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PostPosted: 12 Jun 2013, 04:15 
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the commonplaces shouldn't be common and the quotations shouldn't be quotidian* :D

"Know thyself" does not mean "Observe thyself." "Observe thyself" is what the serpent says. It means: "Make yourself master of your actions." But you are so already, you are the master of your actions. So that saying means: "Misjudge yourself! Destroy yourself!" which is something evil—and only if one bends down very far indeed does one also hear the good in it, which is: "In order to make of yourself what you are."

Knowledge we have. Anyone who strives for it with particular intensity is suspect of striving against it.

It's the old joke. We hold the world fast and complain that it is holding us.

^just over halfway through kafka's diaries right now. his main works are all insipid, redeemed by small flashes of brilliance where he either breaks on through to the other side for a moment, or gives up trying to; the rest is a bum steer. his diaries, on the other hand, may have a bit of fluff, but are consistently revelatory, possibly because they're in the first person, and smack more of honesty than obfuscation.

Image

many thanks, max.

*that means if it's churchill or wilde and you can find it on brainyquotes, we've already heard it

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Last edited by MJRH on 15 Jun 2013, 05:28, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 13 Jun 2013, 05:22 
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Could you explain 'insipid' and 'bum steer' ? I understand it is a matter of personal taste, but I must admit that I'm a bit puzzled by such harsh statements.


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PostPosted: 15 Jun 2013, 05:27 
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they were made harsh, in order to provoke a response. i wish i liked kafka's longer works, but they remind me of celine, in that i can see the brilliance, but the prose is stultified, and exacerbated by the longer format. the castle and the trial, if condensed to perhaps seventy pages each, would be so much more compelling. again, there are brilliant snippets, no denying, but the overall effect is one of drudgery (one not found in the diaries, or say blanchot's aminadab). moth, at times you've led me to see an author in a new light, which is the beauty of criticism, so i'd love to hear your (or anyone else's out there? hullo?) take on him... by all means, put me in my place!

more quotes:

I find all books too long. — Voltaire :mrgreen:

The difference between a real aspiration to beauty and coquetry is that in the first case we want to appeal to ourselves and in the second case, it is enough to charm others. — Gombrowicz

that last segues to your open question in the personals, chinorlz ;-)

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PostPosted: 15 Jun 2013, 16:36 
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Well, I can only answer with an example taken from my reading of the moment : an unfinished, partly autobiographical book by Stifter, Die Mappe meines Urgrossvaters (in a french translation).

What is it about ? Just another romantic tale about a young doctor and his simple life in the mountains. Full of good people over there, and thus a pretty bland story. What about the deep meaning of the work then ? Nature keeps people good and generous ; what are we in front of its might, etc.

So why do I read it ?
Winter. Over thirty pages of winter in the center of the story. Snowstorms, ice fields, processions of smoke-like clouds. All those good people in comparison, and their pure hearts, sound like a mere pretext to allow the expression of this endless fascination.

What do I mean by this example ?
I don't read books as mere illustrations of some ideologic position ; Kafka's big idea, for one, doesn't seem so hard to get : characters in his novels keep to their chair when they have one, and try to find one when they don't, and the harder they try, the less they succeed. I believe books, as tools of reflexion, could all boil down to some sort of tracts full of commonplace statements. If the purpose in reading is to find out what the author meant behind all his fluff, then, frankly, it is a serious loss of time.

I read Kafka with pleasure because I like his tone. I like the way he keeps me away from sympathizing with the protagonist, which is, to me, the secret root of the burlesque feeling I get from his stories. What you're allowed to love is always in the distance, like the younger sister at he end of The Metamorphosis : And it was something of a confirmation of their new dreams and good intentions when at the end of their journey the daughter first lifted herself up and stretched her young body.
You don't feel sympathy for her as a character.
You feel sympathy for the return of life. Life itself. The metamorphosis you won't see.

It is worth going through a book just for such an incredibly strong last sentence. It is worth reading a thousand pages for a paragraph where an ermit burns an epic, hundreds of thousands verses long, in front of an assembly of mourning animals. It is like gold washing to me, and I don't care if I am following the intent of the author or getting the picture. Writing, to me, is a matter, in a physical sense ; and I want sensations from it, not witty statements on the state of the world or the ambivalence of the human mind.


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PostPosted: 15 Jun 2013, 23:35 
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MJRH wrote:
.....the overall effect is one of drudgery.....


It's an interesting view, which I don't share myself. But I wonder if your sense of the writing as 'drudgery' might reflect the protagonists' grinding journeys through the novels, against the tide of unclear, uncaring, monolithic structures. In other words, the drudgery you feel may be your subjective resonance with the confined, slow, obscure elements in the work, which are one of its central themes.

One's personal experience while reading can be as interesting as the work itself. (Of course there is a question about whether one can ever have direct access to any work, unmediated by oneself, but let's set that aside for one moment...!) It can be even more interesting when one's feelings don't seem directly linked to the 'story' being told, as your experience with Kafka may be. I recall when reading Beckett's Trilogy that I experienced feelings of being overwhelmed, frustrated, confused, helpless, and (defensively?) tired, as my mind tried to cope with material that threatened to throw my ideas about what it is to be a 'self' into doubt - all of which (I came to realise) was a reflection of the elliptical, 'mad' (or simply more honest?) thought processes of the protagonist.

