Unspeakable, unspoken.

young_americans
Down in the shadow of the penitentiary
Out by the gas fires of the refinery
I’m ten years burning down the road
Nowhere to run ain’t got nowhere to go

Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature
— by Toni Morrison


I planned to call this paper “Canon Fodder,” because the term put me in mind of a kind of trained muscular response that appears to be on display in some areas of the recent canon debate. Also I liked the clash and swirl of those two words. At first they reminded me of that host of young men — black or “ethnics” or poor or working-class — who left high school for the war in Vietnam and were perceived by war resisters as “fodder.” Indeed many of those who went, as well as those who returned, were treated as one of that word’s definitions: “coarse food for livestock,” or, in the context of my thoughts about the subject of this paper, a more applicable definition: “people considered as readily available and of little value.” Rude feed to feed the war machine. There was also the play of cannon and canon. The etymology of the first includes tube, cane, or cane-like, reed. Of the second, sources include rod becoming body of law, body of rules, measuring rod. When the two words faced each other, the image became the shape of the cannon wielded on (or by) the body of law. The boom of power announcing an “officially recognized set of texts.” Cannon defending canon, you might say. And without any etymological connection I heard father in fodder, and sensed father in both cannon and canon, ending up with “father food.” And what does this father eat? Readily available people/texts of little value. But I changed my mind (so many have used the phrase) and hope to make clear the appropriateness of the one I settled on.

My purpose here is to observe the panoply of this most recent and most anxious series of questions concerning what should or does constitute a literary canon in order to suggest ways of addressing the Afro-American presence in American Literature that require neither slaughter nor reification — views that may spring the whole literature of an entire nation from the solitude into which it has been locked. There is something called American literature that, according to conventional wisdom, is certainly not Chicano literature, or Afro-American literature, or Asian-American, or Native American, or… It is somehow separate from them and they from it, and in spite of the efforts of recent literary histories, restructured curricula, and anthologies, this separate confinement, be it breached or endorsed, is the subject of a large part of these debates. Although the terms used, like the vocabulary of earlier canon debates, refer to literary and/or humanistic value, aesthetic criteria, value-free or socially anchored readings, the contemporary battle plain is most often understood to be the claims of others against the white male origins and definitions of those values; whether those definitions reflect an eternal, universal, and transcending paradigm or whether they constitute a disguise for a temporal, political, and culturally specific program.


Read the full essay…

REFERENCE
Morrison, Toni. “Unspeakable Things Unspoken: The Afro-American Presence in American Literature.” (1988).

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Artist Hale Aspacio Woodruff was commissioned to paint the Amistad Murals in 1938.
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Here, Woodruff portrays the repatriation of freed slaves in Africa.
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In this 1939 mural, Woodruff depicts the trial of the Africans aboard the Amistad.
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In his 1942 mural The Underground Railroad, Woodruff shows slaves about to cross the Ohio River to freedom.
“Shotgun, Third Ward #1”
“Shotgun, Third Ward #1”
by John Biggers (1966)

Oscar Wilde

[Irish | 1854–1900]

I just love his full name: Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde… Anyhow, he was a poet and a writer who — because of his sexuality — faced various problems and even had to spend a period of time in prison. This is one of my favorite of his observations:

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.

And this, this is what I want to convey today to you:

You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes or their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear.

(The only song I hear is the one sung by you.)

The Ballad of Reading Gaol and Other Poems

This poem — originally published anonymously, written after Wilde’s two year’s hard labour in Reading prison — is the tale of a man who has been sentenced to hang for the murder of the woman he loved. The Ballad of Reading Gaol follows the inmate through his final three weeks, as he stares at the sky and silently drinks his beer ration. Heart-wrenching and eye-opening, the ballad also expresses perfectly Wilde’s belief that humanity is made up only of offenders, each of us deserving a greater charity for the severity of our crimes.

Oscar Wilde
The Ballad of Reading Gaol (and other poems)

The Canterville Ghost

A collection of stories, including two of Wilde’s most famous: “The Canterville Ghost,” in which a young American girl helps to free the tormented spirit that haunts an old English castle and “The Happy Prince,” who was not as happy as he seemed. Often whimsical and sometimes sad, they all shine with poetry and magic.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Enthralled by his own exquisite portrait, Dorian Gray exchanges his soul for eternal youth and beauty. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb. Influenced by his friend Lord Henry Wotton, he is drawn into a corrupt double life; indulging his desires in secret while remaining a gentleman in the eyes of polite society. Only his portrait bears the traces of his decadence. The novel was a succès de scandale and the book was later used as evidence against Wilde at the Old Bailey in 1895. It has lost none of its power to fascinate and disturb.”


