‘Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink into a mechanical art. It would be μóρφωσις, not ποίησις. The rules of the IMAGINATION are themselves the very powers of growth and production. The words to which they are reducible, present only the outlines and external appearance of the fruit. A deceptive counterfeit of the superficial form and colours may be elaborated; but the marble peach feels cold and heavy, and children only put it to their mouths.’ [Coleridge, Biographia ch. 18]

‘ποίησις’ (poiēsis) means ‘a making, a creation, a production’ and is used of poetry in Aristotle and Plato. ‘μóρφωσις’ (morphōsis) in essence means the same thing: ‘a shaping, a bringing into shape.’ But Coleridge has in mind the New Testament use of the word as ‘semblance’ or ‘outward appearance’, which the KJV translates as ‘form’: ‘An instructor of the foolish, a teacher of babes, which hast the form [μóρφωσις] of knowledge and of the truth in the law’ [Romans 2:20]; ‘Having a form [μóρφωσις] of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’ [2 Timothy 3:5]. I trust that's clear.

There is much more on Coleridge at my other, Coleridgean blog.

Tuesday 30 September 2014

Karatani on 'maturity'

In the middle of a discussion about the particular discourse of childhood effectively invented by Rousseau's Émile, Japanese philosopher Kōjin Karatani (in Origins of Modern Japanese Literature [1980; translated into English by Brett de Bary, Duke University Press, 1993], 128) quotes Foucault:
Neuroses of regression do not reveal the neurotic character of childhood, but they denounce the archaizing character of the institutions concerned with childhood. What serves as a background to those pathological forms is the conflict, within a society,between the forms of education of the child, in which the society hides its dreams, and the conditions it creates for adults, in which its real present, with all its miseries, can be read. ....
Karatani's point is that there is no 'truth' in childhood that can magically 'explain' or narrativize adulthood:
Many modern writers looks back on childhood, as if there they could find their true origins. The only result of this is the construction of a narrative of the “self”. At times such stories take the form of psychoanalytic narratives. Yet it is not the case that there is a truth hidden in childhood. What has been hidden from us is the system that produces psychoanalysis itself. Thus the problematic of “maturation” holds us in thrall. It is a problem that we cannot confront directly, however. For our problem is not that the isolation of childhood makes it impossible for us to mature—it is that our desire to mature makes us immature.
I wonder about this. In point of fact, I have been wondering about this (maturation, not Karatani) for a long time

Karatani goes on: "The division between play and labor bears a profound relationship to the division between child and adult. Although in contemporary thought much has been made of the concept of homo ludens developed by Huizinga, we are able to represent play only as already divided from labor—just as we can only think of children as "children." The "discovery of the child," then, is a matter that cannot be considered in isolation but must be placed in the context of the capitalistic reorganization of contemporary society. I do not, however, wish to refer to capitalism deterministically, for the discovery of the child is a matter that must be analyzed in its own specificity. Foucault's observation that neurosis is the product of an isolated and protected "childhood" and is only generated in such a culture is significant. For it suggests that in a society where adolescence does not "divide" children and adults, this illness does not exist as "illness."

To use a similar rhetoric, we might say that it is not child psychology and children's literature that reveal "the true child" to us, but rather the separating off of "the child" that holds the key to them.

Thus the problematic of "maturation" holds us in thrall. It is a problem that we cannot confront directly, however. For our problem is not that the isolation of childhood makes it impossible for us to mature-it is that our desire to mature makes us immature.

Nevertheless, when Freud's theories are converted into theories of education and child development, as they have been in American psychoanalysis, they lead to intensified efforts to remove conflict and contradiction from childhood, in order to protect children. As a result, the possibility of neurosis is increased. In this case it is indeed psychoanalysis which has produced illness, something Freud would never have dreamed of. In America, in particular, where the disappearance of traditional norms coexists with the pervasive norm of "being mature," psychoanalysis itself may be seen as generating illness on a broad scale.

From this viewpoint, it becomes dear that the grouping of children by age in the compulsory education system of modern Japan signified the uprooting of children, as abstract and homogeneous entities, from the productive relations, social classes, and communities that had previously been their concrete contexts."

Monday 29 September 2014

What could possibly go wrong?

