Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Letter to Mom about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Statement on Homosexuality in Iran

Mom,

Though much ridiculed, the statement itself-- "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country" -- might in fact be true if understood in its proper context, and if proper attention is payed to the word "like."

It seems that what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant was that the concept of "gay-identity" doesn't exist in Iran. "Gay identity" was an invention of 1970s America, along with "black identity," "Jewish identity," "female identity," and others. In the 70s, America's melting pot faced its first severe identity crisis, and it responded by drawing rigid lines around the various and often arbitrary categories of race, gender, and sexual behavior.

These "identity movements," however, were a particularly American phenomenon, and one would be hard pressed to find similar examples elsewhere in world history (though the American movement did subsequently spark various offshoot movements around the world). Of course, homosexual activity exists today in Iran and has always existed; but, generally speaking, the Persians, like the Japanese, have not felt it necessary to define themselves by it as they do in the U.S. In other words, the lines are blurred, there's room for ambiguity, and a defiant proclamation of identity is unnecessary, even laughable.

Themes of pederasty, sodomy, and homosexuality are in fact quite common in both the pre-Islamic and Islamic literature of Persia (up through the present), and, like the Greeks and the Japanese at particular times, Persian poets often praised homosexual relationships, which they considered to be the purest expression of human love.

"Ryan, are you gay?" I can hear now the doubts being raised. No, mom, I'm not gay, either in the contemporary American "identity" understanding of the term or by the standards of the Persians. I'm just explaining what I think the President of Iran meant by his statement. This explanation, of course, does not excuse him for treating homosexual activity as a crime (assuming the accusations are true); but neither should these claims be used by the media to excuse the U.S. from waging war on Iran.

Your devoted son,
Ryan

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Johann Sebastian Bach: BWV 847 — Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Fugue #2 in C minor

Johann Sebastian Bach: BWV 847 — Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Fugue No. 2 in C minor, performed by amateur pianist (keep in mind!) Ryan Morrison at Wakeijuku 和敬塾 in Tokyo, to an empty hall.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

中国旅行:第一章、女士観察

* "Papa Leaving China on His Water Buffalo"

久恵ちゃんと僕は、旅の相方(Frankさん)に引きずられて、中国の女性観察をよくよーくする羽目になった。もしかしたら、今回の旅は、これにつきるかも、というくらい。

その相方Frankが曰く、「中国の女性は、ダイヤの原石。これからの磨きようによっては世界一になる可能性もある」とのこと。

おおざっぱな印象で言うと、中国人の女は大きい。
165センチの久恵ちゃんが、ちょうど平均くらいか小さめの存在になる。

背が高い、手足が長い。顔が小さい。スタイル抜群の人を、
いとも簡単に 見かけます。

また、けっこうぽっちゃり目に見えるような人もたくさんいるけど、体全体が大きいので問題なし。

お肌がきれい。
キメが細かくてつるんとしている。
程よく、日焼けている。

それから巨乳。これはほんとに愕然とする。
皆、巨乳。貧乳がいない。痩せてても、巨乳。しかも美乳。遺伝子の問題だと思う。
「暴風大陸」とかいう名前の人口ビーチやプールのサマーランドに行ったとき、「こりゃ暴風ランドじゃなくて、おっぱいランドだぜ」とこのダサきFrankが言う。あいつはまるで日本の55歳の下品なオヤジのようだと思った。

マッサージ。
上海では、街のいたるところにマッサージ店がある。
僕の宿の近くに、一時間48元(800円くらい)できちんとマッサージをしてくれるお店があったので、何度か行った。
超ミニのチェックスカートに白いシャツ、という日本の女子高生制服スタイルの制服にビビったけど、真面目に気持ち良くマッサージしてくれる。
皆で行ったとき、覚えたての中国語で「おっぱいを揉むサービスがあるのか」と聞き回っている変態のアメリカ人観光客Frankが店内にいることが発覚し、笑いの種にされていた。

美友。
エッチなサービスをしてくれるお店も点在している。
理髪店風の店構えをして、「美友」の文字がきらめく。
店の中には、巨乳の怪しげな女達がずらりと座っている。
旅の相方Frankさんがちょっと離れて歩いていると、お店の中からおっぱいを揺らして女が駆け寄ってくるではありませんか!
久恵ちゃんが後ろにいるのに気がつくと、すーっと引いていった。
我らの宿の近く、徒歩10分圏内にも4、5店あった。
覚えたての中国語で、「散髪はしてくれますか?」と聞き回っていたスケベFrankさんがいたかどうかは知らない。

でも、エロくない。
そんなお店は例外で、中国の女の人達って、エロさがない。ほんと無邪気。
洋服は、かなり露出が激しいものも普通に着ているし、若い男女は公衆の面前で普通にいちゃいちゃしている。でも、全てが無垢な感じ。
「日本人ほど性的に目覚めていないのではいか?」という我々の疑問に答えを与えてくれたのが、中国人朋友スーちゃんのパパ。
中国は男女平等社会だから、とのこと。
男女平等とは、マルクスの共産主義の考えで重要なものの一つで、文化大革命時代にかなり徹底して導入されたとのこと。
女性も等しく働く社会においては、男性に性的喜びを提供する、男性に見られることを意識する存在ではないのだね。
なるほどー。

Monday, September 17, 2007

ロン・ポールと共和党の討論

This just in from Grady Glenn:
ロン・ポール、9月5日の共和党内大統領立候討論会にて。

確かにこういう本格的な討論会は、現代アメリカにおいて滅多に行われないことだ。昨日は、今までのいんちき討論と違って、およそ9分でアメリカの最も根本的な問題 -- アメリカは帝国であるべきか、それとも共和国であるべきか -- を巡ってかなり猛烈な討論となった。ロン・ポールとマイク・ハカビーがお互いに突っ込み合ったりすることが非常に稀かつ面白かったので、見てください。これを見ながらつくづく思ったことは、米国マスメディアの門番がロン・ポールの口を未だ封じていないことは本当に不思議だと。

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Grady's Letter to a Friend, Concerning General Patraeus's Slow "Victory" Plan

This just in from Grady Glenn:
I read the article you sent me . It is very convincing, and the McCain-Lieberman strategy is perhaps the only viable one if you're goals are the following: to maintain American hegemony over the Arabian peninsula indefinitely, and, eventually, to spread the war into Iran (something which McCain and Lieberman, and the Israeli lobby, are all strongly pushing for). If these are the goals, then it indeed makes little sense to begin withdrawing troops now.

If, on the other hand, your goal is to make America safe and to prevent further acts of terrorism, then the McCain-Lieberman strategy of a surge in troop numbers and an expansion of the conflict is entirely counterproductive.

And, I agree with you that McCain might still win the presidency. He has almost no following among the public; but, lucky for him, we have other ways of selecting presidents in the U.S.

Now here's a short reading list. First, if you haven't yet, check out Mearsheimer and Walt's book on American foreign policy, called The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. Also, read every thing you can of Michael Scheuer, the former CIA chief of the Bin-Laden Issue Station. These are not liberal diatribes. Their authors are not even liberals, really, and neither am I. And when you see my boy McCain, tell him that neither Ryan nor his mother much approves of what he's been up to of late.

-Grady Glenn

Results from the Pew Center Poll -- An "Isolationist" America?

This just in from Grady Glenn:
Maybe it's an opium dream to expect much to come of this recent Ron Paul phenomenon. But the fact is that according to the major polls nearly half of the American population support a "mind-our-own-business" non-interventionist foreign policy. About 2% of government officials feel this way, and those 2% are for the most part ignored by the largely pro-intervention media. So I think there is the possibility for a real populist movement if someone can effectively represent the sentiments of this half of the population.

According to the Pew Center poll, "The survey, conducted this fall and released today, found a revival of isolationist feelings among the public similar to the sentiment that followed the Vietnam War in the 1970's and the end of the Cold War in the 1990's..... Forty-two percent of Americans think that the United States should 'mind its own business internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own,' according to the survey, which was conducted by the Pew Research Center in association with the Council on Foreign Relations" (NY Times, November 17, 2005).

PS Here's the Pew Research Center article

今日のピアノ演奏: BACH

久しぶりに露出演奏で、すみません。

作曲家: バッハ

曲名: BWV 857 ― Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude and Fugue No. 12 in F minor.

今回のスタイル: Unable to hold the audience's attention at a slow pace (some say I'm unable to hold their attention at any pace), I played a bit faster than Glenn Gould plays it.

