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  • feedwordpress 08:01:06 on 2018/07/04 Permalink
    Tags: , July 4, , , nationalism, patriotism, poetry, ,   

    “Patriotism is supporting your country all of the time, and your government when it deserves it”*… 

     

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    Patriotism raises questions of the sort philosophers characteristically discuss: How is patriotism to be defined? How is it related to similar attitudes, such as nationalism? What is its moral standing: is it morally valuable or perhaps even mandatory, or is it rather a stance we should avoid? Yet until a few decades ago, philosophers used to show next to no interest in the subject. The article on patriotism in the Historical Dictionary of Philosophy, reviewing the use of the term from the 16th century to our own times, gives numerous references, but they are mostly to authors who were not philosophers. Moreover, of the few well known philosophers cited, only one, J. G. Fichte, gave the subject more than a passing reference – and most of what Fichte had to say actually pertains to nationalism, rather than patriotism (see Busch and Dierse 1989).

    This changed in the 1980s. The change was due, in part, to the revival of communitarianism, which came in response to the individualistic, liberal political and moral philosophy epitomized by John Rawls’ Theory of Justice (1971); but it was also due to the resurgence of nationalism in several parts of the world…

    On this day of national celebration, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Patriotism (a little wonky, but eminently worthy of reading in full).

    For other important (and more vernacular) takes: W. Kamau Bell, ESPN’s Scoop Jackson… and “Big patriotism is poisoning America,” the article from which the image above was sourced.

    * Mark Twain

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    As we astutely allocate allegiance, we might recall that it was on this date in 1855 that Walt Whitman anonymously self-published the first edition of Leaves of Grass (it carried his picture but not his name). Whitman employed a new verse form, one with which he had been experimenting, revolutionary at the time– one free of a regular rhythm or rhyme scheme, that has come to be known as “free verse.”  The content of Leaves of Grass was every bit as revolutionary, celebrating the human body and the common man.  Whitman spent the rest of his life revising and enlarging Leaves of Grass; the ninth edition appeared in 1892, the year of his death.

    220px-Walt_Whitman,_steel_engraving,_July_1854

    Walt Whitman, age 35, frontispiece to Leaves of Grass. Steel engraving by Samuel Hollyer from a lost daguerreotype by Gabriel Harrison

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:06 on 2018/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Fred Moten, , I'll Say She Is, , , poetry,   

    “I suffer from everyday life”*… 

     

    Philosopher, essayist, and poet Fred Moten

    “I think mayonnaise has a complex kind of relation to the sublime,” [Moten] said. “And I think emulsion does generally. It’s something about that intermediary—I don’t know—place, between being solid and being a liquid, that has a weird relation to the sublime, in the sense that the sublimity of it is in the indefinable nature of it.”

    “It’s liminal also,” I offered.

    “It’s liminal, and it connects to the body in a certain way.”

    “You have to shake it up,” I said. “You have to put the energy into it to get it into that state.”

    “Anyway,” Moten said, “mostly I just don’t fucking like it.”…

    The New Yorker‘s David Wallace on “Fred Moten’s radical critique of the present.”

    * Italo Calvino

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    As we contemplate the quotidian, we might recall that it was on this date in 1924 that the Marx Brother’s took Broadway by storm.  Already vaudeville stars, they’d wrangled a spot on the Great White Way, a last-minute opening for which they threw together a review based nominally on an unsuccessful musical comedy by Will and Tom Johnstone, originally written for British actress Kitty Gordon as Love For Sale.  The Marx Brothers substituted in some of their most trustworthy material and called it I’ll Say She Is.

    In one of show business’ great strokes of luck, the opening night of a major dramatic play, slated for this same date, was canceled, leading all of New York’s leading critics instead to the premiere of the relatively-unknown Marx Brothers’ show.  Their extraordinary banter and slapstick astounded the critics, and put the Brothers on the road to Broadway, then Hollywood fame.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:06 on 2018/05/12 Permalink
    Tags: Edward Lear, epigraph, , limerick, , nonsense, poetry, runcible spoon,   

    “An author…may wish to include an epigraph — a quotation that is pertinent but not integral to the text”*… 

     

    Epigraph: To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee

     

    Epigraph: Slaughterhouse-Five, Kurt Vonnegut

    Examples from  Phoebe Pan‘s “ongoing collection of epigraphs.”

    * Chicago Manual of Style

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    As we appreciate appositeness, we might send silly birthday greetings to Edward Lear; he was born on this date in 1812.  An artist, illustrator, musician, author, and poet, he is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose– including his limericks, a form he he did much to popularize.

    They dined on mince, and slices of quince

    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;

    And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,

    They danced by the light of the moon,

    The moon,
    The moon,

    They danced by the light of the moon.

