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Past Valve Book Events

cover of the book Theory's Empire

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cover of the book The Literary Wittgenstein

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cover of the book The Trouble With Diversity

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cover of the book What's Liberal About the Liberal Arts?

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The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Happy Trails to You

What’s an Encyclopedia These Days?

Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Intimate Enemies: What’s Opera, Doc?

Alphonso Lingis talks of various things, cameras and photos among them

Feynmann, John von Neumann, and Mental Models

Support Michael Sporn’s Film about Edgar Allen Poe

Philosophy, Ontics or Toothpaste for the Mind

Nazi Rules for Regulating Funk ‘n Freedom

The Early History of Modern Computing: A Brief Chronology

Computing Encounters Being, an Addendum

On the Origin of Objects (towards a philosophy of computation)

Symposium on Graeber’s Debt

The Nightmare of Digital Film Preservation

Richard Petti on Occupy Wall Street: America HAS a Ruling Class

Bill Benzon on Whatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhatwhat?

Nick J. on The Valve - Closed For Renovation

Bill Benzon on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Norma on Encyclopedia Britannica to Shut Down Print Operations

Bill Benzon on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

john balwit on What’s an Object, Metaphysically Speaking?

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on That Shakespeare Thing

William Ray on That Shakespeare Thing

JoseAngel on That Shakespeare Thing

Bill Benzon on Objects and Graeber's Debt

Bill Benzon on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on A Dirty Dozen Sneaking up on the Apocalypse

JoseAngel on Objects and Graeber's Debt

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Structural Instability: Two Examples and a Question

Posted by Bill Benzon on 12/16/09 at 05:54 PM

Structural instability is one of the things that interests me. What do I mean by structural instability? Consider these lines (17-24) from “Kubla Khan”:

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Of chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:
And ‘mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.

We’ve got eight lines, rhymed as four rhymed couplets (seething-breathing, forced-burst, hail-flail, ever-river), though the rhymes are not all strong, which, of course, is fine. But look at the syntactic organization; we’ve got three large phrases, each consisting of multiple clauses. The first phrase runs for three lines (17-19), as does the second (20-22), while the last phrase is only two lines long (23-24). Those first two phrases thus correspond to three rhymed couplets. The syntactic grouping is different from, cuts across, the rhyme grouping. That’s an example of structural instability.

Here we’ve got a string of 58 words. And we’ve got three ways of organizing that string into groups of substrings. First we break it into lines, eight of them. Now we’ve got to group those lines in units that are themselves smaller than the whole passage. One principle groups lines according to rhyme, another principle groups them according to syntax. These two principles produce different groupings. Hence, the two structural principles work against one another rather than reinforcing one another.

My larger argument about “Kubla Khan” is that there are only two places in the poem where we have this kind of structural instability. The second place is in the second part of the poem, lines 45-48 (as explained in this paper or this online article; see also this bit of intellectual biography, especially Fig. 2). I think that is an important feature of this poem. That is to say, if we want to understand how this poem works, we need to understand that instability.

Another Example: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Let’s consider another, and somewhat different, example, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The third part of the poem is organized around events that happen over three days, a series of hunts, courtship encounters, and exchanges. Each of the three days is organized in the same way: 1) Bercilak goes off to hunt, 2) his wife pursue’s Gawain, 3) we return to the hunt and finish it, 4) Gawain and Bercilak exchange the days winnings. As you may recall, Gawain doesn’t play it straight on the third day. He obtains a green girdle (scarf) from Bercilak’s wife—actually, it’s more or less forced upon him, but he doesn’t give it to Bercilak at the end of the day. Naughty, naughty.

The fourth part of the poem follows Gawain to the Green Chapel, where he meets his fate at the hand of the Green Knight. The Green Knight takes three wacks at Gawain’s neck. The first two miss (for different reasons), while the third nicks Gawain’s neck, drawing blood, but doesn’t do serious damage. That ends the challenge.