I think there's an interesting link with the experience of counter-transference in psychoanalytical work, which I won't go into here, for fear of creating yet more drudgery :lol:

Also, just to add, I'm in full agreement with M-M's thoughts above.

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PostPosted: 16 Jun 2013, 17:34 
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also agreed. it's the personal response to a book that's of interest, not following whatever trail of breadcrumbs the author strewed throughout that lead to some greater message. all i meant is that kafka's diaries provide me with one thousand sensations, and his novels one hundred.

funny you should mention beckett, docus. he's one of my favourite authors, loads of fun. nearly bust a gut reading molloy the first time. ah, pebblesuckery...

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PostPosted: 16 Jun 2013, 21:35 
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hm... it seems we all agree that searching for the "author's intention" doesn't make much sense. but it's not sensations or some personal response to a book that's enough for me. i want more, and by that i mean: an understanding of the work, of its details, of the symbols, of the characters. But maybe that's what you guys meant above as well. What I'm trying to say is that taking the images of the book at their face value may be interesting and fulfilling, but it alone doesn't do justice to the book as a work of art.

P.S.
I remember when I first read The Trial I came across a discussion that interpreted the book in terms of a satire or a comedy. Actually, I had known of that interpretation before reading the book, and once I started reading it, I was fascinated at how much this reading actually made sense. It was simply perfect.


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 00:16 
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rilu wrote:
What I'm trying to say is that taking the images of the book at their face value may be interesting and fulfilling, but it alone doesn't do justice to the book as a work of art.


justice?—pfaugh! =P 'course i really do agree, it's doubtful you'll get the most out of a book if you have absolutely no clue what the author was originally getting at. ya gotta know the rules, in order to break 'em.

for some reason those two small words you posted gave me an idea for a short story to review. let's cross-post, yeah?

"For ordinary books are like meteors. Each of them has only one moment, a moment when it soars screaming like the phoenix, all its pages aflame. For that single moment we love them ever after, although they soon turn to ashes. With bitter resignation we sometimes wander late at night through the extinct pages that tell their stone dead messages like wooden rosary beads." (Bruno Schulz, The Book)

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 05:37 
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rilu wrote:
i want more, and by that i mean: an understanding of the work, of its details, of the symbols, of the characters.


But symbols and characters are not always the main part of a work. More than some writers don't care about such things as psychology, or symbolism - or they clearly don't care as much about those matters as they do about style.

Reading Flaubert only through the prism of his character's psychology for example, or through a psychoanalitic study of sorts (sexual symbolism and all), is missing him almost completely. There's not so much to say about Emma Bovary's psychology. The description of Charles cap, in the first pages of the novel, is a lot more challenging. It is a symbol, sure. But it's about writing itself.

When studying a text, I like to let my students go for the most bizarre, or the most striking sentence they can find. Because it is generally the small detail that opens to the understanding of the whole.

I'll re-read The Book later today.


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 05:59 
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an under-appreciated writer if there ever was one. remind me to write a bit of the woman i had partnered up with at times on my interpretation assignments, one of the few certified interpreters of Yiddish in the united states today. she told me of her father, a close friend of Shulz, who had rescued many of his manuscripts from an attic in the ghetto and saw them published after the war..

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 08:24 
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"The family picture crystallizes Kafka's anti-Oedipal hatred from the time of The Trial. Hate and fascination. Kafka being a top level executive-not at all a shabby bureaucrat-is also confronted with his own Fascist desire to master the other in the framework of bureaucratic hierarchy, for instance. A tele-mastery. The other, fixed in the photo, is crystallized in some sort of submission ritual. The attempt to possess Felice from a distance through the interplay of love letters is inserted in a much larger practice of remote possession based on the power of titles and functions. We will thus come closer and closer to the social ties "holding" Felice and Kafka; both of them are bureaucrats fascinated by the power of bureaucracy. Kafka's denunciation is only a denial. The analysis of a "perversion" of the letter, of a bureaucratic perversion, leads him to analyze the decaying bureaucracy of Austria-Hungary and the cultural turmoil out of which Nazi Eros will rise. Analysis will move in this direction. But if one is content to point out Kafka's impossible identification with his shopkeeper of a father, one completely overlooks the social dynamic of desiring-energy. Kafka is not, in spite of what has been said, a writer of the nineteenth century. He is a writer of the twenty-first century who describes a desiring process in embryo, the scope of which we have scarcely begun to grasp."


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 15:14 
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Deleuze, right ?

With a : "This is how you handle Kafka when you're not a bourgeois" glittering subtext ?


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 15:38 
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Mail-Moth wrote:
Deleuze, right ?

With a : "This is how you handle Kafka when you're not a bourgeois" glittering subtext ?


Guattari, his point, which I find very good, is to avoid the traditional psychoanalytical angle of Kafka analysis. Sure he's promoting his own anti-Oedipus (from D&G :D ), desiring-machines angle but it is sufficiently fresh here to merit consideration, he's basically bringing the story back to it's own (and Kafka's own) specifics instead of subsuming it in the universal theater of the familial Oedipus.

pro-tip: try imagining DSK reading aloud all of my posts for added effect.


