POETRY, META-MODERNISM, AND LEONARDO DA VINCI

It might help us to speak not only of what poetry can do, but of what it cannot do.

Seth Abramson is excited about what he calls meta-modernism:

I believe that poetry is on the cusp of something big—a sea change in which we begin to arc generatively toward other creative genres (most notably, fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, music, and stand up comedy) rather than retreating farther still into the more obscure recesses of literary theory and those 1950s visual arts techniques now going by the misnomer “Conceptualism.” 1/3/14 Facebook

Abramson’s list of “other creative genres” leaves out the visual arts, which turns out to be part of the problem (1950s conceptualist techniques).

Two things must be said at this point.

First, pre-modern, pre-Painted Word, pre-Conceptual painting can be a great help to us here in terms of how the known, physical universe is depicted scientifically.

Second, Abramson’s “sea change” of meta-modernism (growing out of Modernism and post-Modernism’s eclectic freedoms) in its multi-genre mingling, calls to mind a passage from Da Vinci’s 500 year old argument, in which painting (not respected then as much as vocalized, self-praising poetry) is found vastly superior to poetry for ostentatiously simple reasons: painting can reveal harmony instantaneously, permanently, and uniquely, even to animals, whereas poetry must laboriously and slowly show a face, for instance, part by part, so that any united proportion is hopelessly dismembered.

Poetry does not imitate nature. It imitates spoken words.

Now listen to how modern and how like Abramson! Da Vinci sounds when discussing what poetry can do:

…the poet remains far behind the painter with respect to the representation of corporeal things, and, with respect to invisible things, he remains behind the musician.

But if the poet borrows assistance from the other sciences, he may be compared to those merchants at fairs who stock varied items made by different manufacturers. The poet does this when he borrows from other sciences, such as those of the orator, philosopher, cosmographer and suchlike, whose sciences are completely separate from that of the poet. Thus the poet becomes a broker, who gathers various persons together to conclude a deal. If you wish to discover the true office of the poet, you will find that he is nothing other than an accumulator of things stolen from various sciences, with which he fabricates a deceitful composition—or we may more fairly say a fictional composition. And in that he is free to make such fictions the poet parallels the painter, although this is the weakest part of painting.

Da Vinci’s poet as broker speech, if never met before, has to give the modern reader pause–Da Vinci’s poet as “accumulator of things stolen from various sciences” recalls every modern trope from the Cantos to collage, such that claims for “the new” by moderns are perhaps more mundane than people think; Abramson’s “poetry is on the cusp of something big” with “other creative genres,” depends, too, on Da Vinci’s formula, though of course we hate to rain on a poet’s parade.

More importantly, however: when Da Vinci says things like

Poet, your pen will be worn out before you have fully described something that the painter may present to you instantaneously using his science.

he is not hiding behind what Abramson calls the “recesses of literary theory” or “1950s visual arts techniques now going by the misnomer “Conceptualism.”

The physical universe and the manner in which poetry and painting are able to imitate it does not belong to speculative theory; it belongs to science, and poets would do well to understand it.

Poets cannot escape the eye and its expectations. The comparison with painting is not something the poet can brush aside; poets, painters, and their different mediums live in the same world and imitate the same things—but how differently!

As Da Vinci advises:

The only true office of the poet is to invent words for people who talk to each other. Only these words can he represent naturally to the sense of hearing because they are in themselves the natural things that are created by the human voice. But in all other respects he is bettered by the painter.

For a poet to close his ears to this will not help the poet at all. Even if Da Vinci the painter were merely bragging, it will profit the poet to wrestle with the whole notion of strengths and weaknesses of methods of imitation.

Most poets assume that words can do anything, and poetry is immune to material laws.

But is it?

45 Comments

  1. Laura Runyan said,

    January 6, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Tom, you already know that I think most of Seth’s ideas about “literature”–which he seems to be defining increasingly broadly–are poppycock (to put it politely). Even so, please define “material laws.” I don’t recall encountering the term in the work of any of the Western philosophers I read, and the term apparently doesn’t exist in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (though such laws do exist in engineering: http://www.colorado.edu/engineering/CAS/courses.d/Structures.d/IAST.Lect05.d/IAST.Lect05.pdf).

    Also, the term “sciences” here doesn’t, of course, map onto the contemporary use of that term. In any case, I certainly would NOT define poetry so narrowly to be able to conclude that the “sciences” of “the orator, philosopher, cosmographer and suchlike” are “completely separate from that of the poet.” If you agree with da Vinci here, you would do well to provide an argument for such a bold assertion; it’s in no way self-evident or intuitively obvious that the assertion is true.

    And I recommend avoiding the error that Seth repeatedly makes: that of compulsively over-classifying the hell (or heaven?) out of everything that crosses his mind.