What I find particularly interesting is that the point where the Green Knight explicates the significance of the three blows is one of structural instability in the verse form. Here’s the passage in the Boroff translation (which preserves the elements I’m interested in):

First I flourished with a feint, in frolicsome mood,
And left you hide unhurt—and here I did well
By the fair terms we fixed on the first night;
And fully and faithfully you followed accord:
Gave over all you gains as a good man should.
A second feint, sir, I assigned for the morning
You kissed my comely wife—each kiss you restored.
For both of these there behooved but two feigned blows
				by right.
		 True men pay what they owe:
		 No danger then in sight.
		 You failed at the third throw,
		 So take my tap, sir knight.

For that is my belt about you, that same braided girdle,
My wife it was that wore it; I know well the tale,
And the count of your kisses and your conduct too,
And the wooing of my wife—it was all my scheme!

The account of the final blow extends from the end of stanza 94 into the beginning of stanza 95. That’s the only place in the entire poem where a speech runs through the end of one stanza and into the beginning of the next in such a way. That little 5-line rhymed cap and wheel rather definitively finishes a stanza off and each stanza has one, as it’s part of the form. To run through it in that way is really quite extraordinary.

This too is a case of structural instability, and at the climax of the narrative. Two structural principles are at odds with one another. One principle is versification, but I’m not quite sure what to call the other one: semantics, rhetoric, discourse?—call it discourse. We’ve run a single discourse unit, a speech, from one stanza to another.

This example is rather different from the “Kubla Khan” examples (and it’s not the only example in this text, but that’s more exposition than I want to write at the moment). What kinds of structural instability to do have? For example, do we have structural instability in prose fiction? If so, what are the organizational principles that are at cross purposes?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But if you stuck a gun to my head and forced me to address these larger issues on pain of death I’d hazzard the guess structural instability is unbiquitous and that control of structural instability is an important aspect of literary art.

A Musical Analogue

Here’s a musical example, from my notes:

I was at the piano working on an arrangement of George Harrison’s “Something”.  I was working on the end of the introduction, where I had a very simple rhythm, quarter note followed by two eights, starting on the first beat of a 4/4 measure and repeated several times.  Chords changed on beats 1 and 3.  I decided to see what would happen if, instead of holding each chord for 2 beats, I would hold each chord for 3 beats.  Thus, starting from the beginning of this section:


     beats: 1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4  1  2  3  4
     chord: HHHHHHHHHZZZZZZZZZXXXXXXXXXKKKKKKKKK

The 3-beat chords no longer changed in synch with the rhythm pattern, which was built in 2-beat units.

As soon as I played this sequence tears came to my eyes and I got choked up.  What caused this emotional reaction?  The chords were perfectly ordinary dominant 7th chords in a perfectly ordinary sequence.  The rhythm was equally ordinary.  What triggered this “opening up” must have been the momentary conflict between the harmonic rhythm and the basis logic of a 4/4 measure.  But where did the emotion come from?

This musical example is clearly about the physical; it’s about the organization of sound patterns, but also about the organization of the physical motions required to create those patterns. I would argue that the literary examples are also about the physical. To be sure, only one of the two structural principles in each case is about the structure of sound, rhyme in “Kubla Khan,” stanza boundary in Sir Gawain. But the other structural principle—syntax in one case, discourse in the other—becomes physical in the brain. The neural process that tracks syntactic structure or discourse structure is as physical as the neural process that tracks sound structure.

That’s how structural instability has an effect on our experience of the text, though the physical process that the text occasions in the brain. That physical process in the brain is what we experience in the text. But it is invisible to a criticism that privileges meaning.

What to do?


Comments

Based on the above I’m not yet convinced that structural instability is ubiquitous, but I am convinced that structural instability is perhaps the easiest proof that in some cases meaning must be embodied.

Which would explode any criticism that privileges “meaning” (i.e. “abstract meaning” divorced from performative/presentational aspects of art).

Is the next step then to develop a criticism which gives embodied meaning equal significance to “abstract” meaning?

By on 12/16/09 at 08:53 PM | Permanent link to this comment

I don’t think critics who privilege meaning necessarily denigrate emotional affect.  They simply caution against the assumption that one’s personal experience of a poem is anything like what the poet intended (or meant) in writing the poem. 

The formalists wrote of mood and atmosphere, which describe the emotional “weather” of a work of literature.  But they insist that the reader need not actually have the feelings, and that the feelings experienced are not necessarily those generated purely by the poem.  It’s the same in rhetorical analysis: even if I’m not persuaded emotionally by Obama’s speeches, I can show formalistically how his speeches are trying (meaning or intending) to work on my emotions. 

