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Posts Tagged ‘Joyce’

Paul H. Fry on “Influence”

In Academia, American Literature, Arts & Letters, Books, British Literature, Conservatism, Creativity, Fiction, History, Humanities, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literature, Pedagogy, Philosophy, Scholarship, Teaching, The Academy on March 25, 2015 at 8:45 am

Below is the next installment in the lecture series on literary theory and criticism by Paul H. Fry.  The previous lectures are here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.


My Reading List for 2013

In Arts & Letters, Books, Creativity, Fiction, History, Humanities, Law, Literature, Novels, Philosophy, Politics, Western Civilization, Western Philosophy, Writing on December 12, 2012 at 8:45 am

Allen Mendenhall

Editorial Note (April 15, 2013):  At this point in the year, I have already discovered flaws in this list. For instance, I gave myself two weeks to read Augustine’s Confessions and one week to read Aquinas’s Summa Theologica.  I should have done the reverse.  Summa Theologica may have required more than two weeks to read, since I found myself rushing through it, and it is not a book through which one should rush.  My schedule has forced me to speed read some texts in order to avoid taking shortcuts.  Some of the texts on this list will therefore appear on my list for next year, so that they get the treatment and consideration they deserve.

2013 will be a good year for reading.  I’ve made a list of the books I’m going to undertake, and I hope you’ll consider reading along with me.  As you can see, I’ll be enjoying many canonical works of Western Civilization.  Some I’ve read before; some I haven’t.  My goal is to reacquaint myself with the great works I fell in love with years ago and to read some of the great works that I’ve always wanted to read but haven’t.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everybody ought to read these works, but I do think that by reading them, a person will gain a fundamental understanding of the essential questions and problems that have faced humans for generations.

Some works are conspicuous in their absence; the list betrays my preferences.  Notably missing are the works of Shakespeare and the canonical texts that make up the Old and New Testament.  There’s a reason for that.  I’ve developed a morning habit of reading the scriptures as well as Shakespeare before I go to work.  If I’m reading these already, there’s no need to add them to the list, which is designed to establish a healthy routine.  What’s more, the list comes with tight deadlines, and I’m inclined to relish rather than rush through the Bible or Shakespeare.

Lists provide order and clarity; we make them to reduce options or enumerate measurable, targeted goals.  Lists rescue us from what has been called the “tyranny of choice.”  Benjamin Franklin made a list of the 13 virtues he wished to live by.  What motivated him is perhaps what’s motivating me: a sense of purpose and direction and edification.

At first I wanted to assign myself a book a week, but realizing that some works are longer or more challenging than others, that as a matter of obligation I will have other books to read and review, that I have a doctoral dissertation to write, that the legal profession is time consuming, and that unforeseen circumstances could arise, I decided that I might need more time than a week per book depending on the complexity of the particular selection or the busyness of the season.  Although I hope to stick to schedule, I own that I might have to permit myself flexibility.  We’ll see.

For variety—and respite—I have chosen to alternate between a pre-20th century text and a 20th century text.  In other words, one week I might read Milton, the next Heidegger.  For the pre-20th century texts, I will advance more or less chronologically; there is no method or sequence for the 20th century texts, which I listed as they came to mind (“oh, I’ve always wanted to read more Oakeshott—I should add him.  And isn’t my knowledge of Proust severely limited?—I’ll add him as well.”).  It’s too early to say what lasting and significant effects these latter texts will have, so I hesitate to number them among the demonstrably great pre-20th century texts, but a general consensus has, I think, established these 20th century texts as at least among the candidates for canonicity.

I have dated some of the texts in the list below.  Not all dates are known with certainty, by me or anyone else.  Some texts were revised multiple times after their initial publication; others were written in installments.  Therefore, I have noted the time span for those works produced over the course of many years.

One would be justified in wondering why I’ve selected these texts over others.  The answer, I suppose, pertains to something Harold Bloom once said: that there are many books but only one lifetime, so why not read the best and most enduring?  I paraphrase because I can’t remember precisely what he said or where he said it, but the point is clear enough: read the most important books before you run out of time.

Making this list, I learned that one can read only so many great works by picking them off one week at a time.  The initial disheartenment I felt at this realization quickly gave way to motivation: if I want to understand the human condition as the most talented and creative of our predecessors understood it, I will have to make a new list every year, and I will have to squeeze in time for additional texts whenever possible.  I am shocked at the number of books that I wanted to include in this list, but that didn’t make it in.  I ran out of weeks.  What a shame.

Here is my list.  I hope you enjoy. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Note: Machinic Modernism, by Beatrice Monaco

In Arts & Letters, Book Reviews, Fiction, Humanities, Literary Theory & Criticism, Literature, Modernism, Philosophy, Pragmatism, Rhetoric, Rhetoric & Communication, Western Philosophy, Writing on September 20, 2012 at 8:45 am

Allen Mendenhall

The following excerpt first appeared as part of the Routledge Annotated Bibliography of English Studies series.

Machinic Modernism: The Deleuzian Literary Machines of Woolf, Lawrence and Joyce

This book investigates several modernist novels in light of the theories of Gilles Deleuze and, to a slightly lesser degree, Felix Guattari.  The author is interested in how the “machine-like” work and style of Deleuze and Guattari facilitate pragmatic readings of texts.  These pragmatic readings suggest that textual activity in several modernist novels reflects broader cultural activities, that the metaphysical movement of text corresponds to various social movements, and that text reproduces historical circumstances in signs and syntax.

The book seeks to depart from conventional forms of scholarship and to resist Deleuze-Guattarian paradigms that overemphasize pragmatism and empiricism at the expense of radical innovation.  In a way this book is a Deleuze-Guattarian treatment of Deleuze and Guattarian with a focus on key modernist novels such as Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow, and James Joyce’s Ulysses.  Just as Deleuze and Guattari reframe seminal issues of philosophy in terms of pragmatism, so these modernist novels negotiate cultural and discursive phenomena with a bearing on then-current philosophy.

This book seeks to build a critical “machine” with which to interpret the machine in texts as well as to negotiate the so-called machine age; it also interrogates the organic-mechanic duality already interrogated by Deleuze.  In so doing, it considers differences in literature in light of Deleuzian pragmatics to show that the philosophical moves taking place in Deleuze reflect similar moves taking place in modernist literature generally.  The book argues that To the Lighthouse and The Rainbow implicate metaphysical structures in interesting ways but also in ways that are not entirely satisfactory without an understanding of Ulysses.  In Ulysses the theories and mechanic imperatives of Deleuzian modernism find their fullest expression.

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