Silentium Amoris

(The Silence of Love)

As oftentimes the too resplendent sun
Hurries the pallid and reluctant moon
Back to her sombre cave, ere she hath won
A single ballad from the nightingale,
So doth thy Beauty make my lips to fail,
And all my sweetest singing out of tune.

And as at dawn across the level mead
On wings impetuous some wind will come,
And with its too harsh kisses break the reed
Which was its only instrument of song,
So my too stormy passions work me wrong,
And for excess of Love my Love is dumb.

But surely unto Thee mine eyes did show
Why I am silent, and my lute unstrung;
Else it were better we should part, and go,
Thou to some lips of sweeter melody,
And I to nurse the barren memory
Of unkissed kisses, and songs never sung.

— Oscar Wilde

Oscar_Wilde_Signature
“Sign your name, across my heart”

Blissful ignorance

((..الجهل نعمة))

v.

“I hold there is no sin but ignorance.”

— Machiavelli ❱ Marlowe ❱❱ Rethink.

2E750670-B075-471C-BA67-7245173B536D
Spanish Fly 😜
B002DBA4-D3D2-482A-9896-D4C65A9D8081
Lest We Forget.

Esoteric red herrings… now I’m in the fucking know.

— Anna Bidoonism

I will defend the importance of bedtime stories to my last gasp.

— J. K. Rowling

Did you know — I didn’t until I read it tonight — that reading for pleasure in one’s youth is a key factor in determining one’s future “social mobility” (success in later life). OECD Research shows the extent to which one reads for pleasure is the most important indicator of the future success of that individual [read on…]. I ask you, dear reader (Oh! James: Where art thou?), did you hear about/read:

01. — Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler (1970)

02. — Orientalism, by Edward Saïd (1978)

03. — Imagined Communities, by Benedict Anderson (1983)

04. — The Magic of Reality, by Richard Dawkins (2011)

?

Books = a way of escape
Books = a way of escape
Books 📚
Books 📚
Books 📚
Books 📚
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry
The Penguin Book of Romantic Poetry
book___03
Conrad also wrote The Secret Sharer (oh Jay)
bookcover-art-12
From Russia + Vladimir Nabokov


p.s.

Ignorance is bliss
[proverb]
If one is unaware of an unpleasant fact or situation one cannot be troubled by it. — “I don’t want to hear about Trump’s latest tweets, ignorance, in this instance my dear friend, is bliss.”

Red herring
A clue or piece of information which is or is intended to be misleading or distracting. — “The writing of the Secret Sharer is convoluted and full of red herrings.” (Also: ‘a dried smoked herring fish that turns red due to the smoke in the drying process.’)

Delphic
Relating to the ancient Greek oracle at Delphi; to deliberately obscure something; to be or act ambiguously.

Esoteric
Intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialised knowledge or interest. — “She grew increasingly frustrated with the esoteric philosophical debates organised by Dr. Humaid.”

Recherché
Rare, exotic, or obscure. — “Some of the idioms he insisted on using were to recherché for most of the students in the Elizabethan era literature class.”

Eric Hobsbawm

[English | 1917–2012]

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm was a well known British historian who focused on the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism. Hobsbawm was born in Egypt but spent his childhood mostly in Vienna and Berlin. Following the death of his parents and the rise to power of Adolf Hitler, Hobsbawm moved to London with his adoptive family, then obtained his PhD in history at the University of Cambridge. His best-known works include his trilogy about what he called the “long 19th century” (The Age of Revolution: Europe 1789–1848, The Age of Capital: 1848–1875 and The Age of Empire: 1875–1914) and, The Age of Extremes on the short 20th century.

In these works, Eric Hobsbawm traces with brilliant anlytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual revolution – the 1789 French revolution and the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This enthralling and original account highlights the significant sixty years when industrial capitalism established itself in Western Europe and when Europe established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for half a century.

Read more:
PeopleWriters ❱❱ Eric Hobsbawm

Mary Ann Evans

[English | 1819–1880]

a.k.a., George Eliot

Mary Ann Evans was a philosopher, journalist and translator before she became a novelist. Her first book of stories was published in 1856. She led an unconventional life, co-editing the liberal journal Westminster Review for three years and living with the married man and philosopher George Henry Lewes. Her novels, in particular, Middlemarch, are acclaimed for their realism and psychological insights.

Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depths of love.

