Lapidarium notes RSS

Amira Skomorowska's notes

"Everything you can imagine is real."— Pablo Picasso

Lapidarium

Tags:

Africa
Age of information
Ancient
Anthropology
Art
Artificial intelligence
Astronomy
Atheism
Beauty
Biography
Books
China
Christianity
Civilization
Cognition, perception, relativity
Cognitive science
Collective intelligence
Communication
Consciousness
Creativity
Culture
Curiosity
Cyberspace
Democracy
Documentary
Drawing
Earth
Economy
Evolution
Friendship
Funny
Future
Genetics
Globalization
Happiness
History
Human being
Illustrations
Imagination
Individualism
Infographics
Information
Inspiration
Internet
Knowledge
Language
Learning
Life
Literature
Logic
Love
Mathematics
Media
Metaphor
Mind & Brain
Multiculturalism
Music
Networks
Neuroscience
Painting
Paradoxes
Patterns
Philosophy
Poetry
Politics
Physics
Psychology
Rationalism
Religions
Science
Science & Art
Self improvement
Semantics
Society
Sociology
Storytelling
Technology
The other
Time
Timeline
Traveling
Unconsciousness
Universe
USA
Video
Violence
Visualization


Homepage
Twitter
Facebook

A Box Of Stories
Reading Space

Contact

Archive

Mar
14th
Wed
permalink

The social life of marginalia


Mark Twain left a comment about “Huckleberry Finn,” in his copy of “The Pen and the Book” by Walter Besant.

This, it seems to me, would be something like a readerly utopia. It could even (if we want to get all grand and optimistic) turn out to be a Gutenberg-style revolution—not for writing, this time, but for reading. Book readers have never had a mechanism for massively and easily sharing their responses to a text with other readers, right inside the text itself.”

— Sam Anderson, The New York Times Magazine critic

Marginalia” refers to the notes and scribbles made by readers in the margins of their texts. As the reader’s ongoing dialog with a text, it takes different forms — drawings in illuminated manuscripts, decorations, doodles, and such.

Blackwood Magazine most likely introduced the term in 1819, but Edgar Allan Poe popularized it between 1845-1849 with Marginalia. (…)" — (Bobulate)

"Marginalia was more common in the 1800s. Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a prolific margin writer, as were William Blake and Charles Darwin. In the 20th century it mostly came to be regarded like graffiti: something polite and respectful people did not do. (…)

But marginalia never vanished. When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in South Africa in 1977, a copy of Shakespeare was circulated among the inmates. Mandela wrote his name next to the passage from “Julius Caesar” that reads, “Cowards die many times before their deaths.”

Studs Terkel, the oral historian, was known to admonish friends who would read his books but leave them free of markings. He told them that reading a book should not be a passive exercise, but rather a raucous conversation.

Books with markings are increasingly seen these days as more valuable, not just for a celebrity connection but also for what they reveal about the community of people associated with a work. (…) In his poem “Marginalia,” Billy Collins, the former American poet laureate, wrote about how a previous reader had stirred the passions of a boy just beginning high school and reading “The Catcher in the Rye.”

As the poem describes it, he noticed:
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”
— Dirk Johnson, Book Lovers Fear Dim Future for Notes in the Margins, NYT, Feb 20, 2011.

"In getting my books,” Edgar Allan Poe wrote in 1844, “I have always been solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling in suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general.” (…)

It’s a sentiment that a certain type of reader might be inclined to endorse by underlining, asterisking, or even scrawling “yes!” in the adjacent margin. Such readers feel that they aren’t really giving a book their full attention unless they’re hovering over it with a pencil, poised to underline or annotate at the slightest provocation. George Steiner memorably defined an intellectual as “quite simply, a human being who has a pencil in his or her hand when reading a book.” (…)

Marginalia have always been at the center of serious reading, but they have a place, too, at the margins of literary history. (…)

The Kindle allows for electronic marginalia via the “notes” function, but it feels all wrong: something about having to call up a menu and type a note on the keypad, with its little stud-like plastic buttons, makes the whole process seem forced and contrived. Marginalia are supposed to be spontaneous and fluent. “Noting” something on a Kindle feels like e-mailing yourself a throwaway remark. There’s also something attractive about the contrast between the impersonal authority of the printed page and the idiosyncrasies of the reader’s handwriting. A book someone has written in is an oddly intimate object; like an item of clothing once worn by a person now passed away, it retains something of its former owner’s presence.