    • powersjq said,

      January 9, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      On the term “sciences,” Leonardo almost certainly means that the _practice_ of the poet are completely different from those of the orator, philosopher, etc. “Scienza” (which I assume is the word being translated) in Renaissance Italian was often closer in meaning to “practice” than to “theory.” He does not mean that arts do not interact, borrow from one another, or what have you. He is denigrating the practice of writing poetry using a variant of the classic Platonic argument that it is derivative. In short, this is a piece of partisan invective, not a subtly argued work of Scholastic philosophy.

      After a second reading, I’m not sure I agree that Leonardo’s position is a good foil for Abramson’s. Certainly most claims to newness, especially in the realm of ideas, are simply expressions of historical ignorance. But this does not in any way vitiate either the force or the interest of what I take to be Tom’s main point (however confusingly articulated):

      “Poets cannot escape the eye and its expectations.”

      Why aren’t we discussing this?

      • Laura Runyan said,

        January 9, 2014 at 3:16 pm

        I know very well well how da Vinci was using “sciences.” I wasn’t, however, convinced that Tom is. And it’s not just that Tom’s point is “confusingly” articulated (though I believe it is); it’s that he provides no clear ARGUMENT for it. I can listen to opinions all day long; I hear them every day on the street, in the store, in the pub when I’m in one… I don’t go to an online site about poetry, however, with the desire to of simply listening to more “opinions.” Unsupported opinions illuminate nothing for me, not any better than the opinions I could randomly hear in a tavern.

        I’ll grant you that you raise an interesting point in your second paragraph above.

        • thomasbrady said,

          January 9, 2014 at 6:14 pm

          Laura,

          You’re right. I did not make much of an “argument” here—i wanted to introduce da Vinci and contextualize him within Abramson and modern poetry. Powers is correct. da Vinci is coming right out of Plato’s critique of poetry as thievery. da Vinci makes a powerful case for painting as astronomical science: mathematics plus perspective. Plato was not anti-art. He was against a certain kind of art.

        • powersjq said,

          January 9, 2014 at 6:50 pm

          I’ll keep saying this: an argument is not simply premises that lead to a conclusion. Your training, however rigorous, did not give you control over the whole of argumentation. It is not at all clear what an argument _is_. We only have a good grasp of what arguments _do_, which is to extend the credibility of what we already know (or believe we know) to what we don’t yet know (or believe).

      • Laura Runyan said,

        January 9, 2014 at 6:08 pm

        I’d written this earlier this morning, Powers, and apparently forgot to “send.”

        I know very well well how da Vinci was using “sciences.” I wasn’t, however, convinced that Tom is. And it’s not just that Tom’s point is “confusingly” articulated (though I believe it is); it’s that he provides no clear ARGUMENT for it. I can listen to opinions all day long; I hear them every day on the street, in the store, in the pub when I’m in one… I don’t go to an online site about poetry, however, with the desire to of simply listening to more “opinions.” Unsupported opinions illuminate nothing for me, not any better than the opinions I could randomly hear in a tavern.

        I’ll grant you that you raise an interesting point in your second paragraph above.

  2. thomasbrady said,

    January 7, 2014 at 3:00 am

    “Material laws” refers to such things as I outlined briefly in my piece: a painter produces a face, which instantaneously conveys a face. A writer has to first tell you about the eyes, then the nose, then the mouth, and by the time the description is done, you still don’t see a unique face. Now this is not to say the writer cannot, with a certain ingenuity, convey to the reader an interesting take on someone’s face, but the law (based on material reality) of the painter’s advantage is still something the writer must consider.

    The other point: the orator and poet are different and the difference is real: why blur them?

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 7, 2014 at 4:53 am

      You’re speaking in black-and-white terms, Tom. We aren’t faced with only two choices here: that the orator and the poet are either COMPLETELY separate or COMPLETELY the same. And “blurring” can include an enormous range of similarity and difference. What’s wrong with that? I just can’t see the world through such extremely categorical eyes, and I wouldn’t want to. This blanket classification of art forms, which are NOT naturally or completely distinct in the ways you seem to claim they are, is, for me, limiting–even stifling–and does nothing to allow for the expansion of those arts, which is unfortunate; the melding of different artistic genres into the same artistic work has gone on for centuries. (Examples: the music that often accompanied the chorus in classical Greek plays; the poetry–becoming the LIBRETTO–which, when combined with music, became opera; the kinetic sculptures of Alexander Calder.)

      And I say the above as someone who places a high value on logic–but not in everything I say, think, or do. I mean, it has it’s place and time, y’know? Reducing poetry and painting to separate classes as if they have nothing to do with one another strikes me as absurd and misleading. (It’s no accident that we often describe imagery in poetry and prose as “painting” with words. Yes, it’s a metaphor, but one based on the mental images the words evoke for the reader.)