Mary Ann used the pen name George Eliot to write her novels because at that time in history female novelists were seen as only capable of being romantic authors. Thus, the argument goes, she wanted to be taken seriously as a writer, so felt that using a man’s name would afford her the credit.

What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?

Middlemarch

— 1871, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

Today it is widely considered to be the case that her novels are amongst the greatest works of English literature produced in the 19th c.

Middlemarch contains all of life: the rich and the poor, the conventional and the radical, literature and science, politics and romance, but above all it gives us a vision of what lies within the human heart, the roar on the other side of silence. In the story, Dorothea is bright, beautiful and rebellious. Lydgate is the ambitious new doctor in town. Both of them long to make a positive difference in the world. But their stories do not proceed as expected and both they, and the other inhabitants of Middlemarch, must struggle to reconcile themselves to their fates and find their places in the world.

Adam Bede

— 1859, Edinburgh: John Blackwood.

In this novel, the protagonist is Adam Bede, a wood worker, who is in love with the beautiful Hetty Sorrel, but unknown to him, he has a rival, in the local squire’s son Arthur Donnithorne. Hetty is soon attracted by Arthur’s seductive charm and they begin to meet in secret. The relationship is to have tragic consequences that reach far beyond the couple themselves…

The Mill on the Floss

— 1860, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

In this novel, we meet Maggie Tulliver, a young lady who worships her brother Tom and is desperate to win the approval of her parents, but her passionate, wayward nature and her fierce intelligence bring her into constant conflict with her family. As she reaches adulthood, the clash between their expectations and her desires is painfully played out as she finds herself torn between her relationships with three very different men: her proud and stubborn brother; hunchbacked Tom Wakem, the son of her family’s worst enemy; and the charismatic but dangerous Stephen Guest. … choice-overload, right?

Romola

— 1863, London: Smith, Elder & Co.
This is said to be one of Eliot’s most ambitious and imaginative novels. It is set in Renaissance Florence during the turbulent years following the expulsion of the powerful Medici family during which the zealous religious reformer Savonarola rose to control the city. At its heart is Romola, the devoted daughter of a blind scholar, married to the clever but ultimately treacherous Tito whose duplicity in both love and politics threatens to destroy everything she values, and she must break away to find her own path in life.

Felix Holt, the Radical

— 1866, Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons.

The novel centres around a lady called Esther. When the young nobleman Harold Transome returns to England from the colonies with a self-made fortune, he scandalises the town of Treby Magna with his decision to stand for Parliament as a Radical. But after the idealistic Felix Holt also returns to the town, the difference between Harold’s opportunistic values and Holt’s profound beliefs becomes apparent. Forthright, brusque and driven by a firm desire to educate the working-class, Felix is at first viewed with suspicion but, as Esther discovers, his blunt words conceal both passion and deep integrity. Soon the romantic and over-refined Esther finds herself overwhelmed by a heart-wrenching decision: whether to choose Transome or Holt… ch- ch- choices — again 😦

It is never too late to be what you might have been.


p.s.
The Guardian view on George Eliot: a novelist for now
— Editorial
“It is 200 years since the birth of George Eliot, and her artistic virtues – humanity, honesty, seriousness – are more necessary than ever…”

Also, I wanna introduce to A.S. Byatt who has written a lot about George Eliot, is a well regarded literary critique (heart) and is a novelist in her own right and is, according to one essayist, “a gifted observer, able to discern the exact but minor details that bring whole worlds into being.”

Possession
It says ‘Romance’ and in some ways it is, but in others it is not…

Possession is not just a novel; it’s a collection of poetry, letters, journals and diaries, each with their own distinct voice. A tour de force of prose-wring skill, beyond the usual demands of fiction, written by a literary ventriloquist. The novel begins in the Reading Room in the London Library. Part-time research assistant Roland Michell, finds letters hidden inside a book. They were written by celebrated Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash to Cristobel LaMotte, a lesser-known writer, suggesting an adulterous affair…

📙 Lolita

[Vladimir Nabokov | 1899–1977]

Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian-American novelist and poet. He wrote the novel Lolita in 1955.

It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.

Narrated by a middle-aged man named Humbert Humbert, the book tells the story of his obsession with a 12-year-old girl named Dolores Haze (Lolita) and the sexual relationship he forces her into. A literary critic asks, “Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?”

Humbert Humbert’s seduction is one of many dimensions in Nabokov’s dizzying masterpiece, which is suffused with a savage humour and rich, elaborate verbal textures. In the novel, Dolores eventually escapes Humbert, who then goes on to have an emotional breakdown.