舞台: 文京区、東京、日本。とあるマンション。

演奏者:ラxxン モxソン

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Kokinwakashū Preface and the Shih Ching (The Book of Songs) Great Preface

According to the Great Preface 大序 to the Shih Ching 詩經, poetry is indistinguishable from history, its purpose is explicitly moral, and its style is to be in accordance with the mood and politics of the age. Specifically, the purpose of poetry is to correct governments that have gone astray, advise public officials, and encourage proper behavior between husband and wife.

By contrast, the Japanese, according to the Kokinwakashū 古今和歌集 preface, place the focus of poetry on symbolism (“they give expression to the meditations of their hearts in terms of the sights appearing before their eyes and the sounds coming to their ears”), subjectivity, and the communicative relation between reader and listener.

ファンへのお返事

This just in from Grady Glenn:
一昨日の記事(『坪内逍遥と西洋レアリズムの移入』)について一人のブログファンに以下の質問を聞かれた。

「僕も真面目な話としてこんなことを聞きたい。卒論などの論文の評価で重要なところの一つはその実用性なんだけど、何でこの論文が今それほど重要なのですか。」

この重要なな質問を聞いてくれて、ありがとうございした。まずですね、僕の卒論課題には実用性がないかもしれない。でも、なくともいいと思う。理解そのもののための理解だけでいいです。過去への追求や研究は、そうであるべし。

それからですね、日本人は、外とのぶつかり合いによって「日本」という国や文化を作り出して来たわけです。奈良時代から江戸時代までの千年以上は中国との文明の衝突で、そして明治から現代までは欧米との衝突で日本が発展してきたんですけれども、それらのぶつかり合いで、日本はどのように反応したか、どのように順応したのか、というのが非常に重要な問題だと思うからこそ、この卒論のテーマが大事だ。歴史においても、文学や文化においても大事だ。何のために実用するかは、興味ない。それは理想郷を切望している共産党に任せる。僕はユートピアなどには興味ない。知識そのもののための知識にしか興味ない。

A (Very) Brief History of the Ancient Quarrel between Philosophy and Poetry: From Plato to Wordsworth

The quarrel begins with Plato (428 BC – 348 BC), who presents a mimetic theory of art whereby the artist functions as a mirror to nature, reflecting and/or imitating the observable universe. The mimetic theory of art is, according to M.H. Abrams, the oldest and “most primitive” of the theories. Plato holds that the value of art should be judged in terms of verisimilitude -- i.e., either by its relation to truth or by the degree to which the created object resembles the imitated object.

In the Republic, Plato describes the three realms -- the realm of forms, of particulars, and of shadows. It is the category of shadows into which art falls, as the artist’s creation (being an imitation of an imitation) is the furthest removed from the ultimate truth, i.e., the realm of forms. Similarly, Socrates provides the analogy of the three beds. The first bed is the Ideal bed, which exists within the realm of forms. The second bed is that of the carpenter, and is of the realm of particulars. The third bed is the one portrayed by the artist in his painting. Because this third, simulated bed is twice removed from the truth (the bed of the realm-of-forms), Plato refuses to admit the artist into his utopian republic, since artists do nothing but propagate un-truths and arouse the baser emotions of man, leading them astray.

With Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC), we see one of the first defenses of poetry by a non-poet. Though Aristotle began as a disciple of Plato, espousing to his students his and Socrates' ideas, later in life he began to formulate his own theory of drama and challenge the claim that poetry was, at best, distracting, and at worse, corrupting. Aristotle developed a system of analysis based not on art’s relation to truth, per se, but rather on its manner of imitation. To go back to Socrates’ bed analogy, Aristotle argues that the value of the third bed (the one in the painting) is not contingent upon its relation to either the first or the second bed. Instead, Aristotle argued that art should be considered independently from truth, and should be evaluated on its own merits. The manner of its imitation, he insisted, is more important than whether it accurately resembles that which is being imitated.

Still, Aristotle’s argument is a far cry for the purely independent basis for aesthetic analysis developed centuries later by Kant. In fact, Aristotle leaves plenty of room for a moral interpretation of his work, most conspicuously in his claim that the three functions are to teach, to please, and to move.

Raman Selden writes in his introduction to The Theory of Criticism from Plato to the Present that, unlike Aristotle and Plato, Horace (65 BC – 8 BC) is “more interested in the practical questions of how the poet may delight and instruct an intelligent reader, than in defining what a poem is or what literature is.” By including “instruction” among the poet’s tasks, Horace admits a didactic function to poetry, and he advises that the chorus should always make clear which of the characters is behaving in a manner worthy of emulation.

But Horace seems to drive a wedge between truth and poetry with his description of a “second nature,” or the world created by the artist. According to Horace, it is no longer the sole duty of the poet to mirror the observable world. In addition to this task, he must also mirror the reflections seen in other mirrors -- i.e., the poet must draw from “the literary canon,” which was at the time the established repertoire of poems and plays. This marks a major shift in the understanding of mimesis, and in fact pulls us further away from Plato’s advocacy for the mirroring of Truth.

Building upon the moral foundations first laid by Aristotle, Sir Phylip Sidney (1554-1586) develops a didactic theory of poetry in his “An Apologie for Poetry.” In it, he reformulates Aristotle’s arguments in both aesthetic and moral terms. Buy building an argument for the moral legitimacy of poetry, he seeks to fend off poetry’s Puritanical detractors who insist that poetry possesses the power only to corrupt otherwise virtuous minds.

Given the moral, aesthetic, and political nature of poetry, Sidney argues that poetry is the “architectonic,” ranking it above all other fields of knowledge. Poetry, as it deals with both the realms of forms and of particulars, is superior to the field of history, which uses only empirical evidence and particulars. It also ranks above philosophy, which is limited to the realm of forms and a priori argument. Poetry, by contrast, “coupleth the general notion with the particular example,” and also possesses the power “to move” – something which, according to his reasoning, neither history nor philosophy possess.

Moreover, poetry is utopian in nature -- i.e., it possesses a moral idealism not found in history, which is concerned only with what was. Poetry, by contrast, is concerned with could have been and with what could be. Responding to the claim that poets propagate untruths, Sidney counters by stating that the poet is, in fact, the “least of liars” since he “nothing affirms, and therefore never Lieth.” According to Sidney, he is the least inaccurate among the physicians, philosophers, astronomers, and historians. His moral vision is also utopian, since he is the creator of possible worlds to which inspired readers may strive. In this regard, too, history, which is full of stories of evil men going unpunished, is inferior to utopian poetry, where the good can and do prevail.

Furthermore, Sidney argues that this “second nature” created by the artists (i.e., the above-mentioned “third bed,” which Socrates denounced as the furthest from the ultimate truth) is not necessarily a negative quality. “Only the poet,” he writes, “doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclopes, Chimeras, Furies, and such like.” Poetry, he suggests, is an improvement upon nature, and it is the duty of the poets to complete or perfect the world, as it were. The shadows, previously degraded by Plato, are as important to Sidney as that which cast them.

Picking up where Longinus (first or third century AD) began, Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) and John Locke (1632-1704) mark the move away from the external world by focusing on the subjective mind as interpreter of external phenomenon. Paying close attention to psychological introspection and subjective emotions, Hobbes and Locke pave the way for the Romantics, who place the emphasis for their aesthetic theory directly upon on the creative artist himself. With the Romantics, the work is no longer seen in terms of its relation to “universe” or “truth,” or even to the manner of imitation, but rather to the subjective experience of the artist.

The aesthetic analysis of Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) ushered in the art-for-art’s-sake movement, and marked an important shift toward the work itself. After Kant, the work of art came to be seen as an independently functioning and self-sustaining “heterocosm.” John Stewart Mill (1806-1873) and other radical Romantics took this further, proclaiming that the imitation of universe is of no importance and that proper art need not bear any relation to truth.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) builds a system of poetry based upon this newly formed subjectivism, but stops short of totally denying the reality of any independent outer world. Wordsworth rejects the “subjective idealism” of Bishop Berkeley in favor of Kant’s waffle-iron theory, and he “argues” in his poems that reality exists neither in some outer Platonic realm nor in total subjectivity, but rather within the web of interaction between the external and internal. This truth, he argues, is experienced by man through the participatory act of “half-creation.”

