Nov 192010

TLS 2004.03.05

-Brancusi called himself “the peasant from the Carpathians.”
-Had a lifelong fascination with Platonism.
-Minimalists were influenced by him.
-Cruel, Dadist wit: his sculptures often demonstrate a brutal and brutalized object that fails to find wholeness.
-Played a pioneering role in assemblage.
-After 1914 made the base of the sculpture an integral part of the sculpture.

“The Kiss”
– dramatic repudiation of “beefsteak” sculpture
– influences: Egypt, Romanesque figures
– philosophically, the sculpture is classical however: Plato’s Symposium: “lovers are the result of a bisection which has reduced us to a condition like that of flat fish, and each of us is perpetually in search of his corresponding tally…Love is the name for the desire and the pursuit of the whole.”

-Did many variations on the theme of the sleeping or severed head.
-standard Symbolist prop: evoke castration anxiety; Bracusi’s are more ovoid forms (eggs) and pregnant with the suggestion of new birth (birth of ideas as well?)
-suggestive of lightbulbs (electrification was just beginning: he was interested in new technologies)
-Sleeping white heads “allude to this brave new world presided over by electric satellites. Their perpetual mineral brightness suggests that our own condition will soon be one of sleeplessness, no longer subject to the natural phases of the moon.”

-A continual sense of dislocation and of friction between forms: the seamless flow of contours is repeatedly disrupted and sliced into.

-Fountains and water were important to Brancusi: “Sculpture is water.” (Brancusi”)

-“His multipart sculptures might therefore be said to aspire to the condition of dry or frozen fountains. They are mirages as much as oases – illusory utopias.”

-Friend of Duchamp and Leger: Duchamp’s “Fountain” (1917) builds on Brancusi ideas; Duchamp often represented Brancusi in New York to clients.

 Comments Off on James Hall. “By the light of the fallen moon: The yearning Platonic romanticism of Constantin Brancusi.”
Nov 192010

David McKitterick. Print, Manuscript and the Search for Order. 1450-1830. Cambridge.

– trade in books was international from the beginning

– the literature produced includes all genres of print

-Gutenberg was not imitating a manuscript but making a book as it was understood by his clients

-early books were a hybrid of print and manuscript, of old and new technologies

-early readers made no distinction between printed and manuscript books

-no sudden break in the production of manuscripts in 1500: manuscript production continued until well into the 17th century in England (and until the 19th century in Spain, Italy and Eastern Europe)

-if print did bring about a revolution, it was a gradual one that took over 200 years

-“In practice, each new technology does not replace the previous one. Rather, it augments it, and offers alternatives.”

-the 18th century sees a standardization in printing that is part of a larger movement in the standardization of all manufacturing processes.

-development of illustration should be seen as a process parallel to the history of the printed word.

The Distance, The Shadows. Selected Poems of Victor Hugo. trans. Harry Guest. Anvil.

Selected Poems of Victor Hugo. ed. and trans. by EH and AM Blackmore. (University of Chicago Press).

Note: AVOID the new Victor Hugo Selected Poems Penguin edition by Brooks Haxton (“the least satisfactory of the three bilingual volumes under review”)

Simon Morley. Writing on the Wall: Word and image in modern art. Thames and Hudson.

Barbara Newman. God and the Goddesses: Vision, poetry and belief in the Middle Ages. University of Pennsylvania Press.
-four cases: Dame Nature, Lady Love, Holy Wisdom, Mary.
-the agency of female divinities opened a range of possibilities for medieval believers for addressing gender specific psychological and cultural needs.

 Comments Off on Book Notes
Nov 192010

Notes on Marina Warner Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds.
Review: James Lasdun, “Hatching, Splitting, Doubling.” LRB 2003.08.21.

The main idea in Warner’s work is “that myth evolves in the context of actual human history, and can only be properly understood in relation to that history.”

“An archetype is a hollow thing, but a dangerous one, a figure or image which through usage has been uncoupled from the circumstances which brought it into being, and goes on spreading false consciousness.” [from From the Beast to the Blonde]

“Bettleheim’s uncoupling of the tales from history causes them to diffuse false consciousness – it plays into received ideas about female behaviour, makes hating a parent seem a healthy idea, and encourages the continued absence of good mothers from popular narrative.”

[Lasdun] “Far from being reductive or merely debunking, this recovery of ‘circumstance’ has an invigorating effect on the myths Warner examines. It may be that historical time is richer in the contradiction and instability that keep myths vital than the unchanging Dreamtime or Time of Origins (‘illo tempore’) designated as the true locus of myth by Mircea Eliade.”

“I set out to find out about the types and processes of metamorphosis that were described in the tradition and to read them in order to throw light on changing ideas about persons and personhood.”

Each chapter takes a different aspect of metamorphosis – mutating, hatching, splitting, doubling – and uses it to guide an inquiry into the relationship between a particular set of what Warner calls ‘congeners’ – ‘materials through which one culture interacts with and responds to another’ – and a particular set of imaginative enterprises.

NOTE to self: Jesuit Relations are congeners and it would be interesting to apply Warners method to these texts. Look for the Taino Indian beliefs report mentioned in Warner by Ramon Pare for Christopher Columbus. It was translated into English by Richard Eden.

Warner situates the response to the Taino beliefs in relation to Ovid and Dante who form a polarity, with Ovid representing metamorphosis free of any fixed moral status, and Dante its Christianized form, where it is assigned firmly to the diabolic processes.

Warner’s agenda is to challenge “notions of unique, individual integrity of identity in the Judaeo-Christian tradition” with a more dynamic scheme of identity based on Ovidian metamorphoses.

[Lasdun] “Ovid’s chain reactions of transformation emit a liberating energy like nothing else in literature. Occurring always at some limit of human capacity or tolerance, they have something of death in them, something of birth, something of sex, but something else, too: a mysterious reverse flow, whereby the things people turn into – tree, rock, flower, fountain, bird, beast – miraculously release their own potentialities back into the human universe of the poem. It was Pound who suggested the Old Testament be replaced by Ovid (“Say that I consider the writings of Confucious and Ovid’s Metamorphoses the only safe guides in religion.”)

[Warner] “To the Etruscan all was alive; the whole universe lived; and the business of man was to live amid it all. He had to draw life into himself, out of the wandering huge vitalities of the world.”

Warner makes abundantly clear “the attraction of this heterodoxy, with its guiltless, fecund embrace of the principle of discontinuity.”

 Comments Off on Marina Warner – Notes from Fantastic Metamorphoses, Other Worlds.