"Tom Wedgwood was a committed philanthropist and Godwinian. Anxious to do his part for the furtherance of mankind, he had, in correspondence with Godwin, determined to devote a portion of his wealth to the education of a genius … Wedgwood had come up with a scheme. The child was to be protected from contact with bad example and from sensory overload by never being allowed to go out of doors or leave its apartment. The nursery was to be painted grey, with only a couple of vivid coloured objects to excite its senses of sight and touch. It was to be surrounded by hard objects to continually ‘irritate [its] palms’ … A superintendent [would] ensure that the child connected all its chief pleasures with rational objects and acquired a habit of ‘earnest thought’." [Juliet Barker, Wordsworth: A Life (2000)]

Sunday 28 September 2014

Coleridge's "Biographia Literaria" (1817; 2014)

One main reason I started this blog in the first place was to have a venue for thoughts and nuggets thrown up by the work I was doing creating the new edition, pictured above, of Coleridge's groundbreaking work of literary criticism and theory. And now, finally, the edition has been published. A snip at, oh, £150. Hmm. That is dear. Ah, but you can't put a price on a genuinely comprehensive version of this masterpiece, one that finally tracks down all the allusions and quotations previous scholarship has been unable to source, and one (moreover) that uncovers crucial new facts about its composition. Can you. (Can you?) Why, the introduction alone is 165 pages! That's practically a standalone monograph. (It seems the edition is not released in the US until 1st October, when a paltry $250 will make it yours).

So, yes: I hate to beg, but if you have ordering rights at a University Library, or indeed a Public Library, and if you were prepared to put in an order for a copy for this title, I'd be very grateful. If you did, and let me know that you'd done so, I'd be even more grateful. It is a good edition, though I say so myself; and whilst I know I'm never going to make any money out of the two years I put into fashioning it, it has won me over to the extent that I'd really like to see it reinserted into the larger discussions around Romanticism and literary criticism -- from which, I think, it's kind-of fallen away.

The bonus, if you can all it a bonus, is: if EUP sell a moderate number of these they'll let me edit more Coleridge: Lectures on Shakespeare and Aids to Reflection are lined up next, followed by Church and State and Poems. Who wouldn't want to see new editions of those titles published? It's not a kickstarter, because it's already started. It's a kickcontinuer. And with library funds rather than your own.

Or, you know: not. That would also be cool.


One of those oddly beautiful phrases Wikipedia throws up: "...belongs to the Holarctic radiation of monochrome magpies."

Saturday 27 September 2014


On we stride, carrying death with us at every step. [Image from Der Orchideengarten ('The Orchids-garden'), Phantastische Blätter or 'Fantastic Pages') was a German magazine that was published for 51 issues from January, 1919 until November, 1921].

Tuesday 23 September 2014

More Medieval Sappho: 'The Brothers Poem'

Two 'new' Sappho poems were recently discovered in papyrus form (you can find the text and literal translations here). Today's post is concerned with the one sometimes called 'the Brothers poem'. The TLS ran an article about these two lyrics earlier this year, including Christopher Pelling’s translation. Below I post my late medieval version, followed by the Greek, and (at the bottom) a more literal stanza-by-stanza rendering. [Eleswhere in this series: Sappho 31, and the best of these that I've done, Sappho's 'Hymn to Aphrodite'. A prospectus for the whole thing, and lots of other time-period-pastiche translations, here]

Sett ay again; say Cracksus cometh soon
His boet al ful of boety; Jovis wat
And al the eother goddes swich are knoown
Think not of that!

In sted of it: goe gush out many praoyers
To Hera Queene Divine; and fro her crave
To bring this boet back whol unto these shoars
To porte, and safe.

To chanse upon us stationed at the side
The rest let leave to Goddes keping baulme
Great stormblastes fill the sky and quicker ride,
Yet cede to calme.

Erst King Olympus send a gide to bless
The paysage home, and piloted from far
To safe againe: whens wealth and blessydness
Acheyéd are.

And us: yf Lareicus but lay his head,
And be the man of ydle eses loy
From souls in dragging depths encarcerréd
We rise to joy.

[. . .]

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύλησθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ σὺν πλήαι. τὰ μέν οἴομαι Ζεῦς
οἶδε σύμπαντές τε θέοι· σὲ δ᾽οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόησθαι,

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέμπην ἔμε καὶ κέλεσθαι
πόλλα λίσσεσθαι βασίληαν Ἤραν
ἐξίκεσθαι τυίδε σάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον

κἄμμ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτέμεας. τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιμόνεσσιν ἐπιτρόπωμεν·
εὐδίαι γὰρ ἐκ μεγάλαν ἀήταν
αἶψα πέλονται.