No doubt this partly explains why there was such widespread interest in the contents of David Foster Wallace’s archive when it was acquired by the Ransom Center, in 2010. There’s something deeply gratifying, after all, about seeing how one of the most important writers of his generation modified Cormac McCarthy’s author photo, in a copy of “Suttree,” with spectacles, mustache, and fangs. It’s not as though Wallace never clowned around in his actual writing, of course, but this particular kind of goofiness—spontaneous, distracted, childish—makes him seem especially vivid and present. It’s probably not quite what Steiner had in mind with his definition of the intellectual, but it gives us a glimpse of a Wallace we wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.”


Inside cover of David Foster Wallace’s annotated copy of Suttree by Cormac McCarthy. (Harry Ransom Center)

— Mark O’Connell, The Marginal Obsession with Marginalia, The New Yorker, Jan 26, 2012.

[This note will be gradually expanded]

See also:

☞ A Year in Reading — Sam Anderson’s marginalia: highlights from a year in reading — and scribbling | NYT

                                                             (Click image to explore)

A View From the Margins, NYT, Dec 30, 2011.

☞ H. J. Jackson, Marginalia. Readers writing in books, Yale University Press New Haven and London, 2001 (pdf)
Jan
11th
Wed
permalink

Nicholas Carr on Books That Are Never Done Being Written

             

"I recently got a glimpse into the future of books. A few months ago, I dug out a handful of old essays I’d written about innovation, combined them into a single document, and uploaded the file to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service. Two days later, my little e-book was on sale at Amazon’s site. The whole process couldn’t have been simpler.

Then I got the urge to tweak a couple of sentences in one of the essays. I made the edits on my computer and sent the revised file back to Amazon. The company quickly swapped out the old version for the new one. I felt a little guilty about changing a book after it had been published, knowing that different readers would see different versions of what appeared to be the same edition. But I also knew that the readers would be oblivious to the alterations. (…)

When Johannes Gutenberg invented movable type a half-millennium ago, he also gave us immovable text. Before Gutenberg, books were handwritten by scribes, and no two copies were exactly the same. (…) With the arrival of the letterpress, thousands of identical copies could enter the marketplace simultaneously. The publication of a book, once a nebulous process, became an event.

A new set of literary workers coalesced in publishing houses, collaborating with writers to perfect texts before they went on press. The verb “to finalize” became common in literary circles, expressing the permanence of printed words. (…)

Beyond giving writers a spur to eloquence, what the historian Elizabeth Eisenstein calls “typographical fixity” served as a cultural preservative. It helped to protect original documents from corruption, providing a more solid foundation for the writing of history. It established a reliable record of knowledge, aiding the spread of science. It accelerated the standardization of everything from language to law. The preservative qualities of printed books, Ms. Eisenstein argues, may be the most important legacy of Gutenberg’s invention.

Once digitized, a page of words loses its fixity. It can change every time it’s refreshed on a screen. A book page turns into something like a Web page, able to be revised endlessly after its initial uploading. There’s no technological constraint on perpetual editing, and the cost of altering digital text is basically zero. As electronic books push paper ones aside, movable type seems fated to be replaced by movable text.

That’s an attractive development in many ways. It makes it easy for writers to correct errors and update facts. (…)

Even literary authors will be tempted to keep their works fresh. Historians and biographers will be able to revise their narratives to account for recent events or newly discovered documents. Polemicists will be able to bolster their arguments with new evidence. Novelists will be able to scrub away the little anachronisms that can make even a recently published story feel dated.