“ . . . of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,― both what they half create,
And what perceive.” (“Tintern Abbey,” lines 105-107)

Though it seems that in modern times there has been no resolution to this ancient quarrel between philosophy and poetry, there has been a reconciliation of sorts. It is unarguable that in the 20th century philosophy moved in the direction of poetry, as it became more and more aware of the problems and limitations of its mode of discourse ― namely, language. For a moment, philosophy quit doing “philosophy,” and took “a step back” to engage itself in some of the more fundamental problems of language and its relation to that which it signifies. Though there has not been any resolution between poetry and philosophy (in the sense that one proved right and the other wrong), there has been a merging of the two great rivals, so that, in a sense, today they have become nearly indistinguishable from one another. Perhaps it is this consolidated form that will prove to be the true “architectonic.”
[For a more thorough history of the quarrel, see The Ancient Quarrel Between Poetry and Philosophy, by Thomas Gould.]
This article is copyrighted © 2005 - 2008 by Beholdmyswarthyface&Co.

The Practical Nuisance- Roger Bacon (ca. 1214-1292)-- Opus Maius: Moral Philosophy

In Opus Maius: Moral Philosophy, Roger Bacon attempts to justify the teaching of pagans to Christian contemporaries, who were skeptical of having to be subjected to anything predating Christ. Bacon restates Horace’s “teach and delight” dictum, and emphasizes poetry’s didactic function. He cites Aristotle’s Poetics despite having never seen it, as neither Latin nor English translations were available at the time. Instead, he knows Aristotle only through the 12th-century Arab scholar Averroes. Yet despite not having direct access to Aristotle, he insists that such indirect access is still valuable: “Still, a studious person can catch a faint scent of his views, even though he cannot taste them; for a wine that is decanted from a third vase retains little of its vigor.”

In this essay he outlines the three "species" of rhetorical argument: faith (“proof of the true religion,” rhetorical), justice (e.g., Cicero’s rhetorical works), and the persuasive (arguments that sway us into action and direct us regarding divine worship, laws, and virtues). Poetry, Bacon asserts, belongs to this third "species," which is both rhetorical and poetic.

夫殺し

今朝起きたら、以下のメールが受信ボックスにあった。名前も書いてあらず、メールの最後に「妻に非常に強く共感する傍観者より」としか書いてない。不思議な内容なので、とりあえずここに載せます。本人は誰であるか、知っている人がいれば教えてください。又、本人がこれを読んでいるなら、陰から出てきて身元を明かしてください。

***********************

「夫が心底憎い、死んでしまえ、と思ったらどうするか。

妻が『大好きなあなたが他の女と浮気しないように』と言って、『一日二回抱き合う』というルールを作り、早朝と夜に激しく抱き合い、夫はエネルギーを消耗され、精魂が吸い取られていくという夫婦が、最近どこかのミクシ上で有名である。
ドラッグではなく、妻の愛によってジャンキーのようになっているこの夫が、果たしてのろ気て自慢しているのか、あるいはたまんねーよと愚痴っているのかが皆の注目を集め、"one of the most controversial diaries"となっている。

この日記の傍観者として思うことは、皆、この妻の真意をわかってないな、ということ。
きっとこの妻は、おもしろいことの一つも言わず、お出かけも企画してくれず、近所の生協スーパーに歩いていくことで今週のデートの任務は果たした、と喜ぶようなつまらぬ夫、
自分はつまらないくせに妻のおもしろい話には『それ何回も聞いた』とか「あっそ」としか言わないこのグータラ亭主に殺意が芽生えているのである。
でも、『お前はつまらない男だから生きる価値なし!』なんて事実を突きつけて死なせるのはかわいそうだな、と思い、
『セクシー過ぎてたまらない、かっこよくて男として最高』と勘違いしたままあの世へ旅立たせてあげよう、『女に吸い取られて死ぬなら希代の好色男であるこの俺にとって本望だ』と思ってくれれば万々歳!と考えて着々とことを進めているだけだと思う。

そんな絶倫妻のようなことは真似できない、という場合はどうするか。
自転車の空気を毎日少しだけ抜く。
『あなたのために作ったんだから必ず飲んでね』と言って毎朝飲ませる紅茶は、濃ーくいれて、妙にげっぷに苦しむようにする。
『しょうがないから靴下とパンツだけは洗濯してあげるわ』と言って、漂白剤を入れたのにすすぎを省略。足元と肝心の局部にじわじわと塩素が染み込む。
いつもべったり見入っているパソコン画面に、秋葉原で買った特殊フィルムを貼って、目が異常に痛くなるようにする。
電気蚊取り機、『部屋に入ってくる小さな虫を殺す薬が放出されるのよ』なんて言って、『実はあんたを殺す薬よ。私は免疫注射を打ってもらっているから大丈夫』と心の中で呟く。。。

じわじわ、じわじわ。

       妻に非常に強く共感する傍観者より」


と。皆さん、この不思議な手紙は、一体どう受け取れるのか。

This article is copyrighted © 2005 - 2008 by Beholdmyswarthyface.

「糞を万遍なく」

最近運動足りずと思い、今日は一年ぶりに自転車に乗って新宿に行ってきた。着いてすぐお腹が減ってきて、うどん屋さんに行って温卵ぶっかけを注文した。椅子に座って食べようと思ったら、突然激しい便意に襲われた。まあ、しかたあらずやと思って、ぶっ掛けうどんをそのままおいてトイレに行った。

そしたら便器に座ったら、洗面所の上に誰かの忘れた携帯があるのを見て、まあいいかと思って、暇つぶしにその携帯を拾って開けて中の写真を勝手に見ちゃった。

一枚目は普通の中年男とその男の家族との写真。
二枚目は、ある公園の景色。背景には橋が見えた。
三枚目は、縄で縛られているその中年の真っ裸の後姿。
四枚目には、その中年の男の後ろからもう一人の小太りの中年男が、糞みたいなものを両手で塗りかけていた。
五枚目は、糞で万遍なく塗られた彼の顔の真正面。
五枚目は、またその公園の景色。今回は背景には橋がないが、あひる二匹がいた。

もう十二分見たと思って携帯を閉じてトイレを出た。そして出た瞬間にその小太りの中年が現れ「ちょっと忘れたものあった」とぶつぶつ言いながら僕の目を避けてトイレに入った。しかも携帯を閉じたのは五秒ばっかり前だったので携帯の電気がまだついていたんだ。トイレから出てきた彼の顔を見たら、僕の罪がばれたことが分った。

今日の話しには教訓は二つある。一つは、たで喰う虫も好き好き。それからやっぱり勝手に他人の携帯を見るのはよくあるまい、どんなものを見るか分らないから。

同性愛の爆弾

末法思想の文学を読みすぎたせいか、僕は厭世的にモノを見るという癖が昔からある、世界の未来も結構暗く見える人間だが、きのう新聞で読んだ記事を機に自分の考え方が一変した。

世界第一大戦が終わって以来、アメリカは、何百万人を殺しても、いくつかの国に干渉し戦争を起しても、世界の諸国がいいなりにならないことがやっと分ったようだ。今は、アメリカが世界を牛耳るための別の方法を追求しているが、一つの方法は最近発見されました。それが「同性愛の爆弾」ということだ。別称でいえば「The Gay Bomb」。  

人間を普通に殺すとは、いにしえの戦争の戦い方と見直され、これからは敵をホモにするのが最も有効である。この「Gay Bomb」は、敵陣に落とされ、爆弾の中のホルモンが敵にかかると、彼らが急にホモと化して、そして傍にいる戦友に対して抑え切れない欲望が発生したら、彼らが『曽根崎心中』の「お初」と「徳米」が如く抱き合わずにはいられなくなるのだ。その抱き合った状態が数日間も続いて、そして抱き合っているうちに米軍が勝手に侵略を進めてその領域の支配を容易く達成していくのは、言うまでもあるまい。

しかも米軍は未だこの爆弾を実験で試したことがなく、実際に効き目があるか確認されていない。皆さんはどう思うのか?やはり日本でも試してみないか?

変な外人の得意な言葉

金曜日の三限。外人が多い「Advanced Japanese Readings」クラス。太宰治の『十二月八日』のつづきを私が朗読する。そうすると皆が知らない言葉が出てきた。

学生1:「先生、"頬擦り"ってどういうことですか?」
先生:「誰か、教えてあげられる人はいる?」

ぼく:「はい。"擦る"というのはどういうことかといいますと、皆が知っている例だと"パイ擦り"がありますね。あれをおっぱいではなくてほっぺですることです。」

全員:(恥笑)

先生:(心の声)「やばい、私も笑っちゃった。でも、この外人達、皆が"パイ擦り"は知っているなんて。。。やっぱり日本に来ているガイジンはダメだな。締めとかないと。」

先生:「こら!太宰治を読むこの授業の中で卑猥な発言は困ります。あんたバケツ持って外に立ってなさい!」

それから無事に授業は終了。
渋谷へ移動し、「太もも擦り」ライブを堪能しました。
満足。

母の日に母への手紙。

お母さん、

ご無沙汰いたして申し訳ありません。お元気ですか。パリやイタリアはいかがだったのでしょうか?パパの病気は一層悪くなったと聞いたのですが、まだ死にはしていないのでしょう?