I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes.

Indeed and, ain’t this so very true:

The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.

p.s.
Some useful context:
How Lolita seduces us all
The disgusting brilliance of Lolita

Marcel Proust

[French | 1871–1922]

Proust was a French critic, and essayist who is now best known for his monumental novel: In Search of Lost Time (sometimes known as: Remembrance of Things Past). This was published in seven parts between 1913 and 1927. Today, Proust is considered by critics and writers — e.g., Melvin Bragg and guests — to have been one of the most influential authors of the 20th c.

Love is a striking example of how little reality means to us.

Nostalgia… do you want to be dragged there? Then read on.

Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind.

As Proust saw it:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.

In Search of Lost Time — a novel of over 4,000 pages — is considered by many to be the definitive modern novel. This is not least because it has influenced directly and indirectly generations of writers, in 1922 Virginia Woolf said, “Oh if I could write like that!” Vladimir Nabokov — author of Lolita and himself considered one of Europe’s most talented writers of prose — said in a 1965 interview, that the greatest prose works of the 20th c. were “Joyce’s Ulysses, Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, Bely’s Petersburg (see Endnotes), and the first half In Search of Lost Time.”

Lost in Time isn’t exactly easy reading but somehow you can get carried along by them if you can allow yourself to fall int the flow or, you can begin by listening to it in this ten part, ten hour BBC dramatisation:

📻 — In Search of Lost Time

(listening to the radio’s easier on your green eyes Jay; yes Jay, it’s easier on your brown eyes too Jay.)

Marcel Proust
Marcel Proust: Gadfly? Man for the men? A reader of Ruskin

In Search of Lost Time, is compiled in a number of volumes:


And has been republished a great many times…

To somehow summarise the work, many describe it as something of a fictional autobiography by a man whose life almost mirrors that of Marcel Proust. The first forty pages of the novel describe the narrator as a young boy in bed awaiting, and as a middle-aged man remembering, his mother’s goodnight kiss. Though it is not obvious to the reader at the time, these first forty pages also establish most of the themes of the next seven volumes and introduce most of the major characters. The rest of the novel traces the chronology of Marcel’s life over the next fifty years and the lives of his family, friends, and social acquaintances. The novel concludes at a grand party in Paris attended by Marcel and most of the remaining characters.

Because the story is told with two “voices,” that of the narrator as a young boy and also as an older man recalling his youth, it is sometimes difficult to tell Marcel’s age at any particular moment in the novel. The reader must rely on the context of the action.

Two of the novel’s major themes concern Marcel’s frustrated desire to become a writer and his despair at the corroding effect of Time, which makes all human feelings and experiences fade into nothing.

Unhappy love affairs are a leitmotif of the novel.

The best known is that of Charles Swann, which could act as a template for all the rest and is described in “Swann in Love.” The tension and swing of power between lovers and the inevitable disappointment when we achieve the object of our desires is a constant theme throughout the book. (Swann’s love for and pursuit of Odette takes him from the pinnacle ofsmart society to the depths ofsocial rejection and eventual oblivion.)

All the book’s love affairs essentially describe:

the futility of trying to possess or even understand another person

Love is a metaphor for all human experience. According to Proust:

all man’s suffering is caused by his desires [and] achieving those desires only increases the suffering.


Endnotes

1. — Bely

Petersburg
— Andrei Bely

Andrei Bely (1880-1934) was educated at Moscow University where he studied science and philosophy, before turning his focus to literature. In 1904 he published his first collection of poems, Gold in Azure. Petersburg, was published in 1916.

Petersburg is Bely’s masterpiece and it is generally considered to be a vivid, striking story. Bely’s richly textured, darkly comic and symbolic novel pulled apart the traditional techniques of storytelling and presaged the dawn of a new form of literature. This book is considered to have heavily influenced several literary schools, most notably Symbolism, and his impact on Russian writing has been compared to that of James Joyce on the English speaking world.

The novel is set at the heart of the 1905 Russian revolution. In the book. a young impressionable university student, Nikolai, becomes involved with a revolutionary terror organization, which plans to assassinate a high government official with a time bomb. But the official is Nikolai’s cold, unyielding father, Apollon, and in twenty-four hours the bomb will explode. Petersburg is a story of suspense, family dysfunction, patricide, conspiracy and revolution. It is also an impressionistic, exhilarating panorama of the city itself, watched over by the bronze statue of Peter the Great, as it tears itself apart.

2. — Ruskin

The best thing in life aren’t things.