τῶν κε βόλληται βασίλευς Ὀλύμπω
δαίμον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρωγον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι μάκαρες πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι·

κἄμμες, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλαν ἀέρρη
Λάριχος καὶ δή ποτ᾽ ἄνηρ γένηται,
καὶ μάλ’ ἐκ πόλλαν βαρυθυμίαν κεν
αἶψα λύθειμεν.

[stanza 1] But though you talk of how Charaxus has returned with his ship full of cargo; in fact only Zeus and all the other gods can truly know. It’s not for you to say.
[stanza 2] Instead you should instruct me to offer up many prayers to Queen Hera, and beg her that his ship be brought safely back, intact.
[stanza 3] and that he be reunited with us, happy and healthy. We should leave all the rest of it to the gods. The ocean knows angry storms and tempests, but calm can return very quickly.
[stanza 4] If it is the will of the King of Olympus, we may find a helper, a guide to bring us back to safety, and a blessed life and happiness.
[stanza 5] And for us too, should Larichus be an idle man, we will be quickly released from a great deal of severe distress

Monday 22 September 2014

Rolls versus codices

"Gradually the book in codex form superseded the papyrus roll. The literary codex was already known in the first century A.D., but in the second century more than 98% of the Greek literary texts which we possess were still written on rolls (the percentage might have been notably lower outside Egypt, but there is no specific reason to think so). In the third, fourth and fifth centuries the figures sink to 81%, 26% and 11%, respectively. One group in Egypt, however, had already long given its allegiance to the codex: the Christian biblical papyri of the second century, which are few (eleven are now known), are exclusively from codices. From roughly 300 A.D. the total production of literary texts in Egypt declined markedly, and those that were produced were mainly in codex form.

In order to understand this change we have to consider these two phenomena together: the overwhelming preference of the Christians for putting their holy books into codex form, and the much slower decision of those who wrote and commissioned non-Christian writings to change to the codex, a decision made during the last decades of the third century and the first decades of the fourth. [...] the suspicion must remain strong that the Christians saw some other specific advantage in the codex form, and, as others have suggested, this is likely to have been the greater ease with which a particular passage can be found in a codex. To find the passage which you want to read to the faithful or use against your opponent in a theological squabble, you would commonly have had to unroll up to ten feet of papyrus. How much easier to mark a page and turn to it immediately! It is interesting that in the lists of second-century codices that are unconnected with Christianity or Judaism, of which seventeen are currently known, six or more are texts which may have been needed for consultation and quotation more than for ordinary reading. Some are also texts which are likely to have been wanted in "one-volume" editions, such as Plato's Republic. Thus the codex had a number of advantages over the book-roll, and it should in general have made it easier for people to read literary texts. It certainly made it easier to look things up in a technical handbook, or in a legal textbook or in a collection of enactments such as was to be found in the new legal codes of the 290s. The victory of the codex over the book-roll was natural in an age in which religious books were gaining in relative importance, and in which consultation and quotation instead of independent and disinterested reading were becoming commoner.

The copying and the practical availability of secular literary texts underwent a decline which probably started in many places in the third century." [William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Harvard 1991), 194-95]

Sunday 21 September 2014

The Yorkshire Vampire Limerick

Listen t’t children of’t night:
They mak beautiful music, alright?
They’d sup up your blood
From Humber to Hudd-
ersfield—by Ilkla Moor 'at bite.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Sappho 31 in Late Middle-English

I've decided to concoct a few more of these. For the time being, I think, I'll stick with some suitably medievalised Sappho. To that end, here is a version of her famous long-ish fragment generally known as '31': ' ... also known as phainetai moi (φαίνεταί μοι) after the opening words of its first line, or Lobel-Page 31, Voigt 31, Gallavotti 2, Diehl 2, Bergk 2, after the location of the poem in various editions containing the collected works of Sappho. ... Sappho 31 was one of the two substantially complete poems by Sappho to survive from ancient times, written in Sappho's vernacular form of Greek, the Lesbian-Aeolic dialect. More fragments have been found in recent years, particularly in the Oxyrhynchus papyri.' Thank you, Wikipedia. The other 'substantially complete poem' is this one.

