196. (Marcel Proust)

In trying to describe the relationship between instinct and intention, convention and originality, which characterizes literary creation, few notions are as helpful as Pierre Bourdieu’s description of “habitus.” It does not do any special work but it clears a space between two extremes as no other term does; it prevents us from moving too strongly to the notion that an individual artist is essentially an … Continue reading 196. (Marcel Proust)

195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

One story of Romanticism (mostly true, however simplified) goes: some poets from 1790s onwards find their freedom in their capacity to imagine the world. It reflects a distortion and exaggeration of idealist philosophy: freedom arrives as man imposes his understanding onto reality. The better, defensible, fruitful story about German idealism goes: in self-conscious actions and beliefs about the world, humanity finds its freedom. (That is … Continue reading 195. (Alfred Lord Tennyson)

194. (Erich Auerbach)

Literature only happens at a distance from the ideology it depends on for its making; that is why ideological critique of any literary work is possible, without our having to cease reading it as literature, and yet without doing literary criticism. In any work of literature, that is, there is an unresolved debate–playful or savage–between some set of claims to what is and to what … Continue reading 194. (Erich Auerbach)

192. (Mary Sidney)

Renaissance translations of the Psalms are maybe the closest English poetry comes to what we encounter in the religious paintings of Renaissance art: variations on standard subjects, which are exceptional in the opportunity they offer for imagining divine love, human suffering, and the alloying of the one onto the other. Keeping Renaissance religious paintings in mind when we read the Psalms might be helpful in … Continue reading 192. (Mary Sidney)