      In your comments above, you don’t use the term “material laws” until the second-to-last sentence of your commentary. In philosophy (and I mean analytic philosophy, not the major Continental influences that shaped critical theory), you can’t just make up terminology–e.g., “flibberdelicious”–unless you clearly define it early in the essay or when it first arises. A common way of doing this: “And I am defining the “God Jump rope” as the following:…” (I made up that term, in case it’s not glaringly obvious.) If you had written exactly what you wrote above but replaced “material laws” with “flibberdelicious,” I’d say to myself, “What the hell does he mean by ‘flibberdelicious’?” I had the same reaction to “material laws”; I had no idea what you meant by it because presenting it that late in your comments did nothing to make clear to me precisely how you were defining it.

      My larger point, though: What a shame it would be if we insisted that the mediums and methods of various art forms or genres remained entirely separate–either because we convinced ourselves that they CANNOT work together or because we erroneously believe they would taint one another if they were combined in the same work. I’m just not enough of a purist to ever hold those views.

      • powersjq said,

        January 7, 2014 at 4:10 pm

        Laura,

        What is the motivation for this pedantic–and incorrect–excursus into the ontological status of distinctions per se? Tom isn’t really drawing distinctions on his own; he’s trying to clarify the value of several traditional–even venerable–distinctions. And neither of these equates to positing an opposition. He’s not arguing for black vs. white; he’s questioning the value of conflating green and blue into a single category. (I’ve heard that there are languages that don’t distinguish between the two, having no separate word for “green.”) Black and white are not merely symbolic disjuncts, but rather symbolic _opposites_ or _contraries_. Since Tom isn’t positing a Bayesian opposition, your invocation of that trope suggests that your analysis is entirely beside his point. Because it sure seems like your discussion presumes that “distinction” = “opposition,” which misunderstands a basic point in logic.

        Further, even if you’re arguing from the logical presumption that distinction implies disjunction, I respond by agreeing with you that these arguments belong not to logic, bur rather to rhetoric and/or dialectic. In rhetoric and dialectic, distinction simply implies difference. Since none of the points in this comment bears on Tom’s stated positions, and since I cannot believe that you really think that Tom is adducing a categorically logical argument, I conclude that you are most likely taking issue with the starkness (the black-and-white-ness) of his _tone_. On this blog, at least, Tom writes provocations, not syllogisms. A stark tone reifies distinctions, increases their contrast, makes them _appear_ more black and white. Such an artifact of style has obvious utility when nuances are at stake. I presume that Tom is aware of and makes deliberate use of this artifact.

        And why avow your subscription to a position that no one is attacking–that no one has ever even considered attacking? Not one person–not one–thinks (or has ever thought) the arts should never interact. The interaction of the arts, as you point out, has been a staple of artistic production for all human history. In my view, this implies strong differences among them. Collaboration is only interesting when each participant brings something that other does not himself have.

        Painting and writing poetry are essentially different skills, requiring different apprenticeships. I cannot imagine a person willing to pay good money to learn how to write poetry from a painter precisely _because_ that painter knows how to paint. It’s nevertheless a truism in our tradition that these vastly different practices share commonalities. Horace’s adage “ut pictura poesis” is very nearly one of the mottoes of Renaissance art criticism. The assertion of such commonalities is interesting, but obviously quite limited in its ambition, since it cannot dismiss the glaring fact that the skills are so different. Working out the boundaries of the overlap between all the various arts is a philosophical and artistic problem of long standing. I see Tom as firstly chastising Abramson for his historical and practical naivete, and secondly trying to point up the specific _material_ of poetry (which I take to be metered language) as a major source of the limitations that inform poetic endeavor in our tradition.

        On “material laws”–please. The phrase is obviously a variant of “natural law” or “physical law,” with the term “material” used to inflect the meaning toward the questions involved in craft or making. It’s a provocative inflection, not a nonce neologism. Treating it as a technical term is (deliberate?) category error.

        • Laura Runyan said,

          January 7, 2014 at 8:01 pm

          You didn’t define “material laws,” Tom, and I can find the term in no major encyclopedia of philosophy; ERGO, it sounds like made-up nonsense to MY ears. An undergraduate would never get away with that in a philosophical essay for a decent analytic philsophy course (though they might very well get by with it in certain critical theory courses). One can’t just throw around undefined terminology in philosophical arguments, and since you’ve said in other posts that you’re approaching topics related to poetry philosophically…

          It’s black-and-white thinking to ask why we should “blur” the “science” of the orator and the poet. The implication is clear: that they share nothing in common. If fact, you QUOTE da Vinci as saying just that: “whose sciences are completely separate from that of the poet.” (How, powersq, is that not declaring that they are UTTERLY distinct? Why would Tom appeal to such a quote otherwise? Perhaps you should reread the quoted material? Da Vinci uses the words, ‘[N]othing in common.’

          “Because it sure seems like your discussion presumes that ‘distinction’ = ‘opposition,’ which misunderstands a basic point in logic.”

          In what Tom quotes, presumably in support of his own position (which I think is NOT clearly expressed), “distinction” clearly DOES equate with “opposition.” If that’s not what he intended, then he needs to look for something else to quote.