Structural instability goes back as far as Greek tragedy, in which stichomythia breaks up the smooth lines of verse into sharp bursts, in which one rhythmic unit might be spread over two or three different speakers.  Shakespeare does something similar when two speakers complete a single line of iambic pentameter.  In each case, it’s clear that the poets are intending (or meaning) to generate a certain emotional reaction in the audience. 

But we cannot say this is purely about experience and not meaning.  My personal experience of “Kubla Khan” is that it’s a childish attempt to simulate the sublime by pretending to write in inspired fragments.  Like much Romantic poetry for me, it fails precisely by trying so hard to simulate spontaneity.  Where Pope emphasizes his poetry’s artificiality (and winds up, like Shakespeare, seeming effortless and natural), Coleridge tries too hard to disguise his simulations and his work winds up feeling forced.  But I don’t think my personal experience has anything to do with the poetry’s meaning.  I just don’t like the poetry.

By on 12/17/09 at 01:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Is the next step then to develop a criticism which gives embodied meaning equal significance to “abstract” meaning?

How about a criticism that forgets about meaning entirely, or at least brackets it? I’m looking for a semantics as dumb as rocks; no meaning there, but a design, yes. More and more I’m thinking that meaning is the opiate of literary criticism. We find a meaning in a text and think we’ve done something. Find more meanings, we’ve done more. Posit an infinite plenitude of meanings—but only for the great texts—and whoo hoo! ain’t we grand? But we miss the designs. & the formalists may have prattled about form, but I don’t see that they were particularly good at analzing and describing. In the end, they settled for meaning as well.

I don’t think critics who privilege meaning necessarily denigrate emotional affect.

Damn! I never should have appended that musical example, because now you think it’s about emotion. It’s not. It’s about how the text is built, not what it means, but how it’s built. That building may well have emotional effects in the reader, but it’s not those effects that interest me. It’s the building.

It’s the building that we’re oblivious to.

By Bill Benzon on 12/17/09 at 09:51 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill, what’s the point of looking simply at the shape of writing?  It would be like an art criticism that looked at an idyll and saw three squares, two circles, four parallel lines, and some triangles.  Fascinating stuff, no doubt, but as I tell my students, there are two ket questions about art:

What do you notice? 
Why did you notice it?

Or, alternately, what is the artist doing, and why did the artist do it? 

Too many critics might just ahead to the “why,” but let’s not pretend that ignoring that question will lead to anything but the dullest laundry lists of devices and descriptions.

By on 12/17/09 at 09:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Luther, I don’t think Bill is speaking of shape, or of emotional effect.

Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole? O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Criticism as we know it struggles against an implicit division between body and soul / between form and meaning / between matter and spirit. This further implies that the “meaning” can be abstracted from its vehicle. But if I understand Bill’s examples correctly, they are intended to demonstrate that there are artistic meanings which cannot be abstracted—for which the work itself is unquestionably the most concise, or perhaps even the only, expression.

This invalidates any criticism that depends on being able to abstract “meanings” before it can address the work. Am I on the right track? (If I am, then the next question might be: is “structural instability” the best way to describe unabstractable meanings?)

By on 12/17/09 at 05:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

But if I understand Bill’s examples correctly, they are intended to demonstrate that there are artistic meanings which cannot be abstracted—for which the work itself is unquestionably the most concise, or perhaps even the only, expression.

Yes. In a very interesting and deeply strange book, Stephen Wolfram talks of this or that phenomenon being computationally incompressible. That’s how literary texts work, at least the good ones. Their full effects can’t be paraphrased or abstracted. There is no substitute for the text itself. Why is that so? In what way can we come to understand the text itself?

This invalidates any criticism that depends on being able to abstract “meanings” before it can address the work. Am I on the right track? (If I am, then the next question might be: is “structural instability” the best way to describe unabstractable meanings?)

Structural instability is something that interests me that makes this particular point. Whether or not it is the best way to make the point is beside the point. All I care about is making the point.

By Bill Benzon on 12/17/09 at 06:52 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Something can only be “computationally incompressible” if it is outside of language—and in that case, it can’t be in the literature to begin with.