いよいよ学期が始まり、かなり忙しくなってきました。この学期は、ゼミが三つあり、その中で一番面白く勉強になっているのが「西洋と東洋の文学理論」。課題は少し大雑把ですが、西洋の理論、つまり古代ギリシャのプラトンからさまざまな現代理論までを読みつつ、日本や中国の大昔からの批評家や作家と比較して読んでいます。先週の本居宣長の「源氏物語の小櫛」はとくに面白かったです。やはり、先生が去年おっしゃった通り、耽読だけでは何も分らない。理論や文学史や哲学まで、さまざまな分野のテクストを読まないと文学分析ができないと改めて実感しました。

昨年、どうしても--大学に入りたくて、慌しく受験の準備をし試験に落ちた時は、とてもがっかりして落ち込んでいたのですが、今から見ると落ちてよかったなと思っています。なぜならば、今は日本近代文学のみならず、平安の絵巻・日記・物語、古代ギリシャのドラマ・理論、英米文学批評、近代南米文学のボルヘスなどなど、それら全部を同時に勉強していることがとてもいいと思うからです。「国文学」における方法は、「木を見て森を見ず」という感じでしたが、今回は「森を見て木を見ず」という恐れが少しあります。

ま、兎も角、今までの二年は本当に貴重な経験となって、いつまでも忘れらないと思っています。僕のここで勉強するという夢を実現させてくれてありがとうございました。週末、そして授業のない月・火曜日は必ずあっちの図書館に通っていますので、ばったり会うかもしれません。

ー あなたの従順な倅より

Poet-as-Primitive Nuisance-- Rousseau on the Bourgeois, the Preface to the Second Discours (1755)

In this preface, we have more of the typical, hippie rhetoric from Rousseau -- the primitive presented as noble; society as stifling and evil; childishness revered as closest to the true and good ("Child is the father of man"); and grown, civilized man as corrupt and false.

Such ideas have been reworked over and again by later generations, but it seems that Rousseau was the greatest and earliest advocate of this type of radical primitivism. The Romantic poets were the direct descendants of Rousseau, and much of his influence can be seen in their poetry, particularly in that of Wordsworth. The 20-century scholar George Steiner took the following quote from Rousseau and wrote about Nazi Germany: "It is through studying man that we have rendered ourselves incapable of knowing him." And prior to Steiner, it was Karl Marx who was greatly influenced by Rousseau's discourse, particularly in his "Communist Manifesto."

The negative portrayal of the bourgeois, too, seemed to have its start here with Rousseau, who defines them as:

"a class of men who attach importance to the gaze of the rest of the world, and who know how to be happy and satisfied with themselves on the testimony of others rather than on their own. Such is, in fact, the true cause of all these differences: the savage lives within himself; social man lives always outside himself; he he knows how to live only in the opinion of others, it is, so to speak, from their judgment alone that he derives the sense of his own existence."

Ron Paul, Imperial Japan, and the (Il)Legitimacy of American Expansion

This just in from Grady Glenn:
二週間前、アメリカの第一の共和派の議論が行われました。その直後の世論調査によって、ロン・ポールという今まで誰も名も知らぬ下院議員が明らかに勝利したと指摘されました。それを見て、僕は関心しこのアーティクルを書きました。このタイトルの和訳は、「アメリカ次期大統領候補ロン・ポール、大日本帝国、そして米国の拡張の(不)正当性」ぐらいかな?時間あったら和訳します。

America today is facing many of the same dilemmas that Imperial Japan faced in the 1930s -- empire, military over-expansion, restrictions of civil liberties at home, etc. In this article I discuss how today's neoconservative vision of "American globalism" resembles Japan's "Pan-Asian" ideology, and how Ron Paul is the only candidate for President who presents a challenge to this.

An old friend currently working as an adviser to the John McCain campaign recently remarked to me that “much of what Ron Paul says makes sense; but don’t be a wimp ― vote McCain.” The comment was a reminder that the irrational instincts ― the ones that urge us to ignore our more reasonable impulses and not be a "p--sy" ― still do drive much of the conventional policy-making in this country.

Unfortunately, it’s too late in the game to turn Senator McCain around. In fact, he's been advocating his own brand of authoritarianism for decades now, which is why the libertarian-leaning Barry Goldwater was never too fond of him.

The problem is that, like the Japanese Empire circa 1935, the U.S.'s central government has become all too powerful to be challenged by an occasional voice of reason. There were several Ron Paul-esque voices in Japan, too, at the time, but they were easily crushed for appearing "sympathetic to the enemy," just as Congressman Paul was "crushed" (according to the major papers) by Giuliani a few months ago for pointing out the fact that we are despised not for our tremendous freedom and wealth, but for our policies and actions abroad.

And the similarities with Imperial Japan do not stop there. After the debate, Ron Paul was interviewed by Fox News, who attacked him on moral grounds for not supporting our numerous interventions around the globe. We have the moral obligation to stop tyrants, they argued.

This "duty to civilize the world" is of course something we are used to hearing, and is part of the legacy we inherited from the British. But it was also an important feature of the Japanese Pan-Asian ideology, which disguised Japan’s particularistic geo-political goals in universalistic moral terms, and transformed nationalist sentiment into an anti-Western, Pan-Asiatic internationalism. The commentator on Fox News, however, is of course unaware of this distinction; for him, there is no difference between the particularistic goals of the United States and the “universal good.”

Thumbing through the last volume of the Cambridge History of Japan, I was recently struck by another similarity to our present American predicament. It appears that there were two strains in Japan’s political discourse at the time -- one that advocated the immediate and violent expansion of Japanese power (today’s neoconservative doctrine), and the other which advocated a somewhat more polite expansion through the use of what Harvard professor Joseph Nye calls “soft power,” which is what we saw, with several notable exceptions, in the Clinton administration.

But the parallel with America lies here: By the mid-1930s there were nearly no influential voices left in Japan to oppose the very notion of "expansion." Like the American politicians today, the Japanese leaders of the period never questioned the legitimacy of their expansion. It was their "manifest destiny," and the only debate was about how it could be best achieved. I am afraid we're at that point in America today.

For Japan, the problem was that as its empire soaked in deeper throughout Asia and resistance began to mount, they could no longer afford to utilize their softer methods of influence, which had in early decades served them relatively well. More and more, war became Japan's only way of doing business. Today, America is facing a very similar crisis, and it seems the only candidate aware of this ― and bothered by it ― is the conservative, Ron Paul.

By contrast, John McCain, still clinging to the absurdity that they hate us because we're rich and free (I don't know about the rest of Americans, but I'm barely staving off starvation with peanut butter and tofu), now brazenly advocates a broader Mideast war, proving himself to be the most misguided among our misguided Senators. Though a Hillary, Giuliani or an Obama will probably fare no better, a McCain presidency would likely be a most disastrous thing for both the entire Mideast (Israel included) and us. I should remind us all that there are far greater things to fear than being called a “p--sy.”

On Eliot’s “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1917)

今日は、T・S・エリオットの評論『伝統と個人の才能』(Tradition and the Individual Talent、1919年)を巡って短いアーティクルを書きました。興味があるならぜひ読んでいただけたらと思います。

"To divert interest from the poet to the poetry is a laudable aim,” T.S. Eliot declares in his acclaimed essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1917). In the essay Eliot reintroduces the notion of the inconspicuous artist―- the old classical interpretation of the artist-as-mirror―- which went out of fashion in the early Romantic period and was replaced with a radically new view that placed the author’s interior life at center. The points made in Eliot’s essay soon became some of the key concepts of the Formalist critics, particularly the New Critics, who advocated a kind of criticism that, to quote Eliot, “is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry.” Eliot later distanced himself from New Criticism, calling it “the lemon-squeezer school of criticism” and referring to their work as “bogus scholarship.” Nevertheless, his influence on their method of analysis, whether intended or not, is palpably evident.

The critic should avoid excessive attention to the poet, Eliot explains, because “no poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone . . . you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. . . as a principle of aesthetic, not merely historical, criticism.” According to Eliot, facts about the poet’s public or personal life will lead nowhere, since the mind of the tradition is “much more important than his own private mind.” The poet’s task, then, is to become a “finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations,” rather than to become the discoverer and expressor of new emotions. The artist’s proper goal, Eliot declares, should be the “continual extinction of personality,” not its development and expression.

