Friday, September 16, 2016

Forget Hillary

I have been polite so far about the election. Now I have had it because of what a now-ex-friend posted on my page. (It has been deleted).
First of all, forget Hillary. In much the same sense Jean Baudrillard once urged us to "forget Foucault." Bracket her. Leave her aside. Some like her, some don’t like her. I have worked hard for her both in 2008 and now, donating money I could not afford, making countless phone calls to total strangers. But even I will admit she has her strong points and weak points. I certainly do not claim her as a figure who should exert universal admiration.
But we are talking about Trump. And you should vote against Trump. Not for Hillary. And by this I don't mean for Stein and Johnson. I actually contributed $10 to Jill Stein when she was running for governor, I think, of Massachusetts. You can see that if you search online. But she is not presidential calibre. She is a vaccine sceptic and would not defend the country.
Gary Johnson is appealing to young white males who feel they will lose some of their privilege under a Hillary administration. Guys, one of the things straight white men have to deal with in this era is conceding our privilege. My generation had to deal with it. So does yours. Johnson is a radical free-marketer and guess what, millennials, you will be stuck with your student loans forever under a Gary Johnson administration, with your only consolation knowing what Aleppo is. And Gary Johnson would roll back the Obamacare that, among other things, paid for my colonoscopy last year. But that doesn’t matter, as he will never win. It is between Trump and the Democratic candidate.
But here is the thing: you should vote against Trump, not for Hillary, but for yourself. So many of you I know on here are idealistic, have your own dreams and aspirations; want this to be a better country and world. Your visions may be different from mine; my politics are very idiosyncratic and will be mirrored exactly by no one. But in all cases Trump will squelch and corrode your dreams. He will make them impossible. He is a racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, atavistically ignorant moron who stands against everything that has always made this country truly great, even if sometimes more in promise than in fulfillment. So forget Hillary. Close your eyes and pull the Democratic lever and just forget who is on it. Vote against Trump. Vote for yourselves and your dreams.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Trump, Obama, Putin--and systemic racism

Can anybody deny that when Trump says Putin is 'far more' of a leader than Obama, he is appealing to race and race only? In other words, I don't see Trump saying that Xi Jinping or Narendra Modi or Shinzo Abe is more of a leader than Obama, just Putin--the white guy. I think there is systemic racism in American life and I am not wary of attributing nearly any aberration in American culture to this systemic racism. This certainly includes "Mr. Trump" and his bizarre hostility to our President, whose American birth he has denied.  And, furthermore, I believe that, to my horror and disgust, this systemic racism 'trumps’ the Republican Party's historic hostility to Russia (seen as recently as Mitt Romney’s comments in 2012), and their historic championship of the small countries menaced and, yes, dominated a 1976 campaign reference), by the USSR and now Russia. I think Estonia, Poland, etc. are finding hat their former Republican friends have swerved away now that a chance to champion a more powerful white man, Putin, has presented itself

Friday, August 12, 2016

That Trollope

Podcast concerning the life and works of Anthony Trollope

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dates and order of reading of my NYU Australian course

September 28 Gail Jones, Five Bells
October 5 Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang;
October 12 Charlotte Wopd, The Natural Way of Things
October 19 Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus
October 26 Tim Winton, Breath 
November 2 Melissa Lucashenko, Mullumbimby; 
November 9  Christos Tsiolkas, The Slap
November 16 Thomas Keneally, The Daughters of Mars;

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

More on my NYU Australian course

Charlotte Wood's book just came out; it is an incredibly engaging  and also quite riveting thriller. Liane Moriarty just raved about it in the Times, and it got a long feature in the Economist.

Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap got huge publicity worldwide and was made into a very good Australian TV miniseries and a far less good American one. It is a highly contemporary, often divisive, but quite attention-holding book.

Peter Carey and Tim Winton really need to introduction to American readers; of course they are writers of widespread fame, among the finest in the world, and both Nobel contenders. Both Carey and Shirley Hazzard have lived and worked in New York City for many years and have been vital players on the American literary scene, demonstrating the continuing global stakes of Australian literature.  Thomas Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 for Schindler's List and has made war and its legacies his particular subject. 