Criticism is nearly always larger than the primary text.  (Even with analysis of novels, the essay or article is huge in comparison to the parts of the novel it directly addresses.) So this is not about “compression” at all.

And no critic worth her salt is trying to capture “the full effect” of anything.  The point of a good thesis is to exclude more than it includes.  And no one is trying to paraphrase the art work or abstract it.  Critics try to identify particular aspects of an art work; they try to explain what those aspects are doing there.  Of course, that takes more language than the work itself. 

I still don’t see the point of all this.

By on 12/18/09 at 12:34 AM | Permanent link to this comment

’Something can only be “computationally incompressible” if it is outside of language’
This isn’t true. We can easily specify an infinite incompressible object or indeed Brouwerian ‘choice sequence’ of objects with just a few words.

Whereas a computer might pass a Turing test in terms of turning out what looks like literature- in which case you really have a finite string of characters that fully specifies the work.
However in so far as Literature with ‘intentionality’ (i.e. produced by a being-in-language to whom Quinean ‘semantic holism’ can be validly predicated) proves its own truth, completeness and consistency, by mental operations that are the analogue of Kripke’s workaround for Godel- we have not just an incompressible string but infinite incompressible choice sequences which, the work suggests, establish an indecomposable continuum.
‘Criticism is nearly always larger than the primary text.’
No, it is the shmuck, the foreskin, left over from a clumsy circumcision.
Except where the text aint insisting on its own self-consistency and including its own meta-language etc. and is submitting itself to ‘judgement’ of some kind- nowadays, this might be the Marketing focus group rather than a bardic tribunal.
Bill’s point about structural instability is subtle- is difficult- I can’t see it myself but I’m aware that some literary traditions do have a vocabulary and hermeneutics to really chew upon these sorts of purely formal questions.

However, because some of the texts held up as a model of formal perfection seem pretty darn trivial on translation, people like me have a prejudice against traditional formalist analysis.
Syllable counting and quantitative verse seems to have been pretty much a dead end in Eng. Lit so this reinforces one’s prejudice.
What’s the point of a Farsi chronogram or a Sanskrit verse which is also a theorem in geometry? It’s just cross word puzzle brilliance surely?
This stricture doesn’t apply to a really bright guy like Coleridge. If Bill’s approach yields something- everyone will want to know. But will it be something simple yielding us an AHA! experience or something very complicated like the computer assisted solution to the 4 color problem?

By vivek on 12/18/09 at 09:23 AM | Permanent link to this comment

OK, let’s be clear about what Bill’s original post talks about.

He’s coming up with a rather melodramatic term—structural instability—for a rather common artistic strategy: asymmetry.  He gives examples where the syntax is not parallel with the verse form, or where a speech is not parallel with the stanza. 

There’s nothing incompressible about this.  Notice how well Bill describes the situation.  There’s nothing ineffable about it.  Actually, I’m willing to bet there’s a Greek rhetorical term to describe this.

He then uses the music example to say that the physical rather than ideational (?) aspect of the poem needs attended to.  First off, a physical/nonphysical binary makes no sense here.  We might talk about two aspects of the signs—the part our brains see as communicative language and the part our brains see as pattern—but then we’re simply renaming Saussure’s signifier/signified binary.  So I don’t get the point there.

Bill and others seem to be trying to argue that there are parts of a work of art that can only be pointed at, that cannot be effectively described or analyzed.  I want to argue that it would be impossible to know a work of art is doing something beyong the ken of language precisely because it would be operating outside of language.

By on 12/18/09 at 10:20 AM | Permanent link to this comment

’structural instability has an effect on our experience of the text, though the physical process that the text occasions in the brain. That physical process in the brain is what we experience in the text. But it is invisible to a criticism that privileges meaning.

What to do?’

Suppose you get together a bunch of people with a synaesthetic response to ‘structural instability’ and they discuss their responses to a particular text- ‘this feels turquoise to me’, ‘no, that was my first thought, but re-reading it I realized it was turquoise-turning-to-chrome-with-onions-frying’- ‘Wow! You’re right- guys we’ve nailed it!”
And then the Prof. whose been doing loads of these experiments can translate the result into non-synaesthetic terms for the rest of us.