          (Trust me, powersq, I did just fine in formal logic. Again: reread the da Vinci quote. If my reading is not what Tom intended, then Tom needs to find another quote.)

          Tom:

          Da Vinci was a master painter and showed a talent for scientific thinking, but that doesn’t automatically make him a philosopher of aesthetics or an expert on the arts in general. Also, the arts have evolved considerably over the centuries. The novel didn’t even exist in da Vinci’s time, so what was said about the arts in 15th-early 16th century doens’t necessarily illuminate the arts in general as they exist today. And because I see flaws in the distinctions da Vinci makes (or at least in what you quote of him), I see an appeal to authority as the only basis for quoting him on the subject of poetry.

          powerssq: “What is the motivation for this pedantic–and incorrect–excursus into the ontological status of distinctions per se?”

          In response to my philsophy papers, I was credited by my professors for being able to write strong arguments without unnecessarily resorting to jargon or academe speak (the sort of prose I detest in so much critical theory). A little plainer English would more than suffice here. (In my experience, good philsophy professors reward clarity. It’s the argument they’re after, not the lingo. Some jargon can’t be dispensed with, but I prefer to read and use as little jargon as necessary.)

          Also:

          “And why avow your subscription to a position that no one is attacking–that no one has ever even considered attacking? Not one person–not one–thinks (or has ever thought) the arts should never interact. The interaction of the arts, as you point out, has been a staple of artistic production for all human history. In my view, this implies strong differences among them. Collaboration is only interesting when each participant brings something that other does not himself have.”

          The interaction implies differences but not necessarily STRONG differences. Why must they be “strong”? I see considerable overlap between various art forms and genres, and they influence one another on a regular basis.

          You use the word “attacking,” but what I am objecting to is Tom’s persistent effort to rigidly define various areas of the arts. The orator and poet have no “sciences” in common? Oh, really? Poetry can persuade, yes? Do I tend to PREFER that type of poetry? No, I don’t. Nonetheless, it IS poetry. In fact, I dislike protest poetry, for example, much more often than I like it, but that doesn’t mean I need to conclude that such poetry must ALWAYS be bad.

          Also, “Painting and writing poetry are essentially different skills, requiring different apprenticeships. I cannot imagine a person willing to pay good money to learn how to write poetry from a painter precisely _because_ that painter knows how to paint.”

          They are “essentially” different? Is that an empirical claim or a gut feeling? If it’s the former, can you provide some evidence for it? If it’s the latter, can you provide an argument for why you think that’s the case? It’s a strong claim, after all, and I don’t see it as intuitively obvious. Anyway, I’ve known too many writers who also show talent in the visual arts (I drew well when I was younger, by the way) to believe that the two must be “essentially” different. “Essentially” how?

          My brother has a PhD in mathematical statistics. I know a little something about Bayesian statistics, and he and I have talked about it. I wasn’t appealing to Bayesian stats at all in my comments. By “Baysian opposition,” do you mean “opposition of interest”? How would that be relevant to the present discussion?

          I agree that this is what Tom is trying to do: “I see Tom as firstly chastising Abramson for his historical and practical naivete, and secondly trying to point up the specific _material_ of poetry (which I take to be metered language) as a major source of the limitations that inform poetic endeavor in our tradition.”

          In his public writings, though, Tom often shows the same tendency Seth does: a desire to classify like crazy–and more often than not, I find those classifications simplistic and misleading.

          He also makes some very strange pronouncements about writing: e.g., that writers should write only from their own experience. I know a hell of a lot of gifted prose writers and poets, and I’ve yet to hear even one of them endorse such a limited approach to writing fiction or poetry.

          It was you, powersq, who used the term “naivete.” Well, Tom has made it pretty clear that, for him, the height of Western literature is Poe and the romantic poets. That does tend to limit the scope of any discussion of poetry, or literature in general, on this site. I’ve read too much great 20th century literature to consider it either lesser literature or historically trivial. Tom has also made dismissive remarks about the novel in general–a huge category of artistic works. Further, he says he either doesn’t read 20th century literature or he hates pretty much all of what he has read of it–e.g., he read one Philip Roth novel and thought it was dreadful (though the reasons he gave for hating it made little sense to me). In THIS regard, he IS attacking: He’s attacking most of an entire century of literature (though he admits he’s read very little of it), and I think it’s appropriate to question his basis for doing so, especially given his own limited exposure to Western literature.

          I could say much more about your response to my objections, but I have other things to attend to, so I’ll step aside for now.

          For anyone who’s interested:

          A topic that IS addressed (and in more than one entry) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy is Bayes’ Theorem and Bayesian epistemology.

          A fun and far less technical read on the topic:

          http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2013/01/what-nate-silver-gets-wrong.html

          • noochinator said,

            January 8, 2014 at 4:58 pm

            I dunno Bayes,
            But I know of Nate’s predictions—
            I’ll be following him closely
            Re: the 2014 e-lick-shuns!

            He’s the only voice I’ll trust,
            In th’approaching storm of dust!