But as is often the case with digitization, the boon carries a bane. The ability to alter the contents of a book will be easy to abuse. School boards may come to exert even greater influence over what students read. They’ll be able to edit textbooks that don’t fit with local biases. Authoritarian governments will be able to tweak books to suit their political interests. And the edits can ripple backward. Because e-readers connect to the Internet, the works they contain can be revised remotely, just as software programs are updated today. Movable text makes a lousy preservative.

Such abuses can be prevented through laws and software protocols. What may be more insidious is the pressure to fiddle with books for commercial reasons. Because e-readers gather enormously detailed information on the way people read, publishers may soon be awash in market research. They’ll know how quickly readers progress through different chapters, when they skip pages, and when they abandon a book.

The promise of stronger sales and profits will make it hard to resist tinkering with a book in response to such signals, adding a few choice words here, trimming a chapter there, maybe giving a key character a quick makeover. What will be lost, or at least diminished, is the sense of a book as a finished and complete object, a self-contained work of art.

Not long before he died, John Updike spoke eloquently of a book’s “edges,” the boundaries that give shape and integrity to a literary work and that for centuries have found their outward expression in the indelibility of printed pages. It’s those edges that give a book its solidity, allowing it to stand up to the vagaries of fashion and the erosions of time. And it’s those edges that seem fated to blur as the words of books go from being stamped permanently on sheets of paper to being rendered temporarily on flickering screens.

Nicholas Carr, American writer, Books That Are Never Done Being Written , WSJ.com, Dec 31, 2011. (Illustration: Daniel Baxter)

See also:

What would happen if the printed book had just been invented in a high-tech world in which people had never done their reading from anything but computer screens?

Apr
9th
Sat
permalink

The Mind is a Metaphor ☞ interactive, solidly constructed collection of mental metaphorics


                                                            (Click image to explore)

"The Mind is a Metaphor, is an evolving work of reference, an ever more interactive, more solidly constructed collection of mental metaphorics. This collection of eighteenth-century metaphors of mind serves as the basis for a scholarly study of the metaphors and root-images appealed to by the novelists, poets, dramatists, essayists, philosophers, belle-lettrists, preachers, and pamphleteers of the long eighteenth century. While the database does include metaphors from classical sources, from Shakespeare and Milton, from the King James Bible, and from more recent texts, it does not pretend to any depth or density of coverage in literature other than that of the British eighteenth century.”

See also:

The first version, 2007
☞ C. John Holcombe, Theories of metaphor
James Geary, metaphorically speaking, TED talk, 2009
Metaphor tag on Lapidarium notes
Metaphor tag on Lapidarium

Apr
7th
Thu
permalink

Measuring hell - How Dante’s Inferno Inspired Galileo’s Physics

"This coming fall, Mark Peterson, a physics professor at Mount Holyoke College, will publish a new book where he makes a rather curious argument: Back in 1588, a young Galileo presented two lectures before the Florentine Academy. And there he laid the groundwork for his theoretical physics when he called into question the accepted measurements of Dante’s hell (as depicted in the Inferno, the great epic poem from 1314). Did debates over a poem figure into the unfolding of The Scientific Revolution?” — (Open Culture)

"It seems odd to think that Galileo’s most important ideas might have their roots not in the real world, but in a fictional one. But that’s the argument that Mount Holyoke College physics professor Mark Peterson has been developing for the past several years: specifically, that one of Galileo’s crucial contributions to physics came from measuring the hell of Dante’s Inferno. Or rather, from disproving its measurements.

In 1588, when Galileo was a 24-year-old unknown, a medical school dropout, he was invited to deliver a couple of lectures on Dante’s “Divine Comedy.” Many in Galileo’s audience would have been shocked, even dismayed, to see this young upstart take the stage and start poking holes in what they believed about the poet’s meticulously constructed fantasy world. (…)

What Galileo said, put simply, is that many commonly accepted dimensions did not stand up to mathematical scrutiny. Using complex geometrical analysis, he attacked a leading scholar’s version of the Inferno’s structure, pointing out that his description of the infernal architecture — such as the massive cylinders descending to the center of the Earth — would, in real life, collapse under their own weight. Later, Galileo realized the leading rival theory was wrong, too, and that even the greatest scholars of the time simply didn’t understand how real-world structures worked.

