Tuesday, 07 November 2006

Excerpts from the LiveJournal of Frederick Schiller Letter I. By your permission I lay before you, in a series of letters, the results of my researches upon beauty and art. I am keenly sensible of the importance as well as of the charm and dignity of this undertaking. I shall treat a subject which is closely connected with the better portion of our happiness and not far removed from the moral nobility of human nature. I shall plead this cause of the beautiful before a heart by which her whole power is felt and exercised ... (Read more...) Letter II. But I might perhaps make a better use of the opening you afford me if I were to direct your mind to a loftier theme than that of art ... I hope that I shall succeed in convincing you that this matter of art is less foreign to the needs than to the tastes of our age; nay, that, to arrive at a solution even in the political problem, the road of aesthetics must be pursued, because it is through beauty that we arrive at freedom. But I cannot carry out this proof without my bringing to your remembrance the principles by which the reason is guided in political legislation. (Read more...) Letter V. Does the present age, do passing events, present this character? I direct my attention at once to the most prominent object in this vast structure ... (Read more...) Letter VI. Have I gone too far in this portraiture of our times? I do not anticipate this stricture, but rather another—that I have proved too much by it ... (Read more...) Letter VII. Can this effect of harmony be attained by the state? That is not possible, for the state, as at present constituted, has given occasion to evil, and the state as conceived in the idea, instead of being able to establish this more perfect humanity, ought to be based upon it. Thus the researches in which I have indulged would have brought me back to the same point from which they had called me off for a time ... (Read more...) Letter VIII. Must philosophy therefore retire from this field, disappointed in its hopes? Whilst in all other directions the dominion of forms is extended, must this the most precious of all gifts be abandoned to a formless chance? Must the contest of blind forces last eternally in the political world, and is social law never to triumph over a hating egotism? (Read more...) Letter IX. But perhaps there is a vicious circle in our previous reasoning! Theoretical culture must it seems bring along with it practical culture, and yet the latter must be the condition of the former ... (Read more...) Letter X. Convinced by my preceding letters, you agree with me on this point, that man can depart from his destination by two opposite roads, that our epoch is actually moving on these two false roads, and that it has become the prey, in one case, of coarseness, and elsewhere...
Close-Reading Exercise: A Good Bad Reading of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," Part IV [Being the fourth installment of my insanely close reading of Keats "Ode on a Grecian Urn." You can find the first here, the second here, the third here.] I concluded my analysis of the third stanza by crying "uncle" when I reached the last three lines. The main reason? I couldn't parse the grammar and didn't want to look the fool. Not that I need to parse it to understand what Keats says there—only that when you break out the spelunking gear and start exploring, things don't look like the maps say they should. This tunnel here should delve into the deeps but shoots "far above" instead (28). That one there should plunge you into icy waters but leaves you with "a burning forehead, and a parching tongue" (30). You can hear the echo of "your leaves" (22) in "that leaves" (29) but your once "mad" echolocation" skillz" have diminished with disuse. So complain about those last three lines until you whine your parched throat raw, it will do you no good. If only you had friends ... The fourth stanza, however, I can handle. It opens with that trope I should've christened something clever already. Sadly, "the trope of evocative ignorance" tops my shortlist. But I've got my best people working 'round the clock, and they're bound to come up with some witty thing sooner or later. Better sooner—but I digress. I need to stop naming stuff and start describing it. Only, what is there to say about those opening lines that I haven't said about its predecessors? Quite a bit, actually, but in keeping with the idea that readings should be coherent, I'm disinclined to mention them. I still may, but I want to focus on ignorance. The speaker, you'll remember, has no idea who the people depicted on the urn are—yet in the fourth stanza, he describes the coming sacrifice in such a way as to betray either insincerity or stunning unawareness. "What men or gods are these?" (8). Never mind! No longer an issue! These twits ain't gods. They're men. On the one hand, the speaker's supposition seems sound—sacrifices are made to gods, not by them. On the other, why is that necessarily the case? I can imagine a polytheistic religion in which lesser gods sacrifice specimens from their lowing, mewling or mooing flocks to appease their superiors. The speaker doesn't even consider this possibility, as he uses this portion of the frieze to jump from what is represented to what is entailed by that representation. This imaginative induction moves the "Ode" outside the tradition of ekphrasis and into a speculative mode empowered by the speaker's ignorance. In the first three stanzas, the speaker engaged in crypto-speculation—his professions of ignorance notwithstanding, he appeared to be describing the events depicted on the urn, appeared to know what he was talking about. In the fourth stanza, he exploits this impression to describe events not depicted on the urn with the same "authority" with which he described the ones...

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