            • Laura Runyan said,

              January 8, 2014 at 8:17 pm

              P.S. I never said you “reject” ALL literature post-Poe. Please read me more carefully, Tom. On this very same page, you can find my comment: “…and your comments make it clear that you don’t really want to read much fiction post-Poe because he’s your ‘American Shakespeare’ and contemporary fiction is crap.” I said MUCH, not all. And you’ve repeatedly denigrated contemporary fiction and poetry on this site (while saying that you don’t read much contemporary fiction), so my comment is far from “extreme”; in fact, it’s reasonable and even generously worded.

              Please stop reading so much INTO my comments. And let’s move on now. We’ve reached the wheel-spinning stage, I’m afraid.

            • Laura Runyan said,

              January 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

              Nice rhymes! By the way, my brother the statistician (his PhD in the area of stats that involves proofs) would, I’m sure, agree that the authors of the New Yorker piece–both NYU profs, one in psychology, the other in comp sci and math–have raised a legitimate point about Nate Silver perspective on Bayesian probablity. Nonetheless, my brother also really admires Silver’s predictions and his uncannily accurate record. He called every single state correctly before the 2012 election, and his margins were also astonishingly close. One of his many methods was to weigh the influence of various polls based on the recent quality of those polls. It was Silver’s predictions that made me feel much calmer before the last presidential race was called (which should make it clear which candidate I was hoping would win!).

              • noochinator said,

                January 9, 2014 at 12:31 pm

                The great political philosopher Pat Paulsen said it best: “You need a left wing and a right wing or the airplane won’t fly.”

                • drew said,

                  January 11, 2014 at 3:09 am

                  Right on! And the automatic pilot just died…

          • powersjq said,

            January 9, 2014 at 3:31 pm

            Laura,

            1) You are taking this whole thing too seriously. You’ve made wonderful, passionate, articulate contributions to these threads that have fundamentally changed my mind. I suspect Tom’s as well. Not one of those invaluable contributions has concerned a point of logic. For me at least, your authority in this particular forum descends from your MFA experience, not your philosophical training. (For me, knowing that you have training in philosophy simply means that I don’t hold back so much when you make arguments that I hear as having a more “philosophical” tone.)

            2) Knowing that you have formal training in analytic philosophy and logic is in general only helpful to your reader when it illuminates otherwise unaccountable assertions or digressions. Other than that, no one cares. When you explicitly mention your training in philosophy, it sounds whiny and timorous.

            3) At bottom, the whole black-and-white thing is an essentially trivial point. No one but specialists cares about trivial points. We are not logicians who come here to rehearse the finer points of logic.

            4) As your reader, I think you should know that the pattern of emphasis you’ve indicated with all caps evokes a sarcastic and huffy tone. This is a weak tone, not a strong one.

            5) So Tom often paints with a broad brush. So what? In the first place, the overall pattern here is provoke-respond, which is the gist of our whole intellectual tradition, which is agonistic to the bone. And in the second place, you can’t cover much canvas with the microbrush they make you use in grad school. I’m surprised that I have to observe to you that your impassioned responses to Tom’s over-generalizations are _extremely_ engaging and constructive. I, for one, get _a lot_ out of them. (I cannot imagine that I am the only one.)

            5) The quote from Leonardo is a piece of _invective_, not a grad school philosophy paper. Do I really have to say that context matters? The interest of Leonardo’s position is not contained in the word “completely” (which indicates hyperbolic emphasis, not logical quantification), but in the word “broker” (which is a rather original trope). You’re officiating the discussion using the wrong rulebook.

            6) Likewise, the phrase “material rule” is neither a technical term nor jargon. Again, context. If you want to know what Tom means by that term, how about just asking Tom straightforwardly and respectfully? We are not your professors or your classmates. It’s fine that you tried to look it up, but we do not care that the Google could not locate an authoritative source for it. Loosen up.

            7) I totally messed up the Bayesian thing, and I apologize for the misleading reference. I only meant that the notion that something is either true or false has no currency or utility outside the domains in which formal, determinative proofs are recognized. Bayesian statistics has nothing to do with that. My bad.

            • Anonymous said,

              January 9, 2014 at 3:55 pm

              Powers, I don’t have time to respond to all of your statements right now, but I’ll say this much: 1) It wasn’t until Tom referred to his posts as “philosophical” meditations that I began holding him to a higher standard, and he should have expected that–and I think it’s a fair standard for me to hold him to; 2) the matter of black-and-white thinking is wholly relevant here because it’s directly related to his insistence that he’s right in the absence of any evidence provided; 3) my philosophical training IS (yes, caps) relevant when someone expects me to accept a bunch of unsupported assertions (OR condescends to me) and then gets angry or incredulous when he’s challenged (have you ever seen Tom’s frothing-at-the-mouth caps??); I use caps only in place of italics because italics are not available on this site and I don’t write my responses in Word beforehand; they are not intended to express any emotion, just emphasis, and it’s a substitute used all over the Internet. Please don’t assume that my use of this convention says any more than it does.