Debating the mechanics of the Inferno might sound like intellectual horseplay, the 16th-century equivalent of MIT cafeteria debates about the viability of “Star Trek” teleporters. But there was more to the lectures than this. The insights Galileo gleaned from analyzing Dante’s measurements in fact anticipated a vital principle of structural engineering. By asserting that you cannot create a giant Lucifer by super-sizing the model of a man — that increasing an object’s magnitude would create a whole new set of structural and material imperatives — Galileo was paving the way for the construction of everything from ocean liners to skyscrapers to Macy’s parade floats. (…)

In this regard, at least as Peterson sees it, Galileo has more in common with today’s quantum theorists, whose work requires mad leaps of logic, than he does with the generations of by-the-numbers physicists he inspired. The world’s first true scientist, the professor tells us, understood that it takes a man of reason to provide the proof, but only a fantasist can truly reimagine the universe.”

—  Text by Chris Wright, Graphic by Javier Zarracina, Measuring hell. Was modern physics born in the Inferno?, The Boston Globe, Jan 9, 2011.

See also: Mark A. Peterson, Galileo’s Discovery of Scaling Laws (pdf), Department of Physics, Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts

Mar
21st
Mon
permalink

Lewis Carroll and psychoanalysis: Why nothing adds up in Wonderland

             
Lewis Carroll’s insight into meaning and interpretation remains of key interest to psychoanalysts intent on hearing all that he had to say about psychic life. (…)

What sparked their admiration,the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan explained (1966), was Carroll’s interest in “all kinds of truths – ones that are certain even if not self-evident”. The truth apparently snared in Carroll’s fiction is that our culture adopts rules that can seem absurd, even ridiculous, when seen too close and interpreted too literally. And while a lot of fiction strives quite diligently to imitate those rules, Carroll joined iconoclasts such as Jonathan Swift in upending them, to cast a wry light on their sometimes ludicrous foundations. (…) The ensuing paradox about meaning and nonsense, to assess what it might teach Alice and her reader as they meditate on Wonderland. (…)

What is Carroll’s nonsense about and what is its overall effect? (…)

Carroll advanced an approach to subjectivity that has much in common with psychoanalysis, given their shared interest in ontology and the limits of meaning. The Alice stories “manage to have such a hold” on readers, he declared, because they touch on “the most pure network of our condition of being: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real.” In its commitment to analyzing all three registers, moreover, “psychoanalysis is in the best position to explain the effect” of such fiction on readers, including how and why Alice’s madcap adventures in Wonderland “won over the entire world.”

Interest in the most nonsensical aspects of our culture led Lacan to rethink an argument previously put forward by the Surrealist André Breton – that Carroll had used nonsense as a “vital solution to the deep contradiction between an acceptance of madness and the exercise of reason.” - To Breton, Carroll was the Surrealists’ first “master in the school of truancy,” because he offset the “poetic order” with the madness – even the supposed tyranny – of rationalism. - Rather than simply repeating that line, however, which downplays much of the interest and originality of Carroll’s creativity and thinking, Lacan’s tribute aimed at something more: He wanted to rescue Carroll’s insight into the way human beings are compelled to adapt to broader cultural demands. As Lacan put it, almost pitting his reading against generations of devoted readers seeking only innocent pleasure from the Alice stories, Wonderland generates ‘unease,’ even a type of ‘malaise,’ by revealing how individuals struggle to conform to cultural systems to which they are not especially well suited. (…)

Lacan here predates Gilles Deleuze’s insight, in The Logic of Sense, that Carroll’s nonsense has an internal logic to it, and thus a meaning of its own, which competes with that of standard, everyday sense. Carroll “remains the master and the surveyor of surfaces,” Deleuze later contended. “Surfaces which were taken to be so well-known that nobody was exploring them anymore. On these surfaces, nonetheless, the entire logic of sense is located” (1969, p. 93). (…)