After all, stuff that’s ineffable for me aint necessarily so for a guy wired a different way, or trained to see things my latency inhibition blocks out.

By vivek on 12/18/09 at 11:25 AM | Permanent link to this comment

He’s coming up with a rather melodramatic term—structural instability—for a rather common artistic strategy: asymmetry.

Actually, I got it from Reuven Tsur, who used it in describing the same sections of “Kubla Khan” that I’ve highlighted, and he did so independently of my work. I don’t think “asymmetry” is a good covering term, certainly not for the particular examples I’ve given. Another example: enjambment, where a syntactic unit extends over a line boundary.

We might talk about two aspects of the signs—the part our brains see as communicative language and the part our brains see as pattern—but then we’re simply renaming Saussure’s signifier/signified binary.  So I don’t get the point there.

The point is that, in the brain, both sides of the binary are physical, that is, they are embodied in the physical processes of neural signaling.

Bill and others seem to be trying to argue that there are parts of a work of art that can only be pointed at, that cannot be effectively described or analyzed.

Nope, I’m not saying that at all. They certainly can be described and analyzed, which is what I’ve been doing off and on for some years, and I’m certainly not the only one. But I’m also saying: 1) these phenomena cannot be effectively analyzed by trying to figure out what they mean, and 2) historically, our meaning-centered criticism has tended to neglect these things.

If Bill’s approach yields something- everyone will want to know.

Alas, the professional verdict to date is that I’ve got somewhere between nothing and very little. As I’ve said around the corner, I did my original work on “Kubla Khan” in the early 1970s. That MA thesis more or less got me into PhD program at SUNY Buffalo, and people there were rather impressed by it. But I didn’t attempt to publish until the mid-80s and that’s a curious story. I first sent the manuscript to a journal where I had a connection and so figured I’d get a shot at a reasonable review. I was turned down on the basis of a most interesting review.

The reader thought my charts and diagrams “have a real value in coming to terms with the text, and I will no doubt refer to them when I teach the poem.” That strikes me as a very strong positive remark, a clear statement of his approval. After all, you don’t ordinarily base your teaching on far-out crazy ideas; you’re conservative in what you present to students. But then the reader went on to complain that the essay “ought to argue with itself, to put into question some of the patterns it establishes-or better, perhaps to let the poem talk back.” And after this that and the other, he flatly recommends against publication, no chance for revision.

So, that’s that. In any event, I managed to get the article published in a rather good journal, Language and Style (which no longer exists).

But will it be something simple yielding us an AHA! experience or something very complicated like the computer assisted solution to the 4 color problem?

At this point, rather more like the latter. A couple of years ago I published a rather longer and more detailed article on “Kubla Khan” in PsyArts, which is a refereed journal, but a relatively new one, and one that publishes exclusively online. Well over half the article is analytical and descriptive and it’s tough going simply because of all the pesky detail it involves.

I’d really like an AHA! myself, but I don’t see how to get there from here. More slogging will be needed.

After all, stuff that’s ineffable for me aint necessarily so for a guy wired a different way, or trained to see things my latency inhibition blocks out.

Sure.

What I’d like to do as get EEG readings from skilled readers who are reading the poem aloud. Then we examine the EEG patterns to see if we can spot neural “turbulence” at those regions of “instability,” or whatever you want to call it. All this would establish is that there is a real neural correlate to what I’ve spotted in the text. We’d still be far from know how to explain why Coleridge did that.

Why skilled readers as opposed to just anyone? Because I want to see if there’s anything at all and I figure the best chance would be with skilled readers. If I get positive results there, then we can see what happens when we have people (of whatever degree of familiarity with the poem or with poetry in general) listen to a recitation, or even simply read a text.