If the artist's objective is the dissolution of personality, what then is left to create the art? Addressing this problem, Eliot goes on to clarify what he sees as the distinction between “the man” and “the poet.” Casting doubt on the “theory of the substantial unity of the soul,” he argues that men―- or at least men of artistic inclination―- are divided into two separate and conflicting entities, “man” and “poet.” Since the personality, emotional life, feelings, and so forth of “the man” disappear in the works of the great poets, biographical consideration has no place in assessing the work of art. Though “the man” himself may have a personality, in his art he must either subdue or transform it, in order that he may function only as a medium “in which impressions and experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways.”

Thus, the task of the poet, Eliot concludes, is ultimately the escape from the self. “Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality.” In typical Eliot fashion, he ends the section with a concession, perhaps a subtle admission that his argument is a tad polemic and overstated. He concedes that these subjective aspects of “the man,” whose destruction he has here been advocating, are indeed the starting point of art. “But, of course,” he writes, “only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.”

For Eliot's full essay, see: Van Nostrand, Albert D., ed. Title Literary criticism in America. Imprint New York, Liberal Arts Press [1957].>

William Wordsworth’s "Tintern Abbey"


This just in from Cnivas Albinus:
Oddly enough, exactly five summers have passed since I first read the following:
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winter! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur.

William Wordsworth was twenty-eight when he wrote his "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey" five years after first visiting the abbey; I will be twenty-eight this month. And, just as the narrator of the poem, gazing upon on the familiar “steep and lofty cliffs,” notices how he has changed over the past five years, I, too, rereading Wordsworth's poem, have become aware of the changes―at least the changes in how I read poetry― that have occurred in me. For one, I no longer experience the “dizzy raptures” that I once felt “when first I came among these [Wordsworth's] hills.” This waning of affect could be due to age― to a “growing out” of the Romantic phase― or to the fact that I no longer read the Romantics under the influence of any stimulant (a practice common among literature-majors).

First, so long as there are metropolises, there will also be its discontents, and for them it is the Romantics who will always be there to console their city-wearied nerves. Bohemians, rustics, hippies and primitivists, each sick of the city’s culture and its artifice, and of its unctuous citizenry, all long for that pre-Lapsarian state where dirt, bugs, weeds and, depending on their mood, either solitude or likeminded company can still be found. It is this idealized hinterland that the Romantic poets, addressing these bands, eternally sing of, and it is to this “natural state” that they unfavorably compare the city, with its “evil tongues,” its “rash judgments,” and its “sneers of selfish men,” who trade “greetings where no kindness is.” Such is the “dreary intercourse of daily life” in the city, and it is from the lonely, crowded and corrupt metropolis that the hermit-poets, Wordsworth’s narrator included, flee. Yet even in their longed-for forests and underground caves, they cannot shake the fever of the city:
. . . amid the many shapes
Of joyless daylight; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart (51-4)

Second, so long as there is the trauma of youth’s transformation to adulthood, there will also be the accompanying sense of nostalgia and loss, and it is the Romantics who sing most precisely of this loss. The “I” of Wordsworth’s poem, looking out at the abbey, is concerned not with any changes in the physical appearance of the scene, but rather only with the changes he has endured over these five years.
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was when first
I cam among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers. (66-69)

As a boy, he sought in nature only adventure and simple pleasures. But now he is
. . . more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by)
To me was all in all.― I cannot paint
What then I was. (70-76)

After a failed attempt to convey in words at least some of the impressions of his youth, the narrator, in an admission of defeat, concludes, “I cannot paint/ What then I was.” This startlingly simple, powerful statement offers perhaps the most moving moment of the entire poem, and seems to serve as the work’s climax, as it marks the narrator’s resignation to the incontrovertible fact that he is no longer the boy that he was, but is now, to borrow a phrase from John Ashbery, a “stinking adult”― in this case, a world-weary hermit fleeing the capital. Having entered this new realm of experience, he is no longer able to access or recreate, either in art or life, that world he once inhabited.

This drastic transformation of the subject is in stark contrast to the abbey and its surrounding scene, both of which seem to have an existence that is permanent and immutable. The abbey, of course, need not be an abbey; it could be any scene― to the narcissistic Romantic poets, all outer things are but mirrors in which they see their own reflections. His sister, who appears in the last section of the poem, is another case in point. Her function― both in the poem and in the life of the narrator― is to serve only as an intermediary between the narrator’s past and present selves. She has no independent existence, or if she does, the narrator is obviously not interested. Since he cannot paint or sufficiently recall what he once was, he uses his sister as a mirror with which he can better view himself:
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! (120-121)

He then, in his own oddly narcissistic way, attempts to console her.
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! (143-146)

To paraphrase: If you’re ever ill or troubled in the future, you will at least have many memories of me and my lofty thought to console you.

Though I’m not sure whether Wordsworth had read Kant’s Critique of Judgment (1790) when he wrote “Tintern Abbey,” he certainly seems familiar with the main points of Kant’s argument. The narrator likens the child’s experience to the pure, disinterested aesthetic experience described by Kant in his third critique― namely, that pure aesthetic judgment involves neither fixed concepts nor any personal interest in the aesthetic object. Kant’s influence seems most apparent in the following lines, particularly in the phrases, "a remoter charm," "thought supplied," and "interest unborrowed." The narrator’s pure, animal-like experiences as a child, he recalls,
. . . had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, nor any interest
Unborrowed from the eye. (81-3)

I suspect that Kant would find this an inappropriate use of his argument, and that he would admit no similarities between the instinctual perceptions of the child and the processes of pure aesthetic judgment, which require the complex, simultaneous manipulation of the imagination, the understanding, and a refined sensory awareness.

Just when the narrator is about drown in self-pity at his loss, the tone suddenly shifts as he gives himself a good slap in the face:
Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed; for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompense. (85-88)

That compensation lies is his two newly acquired abilities: to experience nature symbolically rather than only instinctively, and to be consoled by its anthropomorphic powers.
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. (91-93)

Having acquired this faculty of a matured imagination, he is now capable of “elevated thoughts,” of synthesizing subjective and objective realities, and of “a sense sublime/ Of something far more deeply interfused” (95-96). Now an adult, he can simultaneously experience the worlds of nature and of man as interfused through his matured mind. Echoing Berkeley, he even posits that perhaps all external phenomena reside only “in the mind of man” (99). But he immediately rejects this “subjective idealism” in favor of a compromise that resembles Kant’s notion of the human mind-as-waffle-iron, which receives through the sensory apparatuses the external, formless, and independent “batter” of phenomena, and orders it into a predetermined structure that the mind is capable of comprehending.
. . . of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,― both what they half create,
And what perceive. (105-107)

Thus, beginning with Wordsworth, the Romantics see the experience of reality as a volitional and participatory act, filtered through subjective mind where it is then reconstructed by the imagination, which has at its core not intellect but feeling. In seeking to order the “batter” that it perceives, the mind actively participates in reality, seeking to “connect/ The landscape with the quiet of the sky” (7-8, italics mine).

Though there are aspects of Romantic poetry that modern readers find hard to digest, we are, especially in America, for better or worse, still living in the final stages of the Romantic era. The claims put forth by the early Romantics― the primacy of feeling over reason; the assertions of the self’s primacy, and the subordination of everything else to it; the disdain for the city and the extolling of all things provincial; the positioning of sincerity above artifice; the low status given to technique; the naïve assertions of the artist’s own individuality and genius; the contempt for tradition― all of these early assertions, which were at the time reactions to certain historical conditions, have in present-day America been pushed to their logical conclusions. Yet, despite all the faults we may find in Romantic works, one does not wish that the Romantic Movement had never occurred. The movement had to occur, both in its historical and artistic forms, just as Modernism had to occur as a reaction to Romanticism. And for many reasons― most important of which are perhaps the freedom of form to which they have imparted us, and the creation of the new genre, poetry-as-epistemology―we are grateful that it did.

On "The Art of Poetry" by Horace (65-8 B.C.)

Ars Poetica, or The Art of Poetry, is Horace’s advisory letter, in verse, to the Piso brothers, in which he addresses the problems of writing successful poetry. Unlike Aristotle and Plato, Horace is “more interested in the practical questions of how the poet may delight and instruct an intelligent reader, than in defining what a poem is or what literature is” (Selden, Intro). Horace offers the Piso brothers a theory of poetry based not on any universal principles, but rather on the tastes of the ruling classes, the political demands of the day, and good, old-fashioned “decorum.” Horace explains his notion of decorum in terms of a) the proper balance between the didactic and the entertaining, b) the proper regard for audience, and c) the mimesis of nature and of art.

