera, taking the form of agnosticism and suspension of judgement. He denied that anything was honourable or dishonourable, just or unjust. And so, universally, he held that there is nothing really existent, but custom and convention govern human action; for no single thing is in itself any more this than that.

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