    -“The Owl and the Pussycat” (probably Lear’s best-known poem)

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:57 on 2018/04/20 Permalink
    Tags: , disappearing languages, , , , , , , poetry, , Wikitongues   

    “The conquest of learning is achieved through the knowledge of languages”*… 

     

    “When humanity loses a language, we also lose the potential for greater diversity in art, music, literature, and oral traditions,” says Bogre Udell. “Would Cervantes have written the same stories had he been forced to write in a language other than Spanish? Would the music of Beyoncé be the same in a language other than English?”

    Between 1950 and 2010, 230 languages went extinct, according to the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger. Today, a third of the world’s languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers left. Every two weeks a language dies with its last speaker, 50 to 90 percent of them are predicted to disappear by the next century…

    Every two weeks a language dies: Wikitongues wants to save them: “The Race to Save the World’s Disappearing Languages.”

    And for a more in depth– and fascinating– discussion of the subject, listen to Mary Kay Magistad‘s conversation with Laura Welcher, the director of the Rosetta Project at The Long Now Foundation: “Why half the world’s languages may disappear in this century.”

    * Roger Bacon

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    As we contemplate conserving the capacity to converse, we might spare a thought for Archibald MacLeish; he died on this date in 1982.  A poet, dramatist, writer, and lawyer, he is probably best remembered for his poem  “Ars Poetica” and his play JB.  But MacLeish also served, from 1939 to 1944 as Librarian of Congress, where he oversaw the modernization of the institution and helped promote The Library– and libraries, the arts, and culture more generally– in public opinion.  Over his career, he won three Pulitzer Prizes, a Bollingen Prize, a National Book Award, a Tony Award (for JB), was named a Commandeur de la Legion d’honneur, and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:38 on 2018/03/20 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Michael Hand, , , , , philosophy of edication, poetry,   

    “Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right”*… 

     

    People disagree about morality. They disagree about what morality prohibits, permits and requires. And they disagree about why morality prohibits, permits and requires these things. Moreover, at least some of the disagreement on these matters is reasonable. It is not readily attributable to woolly thinking or ignorance or inattention to relevant considerations. Sensible and sincere people armed with similar life experiences and acquainted with roughly the same facts come to strikingly different conclusions about the content and justification of morality.

    For examples of disagreement about content, think of the standards ‘vote in democratic elections’, ‘do not smack your children’, and ‘do not eat meat’. Some reasonable people recognise a moral duty to vote, or a moral prohibition on smacking or meat-eating; others do not. To see the depth of disagreement about justification, consider the variety of reasons advanced for the widely accepted moral standard ‘do not lie’. Should we refrain from lying because God commands it, because it promotes the greatest happiness of the greatest number, because in deceiving others we treat them as mere means to our ends, or because the virtue of honesty is a necessary condition of our own flourishing? Each of these reasons is persuasive to some and quite unpersuasive to others.

    Reasonable disagreement about morality presents educators with a problem. It is hard to see how we can bring it about that children subscribe to moral standards, and believe them to be justified, except by giving them some form of moral education. But it is also hard to see how moral educators can legitimately cultivate these attitudes in the face of reasonable disagreement about the content and justification of morality. It looks as though any attempt to persuade children of the authority of a particular moral code will be tantamount to indoctrination…

    Michael Hand asks– and suggests an answer to– a desperately-important question: “If we disagree about morality, how can we teach it?

    * Isaac Asimov

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    As we struggle to teach our children well, we might send fabulous birthday greetings to Publius Ovidius Naso; he was born on this date in 43 BCE.  Known in the English-speaking world as Ovid, he was a Roman poet who lived during the reign of Augustus.  He was a contemporary of the older Virgil and Horace, with whom he is often ranked as one of the three canonical poets of Latin literature.  Ovid is today best known for the Metamorphoses, a 15-book continuous mythological narrative written in the meter of epic, and for works in elegiac couplets such as Ars Amatoria (“The Art of Love”) and Fasti.  His poetry was much imitated during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, and greatly influenced Western art and literature; he was, for instance a favorite– and favorite source– of Shakespeare.  And the Metamorphoses remains one of the most important sources of classical mythology.

    Ovid enjoyed enormous popularity in his time; but, in one of the great mysteries of literary history, was sent by Augustus into exile in a remote province on the Black Sea, where he remained until his death.  Ovid himself attributes his exile to carmen et error, “a poem and a mistake”; but his discretion in discussing the causes has resulted in much speculation among scholars.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:36 on 2018/01/08 Permalink
    Tags: , forecasts, , , Kenneth Patchen, , poetry, ,   

    “The future ain’t what it used to be”*… 

     

    People in the early 20th century were hopeful about the future innovation might bring. The technology that came out of World War I, and the growing potential brought by electricity (half of all U.S. homes had electric power by 1925) had many looking ahead to the coming century. Futurists of the early 1900s predicted an incredible boom in technology that would transform human lives for the better.