              • powersjq said,

                January 9, 2014 at 7:21 pm

                1) Your standards are yours. They are not philosophy’s.

                2) Providing a fully-ticketed, step-by-step argument is what philosophy students are trained to do. It is not how persuasion actually works. Most of an argument is usually left to the reader to interpolate.

                3a) Of course your training is relevant. Does advertising that you have it make it more relevant? By all means put it to use. But why do you have keep telling us all that you have it?

                3b) I wasn’t trying to say anything about the fact that you used all caps. I was just making an observation about your tone, as indicated by the emphases. Had you used italics, the comment would have been the same.

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 9, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Then why use the term, Tom? The advice on writing philosophy papers (solid arguments, if they’re good papers) applies here: Don’t say any more than you NEED to.

  3. thomasbrady said,

    January 7, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Laura,

    Blending is great—it just helps to know what you are blending. Defining categories does not necessarily mean one is obsessed with “black and white.”

    “Material laws” doesn’t sound like wildly made up nonsense to my ears.

  4. Laura Runyan said,

    January 7, 2014 at 8:36 pm

    I absolutely disagree with you here, powersq:

    “On ‘material laws’–please. The phrase is obviously a variant of “natural law” or “physical law,” with the term “material” used to inflect the meaning toward the questions involved in craft or making. It’s a provocative inflection, not a nonce neologism. Treating it as a technical term is (deliberate?) category error.”

    You’re misusing the term “category error.” How could I be making a category error when I didn’t even assume what Tom had meant? The truth is, I didn’t KNOW what he meant. Further, I was far too good a philosophy student to cheat by deliberately misleading my reader, and my logical skills were good enough that I didn’t need to resort to such tactics. More important: My ethics wouldn’t have allowed for it. Your presumption about my motives (which isn’t softened, really, by the question mark)–“(deliberate?)”–is veering offesively close to an ad hominem attack. I think you should stick to the WRITTEN TEXT and avoid attempts at mind reading.

    SEP on category error (or “category mistake”) under “category distinction” (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/categories/):

    “Thus, e.g., a foreigner would make a category mistake if he observed the various colleges, libraries, and administrative offices of Oxford, and then asked to be shown the university.”

    I made no such error above. Mine is a legitimate complaint, and a good undergrad philsophy professor would call Tom out on it. How is Tom’s use of the term “material laws” clear? Ever hear of materialism? (I mean in the philosophical sense, not in its everyday consumerist sense.) I imagine you are! Well, which kind of materialism might Tom have meant? Type materialism? The stuff to which philosophers of mind devote a good deal of thier energy?

    In no way is it clear that Tom was equating the term to “natural law” with “physical law,” and since he likes to meditate philsophically, he should define his terms. After all, that’s among the lowest of standards for philsophical arguments.

    • powersjq said,

      January 9, 2014 at 3:52 pm

      Laura,

      I HEART the SEP.

      I was saying that you were treating Tom’s locution as a strict technical term, and I don’t think that he meant it to be one. The gist of a category error is treating something as belonging to the wrong category, the wrong genus. That’s all I meant. (I would say that the article you cite indicates that current work on the categories–identifying important differences rather producing an exhaustive list of categories, and moving away from metaphysical distinction toward semantic distinction–actually supports my invocation in this case.)

      I find it telling that you see this as a “complaint.” Tom isn’t out of bounds in coining (or, in my view, inflecting) a term. Why not push for a refined meaning rather than complaining that no one else thought of it first?

      I don’t think that Tom’s usage is limpidly clear. I found it clear enough for me so that I thought I understood his basic meaning. Don’t confuse clarity with precision. Of course I could have misunderstood him. Or maybe more precision would be helpful not only here but elsewhere. I’d be willing to run with your intuition that more precision would help. So again, why not ask for it? Or better yet, develop it–or an alternative!–on your own and share it with us.

      Defining terms is a common philosophical practice to be sure, but it’s only standard in well-taught philosophy courses and in the tradition of analytic philosophy. Machiavelli doesn’t define his key terms. Nor does Nietzsche. Hegel and Heidegger do, but the definitions are close to incomprehensible. Wittgenstein appears to define his terms, but in fact he’s just playing with them. Defining one’s terms is very often useful, but it remains only a common option among many for supporting an argument.

      • Laura Runyan said,

        January 9, 2014 at 8:16 pm

        The “Anonymous” above was from me, written on a computer other than my own.

        I’m less interested, Powers, in changing people’s minds here than in having a well-reasoned and civil discussion, but Tom has responded at times quite emotionally–getting almost apoplectic, even–when people have disagreed with him in the past couple of months or so. It’s not just been me. Some of those people seem to have disappeared for the time being, though maybe they’re just busy. I had left for a while because the discussion wasn’t advancing, which made it increasingly frustrating and, for me, less and less interesting.

