‘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."

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