With Carroll the praise that critics frequently bestow on his fiction seems commensurate with its artistry, adventurousness, and semantic intelligence. It is to Carroll that we attribute such outsized flights of fancy as a mad tea party peopled by raucous, acrimonious creatures – almost a mini-society in dissensus. He also gives us philosophically-minded insects imitating classical Athens as they debate the meaning of life; babies that turn into pigs at the drop of a hat; the surreal grin of a cat that floats eerily across the sky; and the queen of a chess game transfigured miraculously into a sheep dressed as a grandmother, before she morphs into a kitten whom Alice asks, in turn, whether it dreamed the whole scenario. (…)

Most of the antics that Carroll relays in Wonderland seem pointedly to flatter Alice into believing that she sees through the many escapades, to what is beyond them – as if she were partly outside the worlds of each novella and thus able to gauge them from a position of relative mastery. From the works themselves, we also learn that the comparison Carroll sets up between Wonderland and the Victorians’ symbolic order is not in the least flattering to the latter. Nor does that comparison – and its associated critique – end with the Alice stories. Both are extended with still greater anxiety in Sylvie and Bruno (1991[1889]), Carroll’s proto-Joycean novel, which styles Fairyland and Outerland as largely interchangeable. As Carroll writes in the novel’s preface, signaling his fascination with psychology and consciousness,

"I have supposed a Human being to be capable of various psychical states, with varying degrees of consciousness, as follows:—

– the ‘eerie’ state, in which, while conscious of actual surroundings, he is also conscious of the presence of Fairies;

– a form of trance, in which, while unconscious of actual surroundings, and apparently asleep, he (i.e. his immaterial essence) migrates to other scenes, in the actual world, or in Fairyland, and is conscious of the presence of Fairies.”

— Lewis Carroll (1977[1896]), Symbolic logic, Warren BartleyWIII, editor. Brighton, UK: Harvester Press.

Three additional criteria convey the novel’s imagined states of being, indicating how seriously Carroll tried to maintain such ontological distinctions. (…)

Art and biography appear to part company over these interpretive dilemmas. For how we interpret the enigmas attached to both of these registers is, as the Alice stories show, central to determining what questions she and the reader can ask about them. As Lacan put it in the passage cited earlier, Carroll seems to want to “prepare” her for the lesson that “one only ever passes through a door one’s own size” – a statement hinting that an answer can emerge only after one has discovered the question attached to it. Approach such a portal from the wrong direction, with the wrong premise or at the wrong time, and awareness of it – much less passage through it – is unlikely. The idea is rather like that of Wonderland itself, in which much happens the wrong way round, playing havoc with cause and effect, meaning and intention, inference and interpretation. Alice has to shrink or expand to enter a different ontological realm. She has to adapt to circumstances, and does so sometimes with relative ease, at other times with intense difficulty.

One of the questions Carroll implicitly poses at such moments is whether interpretation can decipher “the most pure network of our condition of being: the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real.” The matter bears heavily on psychoanalysis, Lacan averred, given its interest in the psychical patterns and distortions that magnify suffering, stoke unease, and prevent mourning. In Wonderland, as in Outerland, those distortions persist not just because both realms are thoroughly imbued with nonsense, but also because investigation into both novellas enables but does not end interpretation. In Through the Looking-Glass, for instance, in a significant metafictional moment, Humpty Dumpty adopts an interpretive code that is comically incapable of addressing what other characters say and mean. As he declares: “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less … The question is … which is to be master”.