First, he insists that the “decorous” poet should not be too daring. “Poets and painters . . . have always had an equal license in daring invention.” Restraint regarding the means, object, and manner of art, therefore, should be observed. Second, flattery of ruling elites is not to be scoffed at, since the poet can only earn a living under their patronage. It is to their demands that the poet must conform, and if he doesn't, he will most likely meet a tragic fate not unlike that of the unfortunate poet in the end Horace’s letter, who, contemptuous of decorum and compromise, is scorned by the world as a madman.

Like a leper or a man with jaundice, or one frenzied or lunatic, the rapt poet is the terror of all sensible people: they fly at his approach. Children tease him and rashly run after him. Away he goes, head in air, spouting his verses, and if, like the birdcatcher with his eyes on the thrushes, he falls into a well or a ditch, he may call as loud as he will ‘Help, fellow citizens!’: no one will take the trouble to lift him out again.


Consideration for the audience is thus essential. And because it is the contemporary world with which the audience is most concerned, the poet must be attuned to the sensibilities of the age. “You must note the manners of each several age,” Horace writes, “and their fitting hue must be given to the tempers which change with the years.”

Unlike Aristotle who rarely took into account the audience (one senses that he is even contemptuous of them), Horace is concerned with keeping his reputation and “selling tickets,” and he advises the Piso brothers, too, to be mindful of these practicalities. “Remember,” he cautions, “that our attention will always be kept by traits that are attached and fitted to the age.”

Yet like Aristotle, Horace acknowledges the importance of formal unity, noting that a successful work is always “uniform and whole.” Still, “it is not enough that poems have beauty of form,” he writes, for they also “must have charm, and draw the hearer’s feeling which way they will.”

This shift away from the formal aspects of the work and toward the audience’s reception marks a major departure from Aristotle, who, as I pointed out, rarely even referred to the audience. Horace’s desire to “draw the hearer’s feeling” sounds closer to the audience-reception theories of Zeami or Chikamatsu, than to the philosophical formalism of Aristotle. Horace makes the further claim that, in order to evoke emotion in the audience, the feelings must first be experienced by the writer. “If you wish to draw tears from me," he writes, "you must first feel pain yourself.” I suspect that both Chikamatsu and Zeami might find this statement puzzling, though I can find no quotation to support this claim.

But like Chikamatsu who advocated tempered emotion, Horace too insists that sincerity alone will not suffice: indeed, sincerity must be coupled with what he calls “wise thinking,” which is the “source and fountainhead” of good writing (compare with Chikamatsu’s notion of "tempered feeling"). One should avoid superfluous poetry which does not suit the form and tone of the work, and should subordinate the poetic elements of the work to the dramatic elements, for “it misbeseems tragedy to pour a flood of bantering verse.”

The “show, don’t tell” dictum also appears here in Horace as he distinguishes between the two kinds of action: performed and narrated. “What finds entrance through the ear,” he writes, “stirs the mind less actively than what is submitted to the eyes.” Yet, the more shocking scenes―- Atreus’s “banquet of human flesh” or Procne’s mutation into a bird are two examples he gives―- should be narrated, since they are too horrible for sight. “Anything that you thus thrust upon my sight I discredit and revolt at,” he warns.

Though Aristotle speaks of mimesis (the imitation of nature), nowhere does he speak of the imitation of the already imitated (i.e., of the tradition). This is a new theme taken up by Horace, who writes that the poet should honor, imitate, and, to borrow a phrase from Harold Bloom, “intentionally misread” the established tradition (i.e., the Greek epics and tragedies). By “retranslating” for a new age the established tradition, the artist then inventively constructs a “second nature.” Horace points out that this “second nature,” which becomes “the tradition,” is not based on universal aesthetic principles, but rather is particular to each age and naturally morphs with time. Again relating this to the notion of decorum, Horace urges the poet to be consistent with this tradition, and to avoid trying to speed its development through rash innovation. When writing Achilles, for example, the poet should render him “spirted, hot-tempered, ruthless, [and] fiery,” as the tradition accords; and when writing Medea, he should portray her as “defiant and untamed.”

The established tradition is one main source for new art; the other source is the common stuff of life. “My aim,” Horace writes, “shall be a poem so molded of common materials that all the world may hope as much for itself.” And this common stuff of life is to be expressed in the colloquial language of the day, and portrayed realistically. “Fictions intended to please,” he writes, “must be kept as near as may be to real life.” This statement is a stark contrast to Chikamatsu’s claim that realism should be avoided, as it is the most insipid and lifeless of the various methods.

Horace’s Ars Poetica is littered with kernels of useful advice, some of which I will include here. Horace holds that a work should always begin in media res. He gives the example of Homer, who “ever hastens to the issue, and hurries his hearers into the midst of the story, just as if they knew it before.” He also advise the poet not to overuse deux ex machina: “Neither should a god intervene, unless a knot befalls worthy of his interference.”

Further, the chorus should always play the role of good counselor, and proper meter should follow the Greek and be chiefly hexametric. And though the two functions of poetry are to delight and to instruct, one should always be brief when instructing, since no one―- especially the Romans―- likes to be lectured. “The aim of the poet," Horace writes, "is either to benefit, or to amuse, or to make his words at once please and give lessons of life. When you wish to instruct, be brief.”

Finally, beause not all men are of equal talent, one should not take on tasks that are too difficult. “Choose a subject, ye who write, equal to your strength.” And think long and hard before publishing anything, for “the word uncaged never comes home again.”

[The full text can be found in Raman Selden's The theory of criticism from Plato to the present : a reader. London, New York : Longman, 1988.]

This article is copyrighted © 2005 - 2009 by Beholdmyswarthyface.

On "An Apology for Poetry" by Sir Philip Sidney (1554-86)

Sir Philip Sidney’s An Apology for Poetry, first published in 1595, marks the reappearance of Aristotelian notions of drama after centuries of disuse. But Sidney’s apology is not simply the reformulation of formal “rules” of poetry developed by Aristotle; rather, by making his case in both moral and aesthetic terms, Sidney defends poetry from the puritanical claim that it is a corrupting influence. After establishing the moral legitimacy of poetry, he then turns to the ancient quarrel over which of the three great arts― philosophy, poetry, or history― is the "architectonic," and, rather predictably, argues that poetry is the “highest end of mistress-knowledge” because “in the ethic and politic consideration” only it has “the end of well doing not of well knowing only.” In other words, of the three arts only poetry serves all purposes―moral, aesthetic, political―at once.

First, Sir Philip Sidney responds to the “imputations” laid to poetry, namely that it is a waste of time, since there are many far more valuable pursuits; that it is “the mother of lies” (see Plato’s Illusionism); that it is “the nurse of abuse” and promotes sin; and that it was rightly banned from Plato’s Republic.

Sidney responds to the first claim by stating that the poet, though he may present untruths in dramatic form, is in fact the “least of liars,” since “he nothing affirms, and therefore never Lieth.” This is to be compared with the historians who are fraught with inaccuracies, with astronomers who are limited to their imperfect tools, and with physicians who inadvertently misdiagnose. Poets, by contrast, are creators of hypothetical, utopian worlds, and their poems “are but pictures of what should be.”

Plato argued that poetry, being the representation of a representation, or what he called “the shadow of a shadow,” is twice removed from the “ideal form,” and therefore dismissed it as the furthest from “ultimate truth.” Sidney, however, argues that this “second nature” inventively created by the poets is, in fact, a good thing. “Only the poet,” he writes, “doth grow in effect another nature, in making things either better than nature bringeth forth, or, quite anew, forms such as never were in nature, as the Heroes, Demigods, Cyclopes, Chimeras, Furies, and such like.” According to Sidney, then, shadows are of no less value than that which casts them― in fact it seems that each shadow improves with its duplication.

Plato, much like today’s Tipper Gore’s of the world, worried that excessive exposure to the lewder forms of entertainment― Homer was Plato’s main target― would encourage sinful and unlawful behavior. Sidney, too, seems to be no less concerned, and he promotes in his defense a poetry that, echoing Horace, should both “teach and delight.” Yet, given Sidney’s earlier claim that the poet should make no affirmations, how is it possible to instruct while still affirming nothing? Sidney unfortunately provides no satisfying solution in this defense, and we are left to suppose that he would have advocated a sort of implicit didacticism― i.e., the indirect instruction through the manipulation of dramatic voices― which would allow him to avoid having to make any explicit affirmations.

