239. (Matthew Arnold)

Matthew Arnold suggests how a thoroughgoing Platonism might help us think through art, criticism, and more: “the application of ideas to life” in his suggestive phrase, art becomes, if we take “ideas” as a surrogate for the “ideas” that are Platonic forms, the application itself. Whereas the study of philosophy is the study of forms themselves, such as Justice, Truth, Beauty, all at a level … Continue reading 239. (Matthew Arnold)

223. (Emily Dickinson)

To begin with recapitulation and self-remonstration: poetry must, in F.H. Bradley’s persuasive formulation, get within the judgment the condition of the judgment. So much is true for Donne, Milton, Clare, Browning, and Ginsberg, to sample from all directions. The interpretive task of a critic becomes not an explication of meanings or “readings” but a working out of the judgments a poet makes in the choice … Continue reading 223. (Emily Dickinson)

222. (Emily Dickinson)

This post is the second of a series of evolving sketches about “decorum” in poetry. This is the messiest of the bunch, conceptually and historically. Dickinson was the provocation rather than the central subject. But it gets to her in the end, as does the next post, which is again, on Emily Dickinson, hopefully in much clearer terms. One of the pleasures of Tudor poetry … Continue reading 222. (Emily Dickinson)

219. (Marcel Proust)

The last volume of Proust’s great novel is, from the sado-masochistic fantasies of Baron de Charlus in the first half, to the final party given by the Princesse de Guermantes (formerly Mme. Verdurin) in the second, a reckoning with the body as a vessel not just for life in time, but for time itself. The meditations on the body resemble, intersect with, and then develop … Continue reading 219. (Marcel Proust)

210. (Thomas Hobbes)

It’s often said that Leviathan has the excellence of great literature, that it is one of the finest prose works in the language, and the opinion is not just that of philosophers. To the many good reasons for appreciating what Hobbes effects in and to language, one might speculate that Leviathan is distinctly literary in its excellence, and that it’s being so, while being at … Continue reading 210. (Thomas Hobbes)

203. (Aristotle)

Aristotle begins his Art of Rhetoric How do we reason in general about what is possible, probable, not necessary; he approaches rhetoric not as a determinate science, not as a particular domain of knowledge and judgment, but as a domain of knowledge and judgment that, determined by any number of situations, is nonetheless not determined by a set of knowledge claims (though it may often … Continue reading 203. (Aristotle)

188. (William Shakespeare)

Many of Shakespeare’s plays involve a recurring movement or transformation, which I will describe in terms that are broadly metaphysical and mostly instinctive. Backing them up, explaining them, might happen in some later posts. For now, I’ll set out the nature of the shift. The transformation happens in the plays when the superfluous is recognized to be irreplaceable. Or rather, that recognition happens in the … Continue reading 188. (William Shakespeare)