A successful outcome to such attempted mastery is of course as elusive to Humpty Dumpty as it is to other figures in Wonderland. Oblivious, however, he veers down another idiosyncratic track: how words assume – then seem almost to contain – a life of their own. Carroll himself dubs a few of them ‘portmanteau’ words, capturing the idea that meaning is almost literally encased in them. (…)

Carroll’s fiction most often focuses on the play and limits of meaning across semantic and ontological registers. As the narrator observes in Sylvie and Bruno, almost doffing his hat at the myriad philosophical and metafictional questions that ensue: “‘Either I’ve been dreaming about Sylvie,’ I said to myself, ‘and this is the reality. Or else I’ve really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?’” (…)

Carroll’s artistic and intellectual games render that language by such idiosyncratic signifiers as ‘Boojum,’‘Snark,’ and ‘slithy toves.’ Not all such neologisms are nonsensical. ‘Chortled,’ another Carrollian coinage, has since entered our language as a delightful verb. But the underside to this inventiveness is worth underlining because critics have found it easy to minimize: The ‘vertigo’ that ensues from Carroll’s model dramatizes a difficulty for Alice – and her reader – in adapting to the peculiar world of language and symbols. That is because the rules and rituals governing her world seem both whimsical and arbitrarily enforced. They serve as a check on contingency and freedom in Wonderland, while casting the adult world beyond it as authoritarian and almost willfully perverse. Consider the angry Queen of Hearts, whose face explodes with rage the moment others question her capricious, unjust orders. In each instance, her verdicts are a foregone conclusion. (…)

John Tenniel’s illustrations nicely capture this ontological challenge. They emphasize not just the difficulty but also the price of Alice’s attempts at adapting to circumstances. Alice is first too small (see Figure 1), then too big (see Figure 2) for the world she tries to inhabit. She is both unprepared for it, yet joining it long after it has established rules and laws with which she struggles to comply.

Carroll here deftly anticipates the radical argument that Lacan would popularize from Sigmund Freud’sBeyond the Pleasure Principle: because of our capacity for reflection and consciousness, we miss the ‘right moment’ of biology and arrive too quickly into a symbolic order that we can grasp and comprehend only quizzically and belatedly. (…)

In all senses, then, nothing quite adds up in Wonderland. None of the creatures in Wonderland easily coexists – each is peevish, irrepressible, and for the most part insistently singular. At the same time, nothingness amounts to an ontological dimension that Carroll and Lacan take very seriously, and with good reason. The patchwork quilt of our symbolic order is, they show, held pincers-like by the real. To confront the limits of the latter – as Alice does repeatedly, with her pointed questions, quirky imagination, preternatural respect for rules, and sometimes whimsical joy in breaking them – is to expose, in the 19th century no less, a rickety structure held together by desire, illusion and force, a volatile combination at the best of times. (…)

The Alice stories reveal both the generative possibilities and the unwelcome distortions of the symbolic order. In refusing to imitate or rationalize the comic pretensions of a system only loosely bound by rules and signifiers, Carroll gives us that world aslant and askew. His oblique perspective underscores the fantasies and psychical effects that exceed symbolization – fantasies that in his fiction come to assume ardent, impossible meaning.”

Christopher J. Lane (British-American literary critic and intellectual historian who is currently the Pearce Miller Research Professor of Literature at Northwestern University), Lewis Carroll and psychoanalysis: Why nothing adds up in wonderland, The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, March 1, 2011. (Illustrations: John Tenniel)

Mar
19th
Sat
permalink

The History of Science Fiction by Ward Shelley



“History of Science Fiction” is a graphic chronology that maps the literary genre from its nascent roots in mythology and fantastic stories to the somewhat calcified post-Star Wars space opera epics of today. The movement of years is from left to right, tracing the figure of a tentacled beast, derived from H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds Martians. Science Fiction is seen as the offspring of the collision of the Enlightenment (providing science) and Romanticism, which birthed gothic fiction, source of not only SciFi, but crime novels, horror, westerns, and fantasy (all of which can be seen exiting through wormholes to their own diagrams, elsewhere). Science fiction progressed through a number of distinct periods, which are charted, citing hundreds of the most important works and authors. Film and television are covered as well.” Source

See also: Interview with “History of Science Fiction” artist Ward Shelley, Slate, March 14, 2011

Aug
30th
Mon
permalink
Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), Eugénie Grandet autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed, 1833, Source and zoom: The Morgan Library & Museum) (tnx book-aesthete)

Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850), Eugénie Grandet autograph manuscript and corrected galley proofs signed, 1833, Source and zoom: The Morgan Library & Museum) (tnx book-aesthete)

May
10th
Mon
permalink
(Photo: Oscar Wilde  by Sarony, New York, 1882)
Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde  (1854 – 1900) was an Irish writer, poet, and prominent aesthete.
Oscar Wilde  on the art of conversation:

"ERNEST.  But what is the difference between literature and journalism?