    In fact, many of those predictions for the future in which we live weren’t far off, from the proliferation of automobiles and airplanes to the widespread transmission of information. Of course, the specifics of how those devices would work sometimes fell broad of the mark. Yet these predictions show us just how much our technology has progressed in just a century — and just how much further more innovation could take us…

    Further to yesterday’s collection of charts that might serve as a dashboard for us as we look to 2018, a consideration of how 2018 looked to scientists, inventors/technologists, and forecasters in (and around) 1918: Does Life In 2018 Live up to What We Predicted a Century Ago?

    * Yogi Berra, The Yogi Book, 1998 (though the phrase “the future isn’t what it used to be” was used in 1937 by Laura Riding and Robert Graves in English, and by Paul Valéry in French)

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    As we take the long view, we might spare a thought for Kenneth Patchen; he died on this date in 1972.  A poet and novelist who experimented with form (most notably, with incorporating jazz into his readings), Patchen was widely ignored by the cultural establishment in his lifetime; but (with his close friend Kenneth Rexroth) became an inspiration for the young poets–  Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Michael McClure, and others– who became known as the Beat Generation.  In 1968, near the end of his life, The Collected Poems of Kenneth Patchen was published– and Patchen was embraced by the Establishment. The New York TImes called the book “a remarkable volume,” comparing Patchen’s work to that of Blake, Whitman, Crane, Lawrence, and even to the Bible.  In another review, the poet David Meltzer called Patchen “one of America’s great poet-prophets” and called his body of work “visionary art for our time and for Eternity.”

    The lions of fire
    Shall have their hunting in this black land

    Their teeth shall tear at your soft throats
    Their claws kill

    O the lions of fire shall awake
    And the valleys steam with their fury

    Because you have turned your faces from God
    Because you have spread your filth everywhere.

    – from “The Lions of Fire Shall Have Their Hunting”  The Teeth of the Lion (1942)

    Allen Ginsberg (left) and Kenneth Patchen (right) backstage at the Living Theatre where Patchen was performing with Charlie Mingus, New York City 1959. Photo copyright © Harry Redl 1959, 2000.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:01 on 2017/12/13 Permalink
    Tags: book burning, Heinrich Heine, , literary awards, , poetry, Sartre Prize, , Ursula Le Guin   

    “It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people”*… 

     

    I first learned about the Sartre Prize from “NB,” the reliably enjoyable last page of London’s Times Literary Supplement, signed by J.C. The fame of the award, named for the writer who refused the Nobel in 1964, is or anyhow should be growing fast. As J.C. wrote in the November 23, 2012, issue, “So great is the status of the Jean-Paul Sartre Prize for Prize Refusal that writers all over Europe and America are turning down awards in the hope of being nominated for a Sartre.” He adds with modest pride, “The Sartre Prize itself has never been refused.”

    Newly shortlisted for the Sartre Prize is Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who turned down a fifty-thousand-euro poetry award offered by the Hungarian division of PEN. The award is funded in part by the repressive Hungarian government. Ferlinghetti politely suggested that they use the prize money to set up a fund for “the publication of Hungarian authors whose writings support total freedom of speech.”…

    The unsurpassed Ursula Le Guin explores the rewards of refusal: “The Literary Prize for the Refusal of Literary Prizes.”

    * E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

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    As we just say no, we might send lyrical birthday greetings to Christian Johann Heinrich Heine; he was born on this date in 1797.   A poet, journalist, essayist, and literary critic, he is best known outside of Germany for his early lyric poetry, which was set to music in the form of Lieder (art songs) by composers such as Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert.

    In his 1823 Almansor: A Tragedy he wrote, “Wherever books are burned, men in the end will also burn”… an observation that proved prescient in a personal way: his own books were burned by the Nazis during the 1930s.

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  • feedwordpress 09:01:54 on 2017/12/04 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Persius, poetry, Roman Republic, , , xenophobia   

    “For the nobles will be dissatisfied because they think themselves worthy of more than an equal share of honors”*… 

     

    Gaius Gracchus attempted to enact social reform in Ancient Rome but died at the hands of the Roman Senate in 121 B.C.

    Long before Julius Caesar declared himself dictator for life in 44 B.C., essentially spelling the beginning of the end to the Roman Republic, trouble was brewing in the halls of power.