Finally, as for which of the three fields of human knowledge can claim to be the “architectonic," Sidney gives the prize to poetry. He calls history the “less fruitful” of the three, since it deals only with particulars and empirical data, and ranks philosophy second, since it deals at least with “precepts,” “universals,” and rational a priori argument, whereas history does not. Sidney reasons that poetry is the superior form because only it “coupleth the general notion with the particular example,” and, furthermore, because only it can “move” the audience and compel them to seek the unrealized possibilities presented in his work, where “virtue [is] exalted and vice punished.” This of course contrasts with history, where evil often goes unpunished. The poet’s task is thus utopian: to “maketh matter for a conceit,” or, to put it differently, to make concrete and applicable examples that correspond to universal moral precepts, with the end goal being the realization of the utopian vision.

As we can see, the poetry advocated here by Sidney is a far cry from the aestheticism of Kant or the early nineteenth-century Romantics, or, for that matter, from the pathos-centered anti-realism of Zeami and Chikamatsu. Perhaps we can say that, if such utopian didacticism can be likened to anything we have discussed so far, it most resembles the “Great Preface” to The Book of Songs, which also holds poetry to be of explicitly moral intent.

This article is copyrighted © 2005 - 2007 by Renaldo&Co.

Grady's Response to a Fan (Lenny)

This just in from Grady Glenn:
Lenny,

Taciturn and awkward, sure. There's usually something about Japanese studies kids that doesn't fit in with mainstream America. I'm one example, I guess, so it's not necessarily a bad thing (or is it?).

Anyway, I haven't read Jimmy Carter's book on Blair and Bush, but I did buy his book "Peace Not Apartheid" for my mother for X-mas last year, and read parts of it, which were quite good.

And although the large majority of the (neo-)Republican party is certainly morally bankrupt, the (neo-conservative) Democrat party is no better (Obama is vigorously endorsing the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act of 2007--the first major step toward war with Iran-- and the neo-cons are now lining up behind him). And, though he's behaved commendably since his retirement, Carter is at least partially to blame for the predicament we're now in (I think it was he who began the military build-up in the gulf in the late 70s; before that, we really didn't have a significant presence.)

So when you look to American history to see what strains oppose the sort of reckless behavior now going, it's found in two places: the Marx-influenced, anti-imperial Left, and the non-interventionist, paleoconservative Right. And it seems that these two strains are beginning to merge into a coaltion against the two major parties, both of which seem to have been hijacked by the neo-conservative movement.

OK, that's enough politics for the day. Don't worry, I'm not getting too involved. I'm still reading lots of Japanese literature. Yesterday and today: the major plays of Chikamatsu.

Yours,
Grady

The Drama Nuisance-- Dante Alighieri and Chaucer on "Tragedy"

In his Letter to Can Grande Della Scala, Dante distinguishes comedy from tragedy:

“[Comedy] differs, then, from tragedy in its content, in that tragedy begins admirably and tranquilly, whereas its end or exit is foul and terrible. . . whereas comedy introduces some harsh complication, but brings its matter to a prosperous end.”

These definitions are best expressed in the salutation, “I wish you a tragic beginning and a comic end.”

In “The Monk’s Tale” chapter of The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer describes tragedy in similar terms.

“Tragedie is to seyn a certeyn storie,/ as olde books maken us memorie,/ Of hum that stood in greet prosperitee,/ And is yfallen out of heigh degree/Into myserie, and endeth wrecchedly.”

On “The Collective and the Individual: Literary Practices and its Social Implications,” from Earl Miner’s "Principles of Classical Japanese Literature


Earl Miner presents a convincing case for the particularly collective nature of Japanese literature by looking at the predominant role of “collections" in pre-modern and early-modern Japanese literature. Citing numerous examples from the Nara through the Edo periods, Miner shows that even works that lack the –shū suffix are still often, in fact, collections, thereby qualifying a great many of the pre- and early-modern works as such.

The problem with his argument, however, lies in his seeking to ascribe elements of this literary phenomenon to broader social and historical contexts. Examining the societal functions that inform the production of art is a methodology that can and does often prove effective; however, when one is not trained in social history, and is therefore unable to provide sufficient evidence to support one’s claim, then it loses its effectiveness.

Though Miner’s conclusion may be accurate― namely, that the “particularly Japanese” social tendencies and notions of “self” and “person” greatly informed the production of literature― the evidence he sights to reach this conclusion is sparse, and his reasoning smacks a bit of nihonjinron. Miner makes several very general and contentious claims about Japanese group psychology and behavior for which he sights no evidence other than the centrality of collections in the literary canon.

This poses a larger question: Can any inferences be made about a society through the study of that society’s art, and, if so, what? Can we learn anything about 18th-century German society by listening to and studying the music of Bach, or, inversely, can we explain the music of Bach through the social behavior of Germans? Keeping in mind these larger questions, I will point out some of Miner’s more problematic claims, and show where more evidence could be justified.
[to be continued . . .]

Notes on Rousseau's "Emile" (1762), Book IV - On the Language of Signs

In typical revolutionary tone, Rousseau (1712-1778) expounds on the limits of reason and rhetoric in a call for a new age based on the powerful use of signs.

"One of the errors of our age is to use reason in too unadorned a form, as if men were all mind. In neglecting the language of signs that speak to the imagination, the most energetic of languages has been lost. The impression of the word is always weak, and one speaks to the heart far better through the eyes than through the ears (compare this!). . . . always to reason is the mania of small minds. Strong souls have quite another language.”

The Romans understood this language of signs, he goes on, citing the examples of Thrasybulus and Tarquin “cutting off the tops of poppies” and Antony bringing in the body of dead Caesar. Rousseau compares his own age unfavorably with that of the ancient Romans, who “did not neglect the language of signs.” It is this “abolishment of signs,” he laments, that has led to a society that respects nothing but brute force.


Also see Kant’s response to Rousseau: the idea of “kultur,” developed in his three critiques (see “Origins of Civilization”)

Notes on Historical Backgound of "Song of Unending Sorrow" 『長恨歌』 by Po Chui 白楽天 (772-846)

Emperor Hsuan Tsung, who ruled from 713-756, became infatuated with Yang Kwei-fei, and the infatuation ended up destroying his reign and eventually the entire empire, marking the end of the Tang dynasty. In the end, the emperor was forced to have Yang Kwei-fei killed.

Yang Kwei-fei (Yokichi in Japanese), a commoner, was originally married to the emperor’s son, whom she leaves to enter a convent. The emperor, finding her in the convent, plucks her out and makes her his “despot of the night.”

An Lu-shan is a general of Turkish decent. He too has relations with Yang Kwei-fei, and leads a rebellion against the emperor in 755.

A Taoist priest goes to retrieve Yang Kwei-fei from the afterlife (some magic island in the Eastern seas), and, upon finding her, receives a message from the emperor reminding him of their vow to meet on the seventh day of the seventh months (the day of the "Tanabata festival" in Japan).

[An English translation of the poem is availabe by Witter Bynner]

Socrates on the distinction between philosophy and theology, from Memorabilia, I, i, 6-9

Here we have Xenophon relating to us Socrates' view on the quarrel between human thought {reason/philosophy}and divining {theology}. Each, Socrates holds, has its proper place. "What the gods have given human beings to accomplish by study must be studied; what is not clear to human beings should be inquired about from the gods by means of divining; for the gods give a sign to those who happen to be in their grace.”

Thoughts on T.S. Eliot’s "Three Voices of Poetry," from On Poetry and Poets.

『文学理論』という授業を取っている。先週は最初だった。一回目は『詩経』、『古今和歌集の序』、本居宣長の『石上私淑言』、M.H. Abrams’s “Orientation of Critical Theories”、T.S. Eliot’s “The Three Voices of Poetry”、Jorge Luis Borgesの短編小説 「Averroes’s Search」、その六つのものを読み、その中から一つを選んで感想文を書くことが宿題になっているが、先生が全く説明してくれなかったため、どうすればいいのか誰も分らないようだ。ただ、実力をいかんなく発揮し、二年ぶりに英語の文章を書いてみるしかあるまい。先生に受け入れらるかは、不自信です(っていうか不自信って言葉あるかな?)。

Eliot divides the voices of poetry into the following three categories.

First voice: poet’s “own voice”; audience-less.
Second voice: poet’s “own voice”; audience, large or small
Third voice: poet’s “assumed” voice; audience, large or small.