GILBERT. Oh! journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read. That is all. But with regard to your statement that the Greeks had no art-critics, I assure you that is quite absurd. It would be more just to say that  the Greeks were a nation of art-critics.

ERNEST.  Really?

GILBERT. Yes, a nation of art-critics. But I don’t wish to destroy the delightfully unreal picture that you have drawn of the relation of the Hellenic artist to the intellectual spirit of his age. To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture. Still less do I desire to talk learnedly. Learned conversation is either the affectation of the ignorant or the profession of the mentally unemployed. And, as for what is called improving conversation, that is merely the foolish method by which the still more foolish philanthropist feebly tries to disarm the just rancour of the criminal classes. No: let me play to you some mad scarlet thing by  Dvorak.  The pallid figures on the tapestry are smiling at us, and the heavy eyelids of my bronze  Narcissus are folded in sleep. Don’t let us discus anything solemnly. I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, and I live in terror of not being misunderstood. Don’t degrade me into the position of giving you useful information. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Through the parted curtains of the window I see the moon like a clipped piece of silver. Like gilded bees the stars cluster round her. The sky is a hard hollow sapphire. Let us go out into the night. Thought is wonderful, but adventure is more wonderful still. Who knows but we may meet  Prince Florizel of Bohemia, and hear the fair Cuban tell us that she is not what she seems?

ERNEST.  You are horribly wilful.  I insist on your discussing this matter with me…”

— Oscar Wilde in “The Critic as Artist: With some remarks upon the importance of doing nothing.  A Dialogue, Part I”. Available in The Works of Oscar Wilde (London; Glasgow: Collins, 1948), p. 280. (Source: Entersection)

(Photo: Oscar Wilde by Sarony, New York, 1882)

Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde  (1854 – 1900) was an Irish writer, poet, and prominent aesthete.

Oscar Wilde  on the art of conversation:

"ERNEST. But what is the difference between literature and journalism?

GILBERT. Oh! journalism is unreadable, and literature is not read. That is all. But with regard to your statement that the Greeks had no art-critics, I assure you that is quite absurd. It would be more just to say that  the Greeks were a nation of art-critics.

ERNEST. Really?

GILBERT. Yes, a nation of art-critics. But I don’t wish to destroy the delightfully unreal picture that you have drawn of the relation of the Hellenic artist to the intellectual spirit of his age. To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture. Still less do I desire to talk learnedly. Learned conversation is either the affectation of the ignorant or the profession of the mentally unemployed. And, as for what is called improving conversation, that is merely the foolish method by which the still more foolish philanthropist feebly tries to disarm the just rancour of the criminal classes. No: let me play to you some mad scarlet thing by  Dvorak. The pallid figures on the tapestry are smiling at us, and the heavy eyelids of my bronze  Narcissus are folded in sleep. Don’t let us discus anything solemnly. I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, and I live in terror of not being misunderstood. Don’t degrade me into the position of giving you useful information. Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. Through the parted curtains of the window I see the moon like a clipped piece of silver. Like gilded bees the stars cluster round her. The sky is a hard hollow sapphire. Let us go out into the night. Thought is wonderful, but adventure is more wonderful still. Who knows but we may meet  Prince Florizel of Bohemia, and hear the fair Cuban tell us that she is not what she seems?