        I have raised the issue of Tom’s being compulsive about certain issues, and I have done so because when someone repeats the same statements week after week (“Show don’t tell is the mantra of the MFA program,” “most literary fiction is autobiographical,” for example) and never once provides a speck of evidence for those assertions–all the while remaining nearly impermeable to any argument to the contrary, no matter how reasonable–I have to wonder what else is going on with that person’s thinking.

        GENERALLY, though, I have tried to respond to Tom’s WORDS.

        I had a nice conversation about this last night with a philosopher friend of mine (a PhD and a JD). He, too, sees no category error on my part. I already knew that, but it was nice to exit the Twilight Zone and talk with someone whose major professor considered him one of the best doctoral students they’d had (I know that because I heard it first hand). If you are going to accuse me of making errors in reasoning that I did not make, and if you are going to focus on your misinterpretations of my psyche and intentions instead of my ARGUMENTS, I am going to remind you of my training. After all, you’d mentioned your own last fall.

        Also, what you regard as “trivial” is taken seriously by plenty of non-specialists who reason well.

        In response to Tom’s reasonably calm comment to me last night, I wrote what I think is a civil and fairly gracious response while addressing what I see as faults in the case he was trying to make last night. I also–for the third time now, I believe–tried to extract myself from this discussion.

        Based on his comment last night, Tom seems to believe that higher education is some sort of scam:

        “They seek to ‘prove’ a thesis with evidence; but where does the thesis come from? From the evidence. So a pile of evidence is amassed, called a ‘thesis,’ which the professor has ‘approved’ as a thesis topic—and absolutely no new knowledge of any kind has been generated. The student simply went looking for evidence to support a pre-approved thesis. It’s a shell game. It’s fake learning, which begins and ends in someone’s head. You call a smush of ‘evidence’ a ‘thesis’ and you think you’ve accomplished something of rigor. No, you haven’t.”

        (And again, it appears he was equivocating, treating “thesis”–as in master’s thesis or honors thesis–and “thesis statement” as the same, and this is a perfect example of why precision and CLARITY–which are very closely related, in case you haven’t noticed–are so important when one is trying to make a case.)

        I’m sorry that Tom apparently had such a dreadful education. I did not. Philosophy courses were easy for me early on because I was naturally good at logic (and no one will be a good philosophy student if she’s not). I also learned a great deal from my best professors. On the other hand, I have always been an independent thinker, and colleges and universities are filled with such students, none of whom could be brainwashed into thinking ANYTHING just because a professor told them to without offering those students any REASON for believing it. My professors wanted their students to learn to think. That was my approach with my comp students: I wasn’t interested in teaching them WHAT to think but HOW to think, which is why I taught them some formal (as well as informal) logic before they had to write argumentation papers. I wanted them to be able to read a newspaper critically, and to do so requires certain skills in reasoning.

        I don’t have the patience for Tom’s broad-brushing that you do. His characterization of education above bears almost NO resemblance to my own educational experience or that of so many others I know. And anyway, it does little to advance a discussion to denigrate education in general. It’s also a copout. (So, in other words, I can’t know anything because what I was taught was crap, just part of a “shell game” and an approach that, according to TOM’S account, is actually ass-backwards compared to anything any of my best professors actually DID as teachers? Too bad his professors sucked so much. Maybe he should have skipped English and taken a few “rigorous” logic courses instead.)

        I’m sorry that Tom’s professors were so dreadful, which they were if they in any way fit his description above. (But then, if they were English professors any time in the late ’60s or after, I can believe that at least some of them were that bad–which is why an English major was out of the question for me.) If any of his professors told him to form a conclusion FIRST, in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, and THEN find evidence to support it–which would of course mean ignoring any evidence to the contrary–then that was, indeed, one LOUSY professor. Why did Tom put up with such bullsh*t? Because I wouldn’t have; I would have sought out the department chair and said, “This isn’t the way you do research.” Most likely, the chair would have backed me up. If not, I would have contacted an associate dean. Why? Because no authority in academe would have been able to force me to do research in a way that I already knew lacks intellectual integrity.

        But maybe that’s just me.

        Before today, I was using less formal language when using the term “black-and-white,” which I chose because most people have a general idea of what that term can mean. Were I in a more formal philosophical context (writing a paper, talking with a philosopher, attending a meeting of the philosophy club when I was an undergrad…), I would have used a more formal term for an instance of “black-and-white thinking” on Tom’s part. I would have instead said “false dichotomy” (or “false dilema,” “fallacy of excluded middle,” etc.) From last night:

        “Laura, by arguing that da Vinci was wrong to define and isolate oratory on one hand and poetry on the other, you accused him of being narrow-minded and wrong.” I can’t imagine any logician or philosopher failing to recognize the glaringly false dichotomy in these words. (Uh, we also have a tautology: wrong is wrong.)