Meseemeth him of goddes lykenness
That man beforen thu
Who sitting close and speking sweetenness
He listneth to;

And thine the laughter that beguyles my breest
Thrusting my hart aflyte
For at the very moment thee I seest
Myself am quiet

My tonge it seiseth fast, and in fyn ore
Heat reds aflame my skin,
Mine eyen blinded and a drowning rore
Mine earres in:

Peerspiring wet I shuddre with the fors
In color country greene,
Close ene to dying I have run my corse
So I am seene

Swich al in venture, peyne of being poor

Here’s the ‘literal’ (line by line) translation Wikipedia attributes (without fuller reference) to Gregory Nagy:
He appears to me, that one, equal to the gods,
the man who, facing you,
is seated and, up close, that sweet voice of yours
he listens to

And how you laugh your charming laugh. Why it
makes my heart flutter within my breast,
because the moment I look at you, right then, for me,
to make any sound at all won’t work any more.

My tongue has a breakdown and a delicate
— all of a sudden — fire rushes under my skin.
With my eyes I see not a thing, and there is a roar
that my ears make.

Sweat pours down me and a trembling
seizes all of me; paler than grass
am I, and a little short of death
do I appear to me.

But all may be ventured, since even [the poor]...
And here’s the Greek:
φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν
ἔμμεν' ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι
ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-
σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν, τό μ' ἦ μὰν
καρδίαν ἐν στήθεσιν ἐπτόαισεν·
ὠς γὰρ ἔς σ' ἴδω βρόχε', ὤς με φώναί-
σ' οὐδ' ἒν ἔτ' εἴκει,

ἀλλά κὰμ μὲν γλῶσσα †ἔαγε†, λέπτον
δ' αὔτικα χρῷ πῦρ ὐπαδεδρόμηκεν,
ὀππάτεσσι δ' οὐδ' ἒν ὄρημμ', ἐπιρρόμ-
βεισι δ' ἄκουαι,

κὰδ' δέ ἴδρως κακχέεται, τρόμος δὲ
παῖσαν ἄγρει, χλωροτέρα δὲ ποίας
ἔμμι, τεθνάκην δ' ὀλίγω 'πιδεύης
φαίνομ' ἔμ' αὔτᾳ.

ἀλλὰ πὰν τόλματον, ἐπεὶ †καὶ πένητα†...

Saturday 13 September 2014

Marxism as a Philosophy of Wonder

"I would describe Marxism as a philosophy of wonder: what appear before consciousness, as objects of perception, are not simply given, but are effects of history. ‘Even the objects of the simplest “sensuous certainty” are only given him through social development, industry, and commercial intercourse.’ To learn to see what is ordinary, what has the character of ‘sensuous certainty’, is to read the effects of this history of production as a form of ‘world making’." [Sara Ahmed, The Cultural Politics of Emotion (EUP/Routledge 2004), 180]


In the preface to his 1911 play The Fountain, George Calderon says 'my inspiration was certainly not derived from [Shaw's] Widowers’ Houses. Bernard Shaw, like Lloyd George and all those nurtured in the socialism of the early eighties, still believes in the fantastic old Wicked Rich myth. Wren’s jaunty epigram "Villains are a literary invention of the Elizabethan drama inherited from the demonology of the Middle Ages" expresses a truth which has certainly never entered the Shavian head. Mr Shaw’s villainous landlord does not correspond to anything in real life, but is derived straight from the Iagos and Don Johns of the Tudor stage.'

I'm very struck by the line he quotes: ‘Villains are a literary invention of the Elizabethan drama inherited from the demonology of the Middle Ages’, but I can't seem to nail it down. Google is no help. I can't even be sure which Wren Calderon means (surely not this one? And if not him, then whom?). Still, the more I think about it, the more I find myself inclining towards its truth.

Friday 12 September 2014

Adulthood's End?

"Nobody knows how to be a grown-up anymore. Adulthood as we have known it has become conceptually untenable."

'The Death of Adulthood in American Culture' by A O Scott. The article everyone's talking about (today, at any rate). It's very interesting, though -- I think -- wrong. How and why it's wrong will take a bit of unpacking, so I'm parking the link here until I've a bit more time.