    The warning signs were there. Politicians such as Tiberius Gracchus and Gaius Gracchus (together known as the Gracchi brothers) were thwarted from instituting a series of populist reforms in the 100s B.C., then murdered by their fellow senators. Old and unwritten codes of conduct, known as the mos maiorum, gave way as senators struggled for power. A general known as Sulla marched his army on Rome in 87 B.C., starting a civil war to prevent his political opponent from remaining in power. Yet none of these events have become as indelibly seared into Western memory as Caesar’s rise to power or sudden downfall, his murder in 44 B.C…

    Mike Duncan explores the forces that ate away at the Roman Republic, and cleared the way for the imperial Julius Caesar: “Before the Fall of the Roman Republic, Income Inequality and Xenophobia Threatened Its Foundations.”

    [TotH to @averylyford]

    * Aristotle, Politics, Book 2, 2.7

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    As we recall George Santayana’s warning that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” we might send birthday greetings in hexameter to Aulus Persius Flaccus, better known simply as Persius; he was born on this date in 34 A.D.  A Roman poet, his work satirized both the society of his time and his contemporary poets.  His tendency to stoicism helped him achieve wide popularity in the Middle Ages.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:54 on 2017/10/30 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , poetry, Symbolist, , ,   

    “Science is what you know, philosophy is what you don’t know”*… 

     

    A small section of the interactive Philosopher’s Web

    When data scientist Grant Louis Oliveira decided he wanted to undertake a self-guided course of study to “more rigorously explore my ideas,” he began with the honest admission, “I find the world of philosophy a bit impenetrable.”

    Where some of us might make an outline, a spreadsheet, or a humble reading list, Oliveira created a complex “social network visualization” of “a history of philosophy” to act as his guide.

    “What I imagined,” he writes, “is something like a tree arranged down a timeline. More influential philosophers would be bigger nodes, and the size of the lines between the nodes would perhaps be variable by strength of influence.”

    The project, called “Philosopher’s Web,” shows us an impressively dense collection of names—hundreds of names—held together by what look like the bendy filaments in a fiber-optic cable. Each blue dot represents a philosopher, the thin gray lines between the dots represent lines of influence…

    More on Oliveira’s opus at “‘The Philosopher’s Web,’ an Interactive Data Visualization Shows the Web of Influences Connecting Ancient & Modern Philosophers“; poke around in it here.

    See also:

    The Entire Discipline of Philosophy Visualized with Mapping Software: See All of the Complex Networks

    The History of Philosophy, from 600 B.C.E. to 1935, Visualized in Two Massive, 44-Foot High Diagrams

    The History of Philosophy Visualized

    * Bertrand Russell

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    As we realize that it’s all about the questions, we might send sensuously-written birthday greetings to Ambroise Paul Toussaint Jules Valéry; he was born on this date in 1871.  An educator, essayist, and philosopher, he is best remembered as a poet– the last of the great French Symbolists.  His best-known work is probably la Jeune Parque.

    A member of the Académie Française, Valéry was stripped of his academic positions and distinctions because of his quiet refusal to collaborate with Vichy and the German occupation during World War II.  He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 12 different years.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:40 on 2017/09/23 Permalink
    Tags: alliterative metre, Edda, euhemerism, , , , , poetry, Snorri Sturluson,   

    “Always be a poet, even in prose”*… 

     

    The Knight from the Ellesmere Manuscript of the Canterbury Tales.

    In the 13th century, English poetry changed dramatically. There were no battles, no pamphleteering, or Ezra Pound-style polemics, and no warring factions. Yet by the end of the century, a poetic revolution had taken place. Modern readers and writers have long since forgotten what happened back then, but poetry today would not be the same without the 13th century.

    In the Middle Ages, three major languages were spoken and written in England: Latin, French, and English. English was the least prestigious but, like the others, it had a thriving literary tradition. Before c1200, there was only one way to write poetry in English, known today as alliterative verse. This is the form of poetry used in BeowulfPiers PlowmanSir Gawain and the Green Knight, and approximately 300 other poems…

    The revolution of English poetry began toward the end of the 12th century, when poets writing in English invented new metres…

    For centuries, alliterative metre was the only way to write poetry in English. Then, rather suddenly, it wasn’t. It’s worth remembering the 13th century as an illustration of the unpredictability of historical change and the evanescence of normal, in literature and in life.

    The full story– with lots of lovely examples– at: “The 13th-century revolution that made modern poetry possible.”

    * Charles Baudelaire

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    As we get high behind change, we might spare a thought for Snorri Sturluson; he died on this date in 1241.  A poet, historian, and politician (he was elected twice as lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing), he authored (among other works) the Prose Edda or (Younger Edda).

    Snorri is remarkable for proposing (in the Prose Edda) that mythological gods begin as human war leaders and kings whose funeral sites develop cults (a form of euhemerism).

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