This grouping, however, poses several problems. First, he assumes that there is a “self” with its own inner voice that is exists independently from “other voices," which are the “assumed voices” of drama. Second, he assumes that this first voice is singular (he calls it the poet’s “own voice” rather than “own voices”), and that it there is little, if any, difference between what exists in the mind of the first-voice poet and what he puts on paper. The problem is, of course, that there is no clear distinction between “outer voices” (i.e., influence) and inner voice (“one’s own voice”). Moreover, the reciprocal relation between the outer and the inner is so vastly complex that drawing a line between the two is ultimately an arbitrary and misleading act. Eliot insists however that there exist examples of this first type of voice, which make up what he calls “meditational poetry.” I would instead argue that no such example exists, that all voices, including those of the most maudlin Romantic “meditational” lyricists, are “assumed,” and that the differences between these three types of voice are determined not by vocal ownership or audience presence, but by the artificial structure imposed upon the work. Keeping with Eliot’s grouping of three, I would instead define the voices as follows, noting that they nearly always overlap.

First voice: “assumed own audience-less voice ”
Second voice: “assumed own audience-addressing voice”
Third voice: “assumed voice(s) addressing an audience, either explicitly or implicitly”

Eliot defines the third type of voice as that which “attempts to create a dramatic character when speaking in verse.” As I have said, this definition can apply to the first two voices as well, since first-voice “meditational” poetry is invariably a dramatic construction, and is very rarely, if ever, “what he [the poet] would say in his own person.”
Yet, still there exists something of an “abyss” between the first and third types of voice. What, then, causes this abyss, if not the difference in voice ownership? (We’ll have to explore this some other time.)

Toward the end of the essay Eliot strengthens his argument by making several concessions. First, he admits the overlap between the three voices― “in any poem there is more than one voice to be heard"-- and, second, he points out that, in the dramatic type, “all three voices are audible.” Furthermore, he notes that a poem for the author alone “would not be a poem at all”― a statement suggesting that Eliot might agree with my assertion that the first voice of poetry is also an assumed voice.

This Article is Copyrighted © 2005 - 2007 by Beholdmyswarthyface.

Notes on Richard Bowring’s "Murasaki Shikibu: The Tale of Genji"-- from the chapter, “The Cultural Background.”

According to Richard Bowring, Minamoto no Takaakira (914-82) was most likely the “historical figure who Murasaki had in mind when she created her hero [Genji].” Made a commoner in 920, Minamoto no Takaakira “rose to the position of Minister of the Left, incurred Fujiwara displeasure and, as we have already mentioned, was exiled in 969, accused of plotting against the government.”

Bowring also notes in this essay that Murasaki’s technique is to give the story legitimacy by beginning it in the style of the Nihongi. But “as we progress through the work this historical crutch become less and less important, and indeed less and less tenable, as Genji eventually fathers an emperor, but in the early stages it certainly plays its part . . . [it is a] technique designed to increase the verisimilitude of the fictional work; it is a matter of legitimization, of filling it with so many signs of the public domain that the illusion is created that the fiction itself is of the same ilk.” It might be interesting to compare this with Tanizaki`s own ideas on giving fictional works a kind of legitimacy by presenting them as fact (嘘を本当らしく書く).

Notes on Zeami -- The Practical Nuisance

Zeami`s 『遊楽習道風見』 Yūgaku shūdō fūken.

When Zeami is asked what it is that makes waka so effective, he answers, the “realm of peerless charm.” This "realm of peerless charm," he explains, is exemplified in the following waka.

『小馬とめて袖打はらふ蔭もなし佐野のわたりの雪の夕ぐれ』

In the Shudōsho『習道書』, Zeami speaks about the structure of the day-long plays, which are divided into five parts-- 1 (jo), 2-4 (ha), and 5 (kyū). He points out that there should be some leniency in the transition between "ha" and "kyū."“The artistic skill of truly seasoned performers is doubtless manifested under just such trying circumstances,”he writes.

And, finally, in "The Three Elements in Composing a Play" ("Sandō" or "Nōsankusho"), Zeami hands down a secret transmittance to his son, Motoyoshi. The work was written in 1423. In it he discusses the three elements of Nō-- the seed (“the choice of subject based on appropriate traditional sources”), the construction ("jo," "ha," and "kyu" form), and the composition (the appropriate words to suite the three styles).

While catharsis is a central component to dramatic function in the West, "kaimokukaibun" 開目開聞 , or the“opening the ears and eyes,”is the "goal" of theater in Japan. "Kaimokukaibun" can be likened to the sudden "satori" of Zen, only that it is aroused from an external rather than internal stimulus. Zeami describes it as the moment when “deep sensations inherent in the play are suddenly experienced in one moment of profound exchange [between actor and audience]” (158). Zeami refers to the "flower" that exists within the work, but which is “opened”in the audience, triggering "kaimokukaibun."

Zeami seems to accept the idea that aesthetic preferences are determined mostly by social factors, rather than being universal or formulaic. “The decision as to whether a play is good or bad," Zeami explains, "cannot be made by the actor himself . . . There is no way to escape from the criticism of the world at large” (161).

Finally, art must be effective, and its value is judged by its efficacy: “A play must always be written with the basic principle of producing the seed that leads to a blooming of the Flower” (161).

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797)― Chapter 2 and 3 of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)

Partly a response to Book V of Emile, in which Rousseau describes his vision of the ideal woman Sophie― a submissive and subordinate girls who cultivates her charms in accordance to the likings of men― Wollstonecraft's feminist critique A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) addresses Rousseau's more sexist assertions, and contends that the standards and expectations for women should be equal to those of men. In Chapter II, she responds to the Rousseau's claim that women should be educated only for the pleasure of men:

“In what they have in common, they are equal. Where they differ, they are not comparable. A perfect woman and a perfect man ought not to resemble each other in mind any more than in looks, and perfection is not susceptible of more or less. In the union of the sexes each contributes equally to the common aim, but not in the same way. From this diversity arises the first assignable difference in the moral relations of the two sexes. One ought to be active and strong, the other passive and weak. One must necessarily will and be able; it suffices that the other put up little resistance. Once this principle is established, it follows that woman is made specially to please man.”

To this, Wollstonecraft responds:

"Rousseau declares that a woman should never, for a moment, feel herself independent, that she should be governed by fear to exercise her natural cunning, and made a coquettish slave in order to render her a more alluring object of desire, a sweeter companion to man, whenever he chooses to relax himself. He carries the arguments, which he pretends to draw from the indications of nature, still further, and insinuates that truth and fortitude, the corner stones of all human virtue, should be cultivated with certain restrictions, because, with respect to the female character, obedience is the grand lesson which ought to be impressed with unrelenting rigor.

What nonsense! when will a great man arise with sufficient strength of mind to puff away the fumes which pride and sensuality have thus spread over the subject! If women are by nature inferior to men, their virtues must be the same in quality, if not in degree, or virtue is a relative idea; consequently, their conduct should be founded on the same principles, and have the same aim."

Finally, on a side note, in Chapter 3 Wollstonecraft sounds as if she were explicitly addressing the girls of Tokyo.

“I once knew a weak woman of fashion, who was more than commonly proud of her delicacy and sensibility. She thought a distinguishing taste and puny appetite the height of all human perfection, and acted accordingly. I have seen this weak sophisticated being neglect all the duties of life, yet recline with self-complacency on a sofa, and boast of her want of appetite as a proof of delicacy that extended to, or, perhaps, arose from, her exquisite sensibility: for it is difficult to render intelligible such ridiculous jargon.”

Tsubouchi Shoyo

ヨーロッパ19世紀のレアリズムを無理矢理に日本に移入せんとしたため、近代文学史を大きく変えた坪内逍遥のことなんですけれども、彼の『小説神髄』について、僕が批判的な立場から以下のリンクにあるエッセーを書いたので、興味ある方々是非見てください。まだ途中ですけれども、今までのところを載せます。今のところ、英語版しかありませんので、日本語で読んでみたいなら、和訳を完了するまでお待ちください。Click here for article.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Herbert Bix: Can't We Get Over the Millenarian Impulses in Our Traditions?

Here is an excellent article from an excellent historian, Herbert Bix, whose book on the Showa emperor's active involvement in Japan's imperial wars was one of reasons I began to study Japanese literature/history. Bix has several other articles posted on http://hnn.us that are worthy of a look.

In this article, Professor Bix refers to the "top ideologues" who inform the President's policy-making, many of whom actually write for hnn.us, including Daniel Pipes. I wonder only if Professor Bix is aware that he is making joint contributions with these "ideologues."