Gail Jones and Melissa Lucashenko are up-and-coming writers who address Australia's neglected histories and the possibilities for changing them in this new century.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Fulgentius as Literary Critic

Fulgentius (North African Roman: fl. Late 5th-early 6th century) 

   Fabius Planciades Fulgentius was most likely from North Africa during the last part of the era of Vandal rule there, but, despite persistent attempts to link the two, was probably not related to the Christian saint of that name who lived roughly in the same period. Fulgentius wrote several interesting works on history and mythography. But his importance to literary criticism consists of his writing on Vergil. Fulgentius, along with Servius (fourth century), was one of the first critics to devote a major piece of criticism to a single work, in both cases Vergil’s Aeneid. (Macrobius, who flourished in the early fifth century, also allegorized a major work, the Dream of Scipio section of Cicero’s De re publica). This contrasted with many of the ancient critical texts that have reached us, largely treatises on general rules of literature or rhetoric. Fulgentius set a precedent both in terms of detailed attention and moral/allegorical orientation that vitally influenced other medieval commentaries. 
      “The Exposition of Vergil According to Moral Philosophy” was at once a faithful attempt to try to, within the critic's given framework, attend to the literal meaning of the text, and a rewriting so audacious as to almost give us a fundamentally new work. Fulgentius, for instance, paid no attention to the poem’s major manifest theme of conquest and the proto-establishment of the Roman state, which for him, living under Vandal occupation and as a Christian, would not have been relevant anyway. But it was relevant to Vergil, a circumstance that Fulgentius nonetheless sidestepped. This was in contrast to Fulgentius’s “rival,” Servius, who treated Vergil’s epic as a historical treasure-trove and was much more attentive to literal fact. It was closer to Macrobius, whose transcendentalizing inclination went beyond that of Fulgentius, but who was closer in this respect to Fulgentius than Fulgentius was to Servius. Analyzing the poem’s first line, arma virumque cano, “Arms and the man I sing,” Fulgentius translated  “arms” as the virtue of Vergil, the syntactic placement if the word indicates the particular merit of the character. Fulgentius saw language as connotative, symbolic. Though he did not read in a wholly allegorical manner, he did not just see words as representing what they literally meant. Fulgentius, near the beginning of his exposition, invoked the muses, much as an epic poet would, indicating his sense that criticism, like creative writing, required inspiration and was itself a kind of work of art. 
  Fulgentius forswore discussions of Vergil’s lyric poems, the Eclogues and the Georgics, on the grounds of their at once being too difficult and too dedicated to specific practices. But this decision is also in line with the general ancient emphasis on epic over lyric poetry. Fulgentius explicitly communes with the spirit of Vergil, which he has the Muses summon, feeling inspired not only by the Muse in general but with the soul of the author he is writing about. Fulgentius also eschewed a philosophical reading, disclaiming any intent to read Vergil in a Platonic or Pythagorean mode. He positioned himself as a more practical critic who will tell his reader what the text means, rather than trying to explicate—or posit--its higher mysteries. 
      Fulgentius proceeded by a combination of etymology, morality, and symbolism. He defined, or speculated on, the meaning of proper names, then suggested what those names symbolize and what their moral import was. For instance, he interpreted the name Palinurus from Latin words that make up its elements a “wandering vision,” and this explained for him why Palinurus falls into the sea--as Palinurus's vision was wandering, which it should not have been, it should have been steadfast. Fulgentius was halfway between ascribing a moral intent to Vergil and saying that this moral mode of reading was the reader’s way of making sense of the Aeneid and rendering the text ethically constructive.
   Much of the “Exposition” dealt with interpreting names, linking names to characters. For instance, “Misenus” was seen as meaning “vain praise,” thus that character must die in Book Six in order for this false virtue to be overcome by the hero. But Fulgentius’s reading, though moral, does not reach full Christian allegory. Fulgentius, in a mock-dialogue with Vergil, proposed a Christian understanding, which Vergil does not disagree with, but of which he says that he can only say what he thinks. Fulgentius at once paraded his own Christian viewpoint and also indicated an understanding that the original text is not Christian in intent. This provided an important precedent for later critics—such as the twelfth-century scholar Bernardus Silvestris who wrote a more ambitious, though unfinished, commentary on Vergil-- who at once read texts in light of their own ideologies but also respected the spirit of the past. Fulgentius also provided ground for Dante’s treatment of Vergil in Dante’s great poem, the Comedy, and for the role played by Vergil as the connector between classicism, medieval times, and modernity, as sketched by scholars such as the polymathic comparatist Domenico Comparetti (1835-1927) and the eloquent cultural critic Theodor Haecker (1879-1945).
Merrills, Andrew H. Vandals, Romans and Berbers: New Perspectives on Late Antique North Africa. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004. 
Bernardo, Aldo S. and Saul Levin, The Classics in the Middle Ages. Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1990. 
Comparetti, Domenico, Vergil in the Middle Ages, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.  Originally published 1895. 
 The website written and maintained by David S. Wilson-Okamura is also a vitally important resource for Fulgentius, Servius, Macrobius, and all commentary on Vergil.  

Merrills, Andrew H. Vandals, Romans and Berbers: New Perspectives on Late Antique North Africa. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.
Bernardo, Aldo S. and Saul Levin, The Classics in the Middle Ages. Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1990.
Comparetti, Domenico, Vergil in the Middle Ages, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997.  Originally published 1895.

 The website written and maintained by David S. Wilson-Okamura is also a vitally important resource for Fulgentius, Servius, Macrobius, and all commentary on Vergil.