ERNEST. You are horribly wilful. I insist on your discussing this matter with me…”

Oscar Wilde in “The Critic as Artist: With some remarks upon the importance of doing nothing. A Dialogue, Part I”. Available in The Works of Oscar Wilde (London; Glasgow: Collins, 1948), p. 280. (Source: Entersection)

May
8th
Sat
permalink
Ercole de’ Roberti, The Argonauts leaving Colchis, ca. 1480, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (source) (via invisiblestories)
Ercole de’ Roberti (c. 1451 – 1496), also known as Ercole Ferrarese or Ercole da Ferrara, was an Italian artist of the Early Renaissance and the School of Ferrara. He was profiled in Vasari's Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori.
The son of the doorkeeper at the Este castle, Ercole later held the position of court artist for the Este family in Ferrara. According to Vasari:

Ercole had an extraordinary love of wine, and his frequent drunkenness did much to shorten his life, which he had enjoyed without any accident up to the age of forty, when he was smitten one day by apoplexy, which made an end of him in a short time. 

Paintings by Ercole are rare. His life was short and many of his works have been destroyed.
The Argonauts (Greek: Αργοναύται, Argonautai; Georgian: არგონავტები, ArgonavTebi) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis (modern day Georgia) in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. “Argonauts”, therefore, literally means “Argo sailors”. They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of the area. (…)
According to the Greek mythology, Colchis was a fabulously wealthy land situated on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, King Aeëtes hung the Golden Fleece until it was seized by Jason and the Argonauts. Colchis was also the land where the mythological Prometheus was punished by being chained to a mountain while an eagle ate at his liver for revealing to humanity the secret of fire. Amazons also were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis. The main mythical characters from Colchis are Aeëtes, Medea, Absyrtus, Chalciope, Circe, Eidyia, Pasiphaë.
(More: Argonautae history, Pelion Myths: Jason and the Argonauts )

Ercole de’ Roberti, The Argonauts leaving Colchis, ca. 1480, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid (source) (via invisiblestories)

Ercole de’ Roberti (c. 1451 – 1496), also known as Ercole Ferrarese or Ercole da Ferrara, was an Italian artist of the Early Renaissance and the School of Ferrara. He was profiled in Vasari's Le Vite delle più eccellenti pittori, scultori, ed architettori.

The son of the doorkeeper at the Este castle, Ercole later held the position of court artist for the Este family in Ferrara. According to Vasari:

Ercole had an extraordinary love of wine, and his frequent drunkenness did much to shorten his life, which he had enjoyed without any accident up to the age of forty, when he was smitten one day by apoplexy, which made an end of him in a short time. 

Paintings by Ercole are rare. His life was short and many of his works have been destroyed.

The Argonauts (Greek: Αργοναύται, Argonautai; Georgian: არგონავტები, ArgonavTebi) were a band of heroes in Greek mythology who, in the years before the Trojan War, accompanied Jason to Colchis (modern day Georgia) in his quest to find the Golden Fleece. Their name comes from their ship, the Argo, which was named after its builder, Argus. “Argonauts”, therefore, literally means “Argo sailors”. They were sometimes called Minyans, after a prehistoric tribe of the area. (…)

According to the Greek mythology, Colchis was a fabulously wealthy land situated on the mysterious periphery of the heroic world. Here in the sacred grove of the war god Ares, King Aeëtes hung the Golden Fleece until it was seized by Jason and the Argonauts. Colchis was also the land where the mythological Prometheus was punished by being chained to a mountain while an eagle ate at his liver for revealing to humanity the secret of fire. Amazons also were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis. The main mythical characters from Colchis are Aeëtes, Medea, Absyrtus, Chalciope, Circe, Eidyia, Pasiphaë.

(More: Argonautae history, Pelion Myths: Jason and the Argonauts )

Mar
25th
Thu
permalink
Telling Tales. The evolutions of four stories
Pygmalion - A man falls in love with his female creation, Oedipus - A king unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother, Faust - A man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge, Leviathan - A mythical sea monster terrorizes the deep.

Telling Tales. The evolutions of four stories

Pygmalion - A man falls in love with his female creation, Oedipus - A king unwittingly kills his father and marries his mother, Faust - A man sells his soul to the devil in exchange for power and knowledge, Leviathan - A mythical sea monster terrorizes the deep.