By Bill Benzon on 12/18/09 at 01:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

’The reader thought my charts and diagrams “have a real value in coming to terms with the text, and I will no doubt refer to them when I teach the poem.” That strikes me as a very strong positive remark, a clear statement of his approval. After all, you don’t ordinarily base your teaching on far-out crazy ideas; you’re conservative in what you present to students. But then the reader went on to complain that the essay “ought to argue with itself, to put into question some of the patterns it establishes-or better, perhaps to let the poem talk back.” And after this that and the other, he flatly recommends against publication, no chance for revision.’
I think I get it. Your work did not end with a nice Politically Correct moral lesson- with sexism, racism or homophobia being held up as the villain of the piece and Coleridge the hapless victim by reason of his White/Male/Bourgeois status.
‘What I’d like to do as get EEG readings from skilled readers who are reading the poem aloud. Then we examine the EEG patterns to see if we can spot neural “turbulence” at those regions of “instability,” or whatever you want to call it. All this would establish is that there is a real neural correlate to what I’ve spotted in the text. We’d still be far from know how to explain why Coleridge did that.”
But it would be a start, wouldn’t it? Traditional art forms emphasize things you need to be doing with your body and the focus of your attention so that you get the same ‘qualia’- or rather have started on the road to getting the same ‘qualia’- as the expert reader.
This is a literary theory- like the dhvani poetics of the Indians- which ultimately is founded on an experiential soteriology- the object is to recreate the qualia of the ‘liberated’ rather than just parrot, or self-aggrandizingly instrumentalize, the written text left behind.

I can see why you went towards Cognitive Science.
But that stuff is like real hard. The demand, however, is for meretricious sound bytes and the sophistry of the moral outrage industry.

By vivek on 12/18/09 at 02:05 PM | Permanent link to this comment

But it would be a start, wouldn’t it?

Yes, it would be a start. Some folks at NYU are doing interesting brain-imaging work with film.

By Bill Benzon on 12/18/09 at 02:19 PM | Permanent link to this comment

As an exercise in piety, may I repeat what I was told about this passage by my high school English teacher Mrs Hurleburt, circa 1962? I wrote an essay about Kublai Khan in which I very tentatively averred that the passage didn’t work for me, especially the couplet

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing…

To which Mrs Hurleburt responded in the margin, “Obviously.” I think that this lady, who, by the way, had an MA from UCLA in English Lit, was suggesting that the poet had simply run out of gas in this part of the poem.

By Jim Harrison on 12/18/09 at 09:35 PM | Permanent link to this comment

Perhaps it’s those thick pants.

By Bill Benzon on 12/18/09 at 10:11 PM | Permanent link to this comment

This structural instability that you’re going on about is referred to in engineering and programming circles as a hack. Not necessarily a bad thing, often it’s both sublimely elegant and contributes desirous side-effects. Nor does it require explanation at some lower mechanical level (physical process? c’mon, that’s like delving into machine code to explicate higher-level behaviors, unnecessary and misleading), rather contrast with and integration into the larger organization is key.

By nnyhav on 12/19/09 at 01:53 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Hmm. . . I think not, not a hack.

By Bill Benzon on 12/19/09 at 11:54 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Bill,

On the DVD “Composing the Beatles Songbook: 1966 to 1940” is a commentary by Allan Moore (a musicologist; not to be confused with the Rasputin-looking dude) about “A Day in the Life.” I think you would find it highly relevant to your project.

I found this article fascinating and will most definitely steal some of your comments when next I discuss “Kubla Khan.”

By on 12/21/09 at 09:59 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Uh—that should be “1970.”

By on 12/21/09 at 10:08 AM | Permanent link to this comment

Luther: I want to argue that it would be impossible to know a work of art is doing something beyong the ken of language precisely because it would be operating outside of language.

Plato in the _Republic_ describes several different musical modes and excludes most of them from his ideal state on the grounds that the objective emotional effects which they produce are not suitable. The premise of course is that certain artistic forms can produce objective effects.

However—though Plato didn’t mention it—there are always tone-deaf or otherwise uncultivated people who won’t notice the effects. So the premise has to become “certain artistic forms can produce objective effects for a sufficiently cultivated audience”. (And perhaps this cultivation was definitive for Greek culture so that anyone who didn’t recognize the effects in Plato’s time could be written off as a barbarian.)

So perhaps Bill is noticing effects that are objective to him, but for which our present culture has no discourse. And he is trying to find a way to get them into the discourse.

Luther, does this begin to suggest any value? Or is it still unnecessary mystical handwaving?

(BTW, Luther, thanks for digging in your heels. It makes for a better thread.)

By on 12/21/09 at 03:50 PM | Permanent link to this comment

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