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 15:48 
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I'm afraid I'll never enjoy Deleuze and Guattari. I mean, I get the point, and I won't be the last to agree on the fact that getting rid of readings inspired by psychoanalisis was salutary.

But is he really bringing the story back to Kafka's own specifics here ? It rather sounds like another form of critical hijacking to me.

Edit : just saw your edit. All is clear now :mrgreen:


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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 18:19 
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merz wrote:
an under-appreciated writer if there ever was one. remind me to write a bit of the woman i had partnered up with at times on my interpretation assignments, one of the few certified interpreters of Yiddish in the united states today. she told me of her father, a close friend of Shulz, who had rescued many of his manuscripts from an attic in the ghetto and saw them published after the war..


i would love to hear more about this whenever you have the time! ♥

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PostPosted: 17 Jun 2013, 23:38 
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Thought this might be of interest to some. Seems relevant to various ongoing discussions.

Strawson, G. (2004). Against narrativity. Ratio, 17, 428-452 – available here:

http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/reviews/against_narrativity.pdf

Abstract: I argue against two popular claims. The first is a descriptive, empirical thesis about the nature of ordinary human experience: ‘each of us constructs and lives a “narrative” . . . this narrative is us, our identities’ (Oliver Sacks); ‘self is a perpetually rewritten story . . . in the end, we become the autobiographical narratives by which we “tell about” our lives’ (Jerry Bruner); ‘we are all virtuoso novelists. . . . We try to make all of our material cohere into a single good story. And that story is our autobiography. The chief fictional character . . . of that autobiography is one’s self’ (Dan Dennett). The second is a normative, ethical claim: we ought to live our lives narratively, or as a story; a ‘basic condition of making sense of ourselves is that we grasp our lives in a narrative’ and have an understanding of our lives ‘as an unfolding story’ (Charles Taylor). A person ‘creates his identity [only] by forming an autobiographical narrative – a story of his life’, and must be in possession of a full and ‘explicit narrative [of his life] to develop fully as a person’ (Marya Schechtman).

The abstract alone is worth a read just for the quotes :D

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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2013, 22:58 
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Mail-Moth wrote:
But symbols and characters are not always the main part of a work. More than some writers don't care about such things as psychology, or symbolism - or they clearly don't care as much about those matters as they do about style.

Reading Flaubert only through the prism of his character's psychology for example, or through a psychoanalitic study of sorts (sexual symbolism and all), is missing him almost completely. There's not so much to say about Emma Bovary's psychology. The description of Charles cap, in the first pages of the novel, is a lot more challenging. It is a symbol, sure. But it's about writing itself.

When studying a text, I like to let my students go for the most bizarre, or the most striking sentence they can find. Because it is generally the small detail that opens to the understanding of the whole.


First, I think we should distinguish between a psychological analysis of characters and an analysis of the symbolism that can be found in the story. The second distinction - which we already mentioned before - is the one between the author's intention and the interpretation. Putting these two points together, what I meant when I said I want more is an analysis of the text independent of the author's intention, that aims at uncovering (philosophical, social, anthropological etc.) patterns, themes, ideas, etc. Sometimes, it can be a simple coherence of motives that support one another. Other times, it can be an unrolling of a , say, philosophical problem and its complex structure. And of course, the "form" - the style - or the writing itself should not be missed from such an interpretation. Sometimes the focus can be on them. It's a nice idea to let the students start from the most bizarre details, I like that approach :)


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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2013, 23:03 
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docus, thank you for sharing that link! the paper sounds very interesting.
a while ago i discussed with a friend the problem of narratives as the basis of cliches - the ways in which we try to find sense in a sufficiently familiar story in order to cover a bunch of bullshit we don't have a nerve (or intelligence) to bother with. but that's a basic psychology.
i'm curious as for how the discussion on narratives relates to the discussion on the self, so i'll read this article.


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PostPosted: 18 Jun 2013, 23:29 
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I'm also very interested in the relationship between narratives and the 'self'. On the one hand, I went through a period in my adolescence (a time of abundant LSD use :D ) where I felt that the 'self' is a sort of illusory construction, bound together by narratives, and that we ought to deconstruct these narratives to get in touch with the 'truth' that lies beneath... But, on the other hand, as I've grown up I've become more aware of findings from attachment research and research into the outcome of psychoanalytic treatment that gaining a stronger, more coherent sense of a narrative to wrap around our lives is correlated with improvements in well-being, attachment patterns, reduction in symptoms, decreased likelihood of passing on insecure / disorganised attachment to your children, etc. So, it seems that self-narratives are vital for 'mental health'. But then, 'mental health' and 'the truth about what we really are' might not be very compatible :D

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PostPosted: 19 Jun 2013, 00:03 
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Reminds me of reading Gore Vidal talk about reading about memory, that each time we remember anything we are remembering the last time we remembered it, not returning to the start, but keeping up a chinese whisper. Have never checked the truth of that.

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