        So either I have to agree with da Vinci’s views on oration and poetry or I’m accusing him of being narrow-minded?? Narrow-minded in GENERAL? That’s absurd reasoning. I mean, we’re talking about rudimentary logic here, the stuff I taught my freshmen. This is the sort of issue Tom and I should be able to see eye-to-eye on, but for some reason, it’s not.

        And “People are wrong, but methods are not”?

        That’s an extremely bizarre claim, considering where methods COME FROM.

        And the following remark of his doesn’t even accurately capture anything I wrote:

        “But you are in the wrong, because, as I said, without defining oratory and poetry as separate items, you passively allow the two to blend together in an ill-defined ‘one.’ Without the third, the two lose their identity—and thus become one.”

        (Now, WHO is taking all this way too seriously?)

        I most definitely treated “oratory” (“oration” is the way I’ll put it) and poetry as “separate items”; I also, however, refused to accept da Vinci’s assertion that the two shared no “sciences” in common (and yes, I know what that word was intended to mean). My refusal is neither radical nor irrational, yet Tom seems stunned that I won’t accept what HE sees as obvious. Philosophical thinking, which happens in a range of real-world circumstances, tends to approach the claim that something is obvious or self-evident with great caution–as it should.

        Regarding provocation: It’s interesting if it’s developed in some way. A set of provocative statements by itself that’s simply repeated over and over, however, isn’t, for me, part of the great “intellectual tradition.”

        Now, George CARLIN, on the other hand…

        Now please: Don’t write any more responses to me that have anything to do with this post. If you write anything that misrepresents my words–whether it’s a misreading of a statement I made or an armchair analysis of my motives or “seriousness” in response to this post (and to that, I must say that Tom can be QUITE serious at times!)–I’ll want to defend myself and try to set the record straight.

        The problem is, I want to be DONE with this post. It’s going nowhere–at least for me.

        I’ve had plenty of fun and engaging conversations in bars, coffeehouses, and restaurants in which everyone was “on the same page,” more or less, when it came to the “rules” of reasoning–and that meant we could avoid frequent metalogical analyses or trying to read between the lines or getting stuck on radically different readings of single sentences, which, after a point, are more like a cat chasing her own tail than a productive discussion. At least for me.

        And sometimes the gulf it just too wide for the differing points of vew to find sufficient common ground.

        See y’all maybe on another post?

        P.S. Noochinator, if you have anything funny or quirky to post, please feel free! I’m WAY in the mood for a laugh.

  5. Laura Runyan said,

    January 7, 2014 at 9:34 pm

    P.S.. Earlier I’d forgotten to capitalize “romantic” in reference to the Romantic poets. Not an intentional slight, just a brief oversight before I clicked “Post Comment.”

  6. thomasbrady said,

    January 7, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    Laura,

    Just to clarify quickly: I never said a writer *should* write from their own experience; I merely opined that much literary fiction is autobiographical.

    You have a habit of finding me more rigid than I am—and this is the gist of Powers’ kind defense—and I would be a liar if I said I did not find Powers’ response encouraging. But I always I appreciate your feedback, Laura.

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 8, 2014 at 12:23 am

      I would say that anyone who has read few novels but makes the statement that he has little use for them is thinking far more rigidly than the vast majority of writers and readers I know or have known; I would also argue, Tom, that your frequent attempts to define art forms in relatively pat and narrow terms is a rigid approach to the arts compared to the approaches taken by the writers and other artists I know; and I have to conclude that someone who has never taken a workshop but condemns MFA programs by concluding that nothing about writing can be taught–who even dismisses the notion of “craft”–is leaping to a rabidly rigid conclusions about pedagogical matters he’s never witnessed or experienced.

      And whether you actually used the word “should,” you’ve made it clear more than once that you think it’s BETTER for one to write autobiographically. One of the many problems with that: How would you know whether a work is autobiographical unless you’d read about the life of the author? What if you were to suddenly discover that a novel you loved (though it sounds like you haven’t encountered many those) was NOT autobiographical, though you had thought it was when you read it? Would you suddenly conclude it’s NOT a good novel? Would ignore the beauty of the work and condemn it based on extraneous details about its creator?

      Can you see why that could be a very problematic approach to criticism?

      What you wrote on the following post (https://scarriet.wordpress.com/2013/11/01/can-the-mfa-save-literature/?replytocom=16298#respond):

      “We can disagree about what percentage of literary fiction is autobiographical—I think it’s very high, but the whole question is tantalizingly rich, don’t you think? You say others would fail to write as movingly as Jo Ann Beard. Precisely. Because it was Jo Ann Beard. It was her, and her experience. My point is that you can’t separate Jo Ann Beard’s experience from whatever ‘teachable writing skill’ or ‘craft’ which might—or might not—be on display. Essay or fiction, that writing is hers in the most personal sense imaginable.”

      I would never claim that other writers in general would fail to write as well as Beard did in this essay. Someone else who was there and also had talent might have also written a beautiful piece. What I argued (elsewhere on your site, I think) is that although nonfiction writing CAN (as in the memoir) bring personal experience to a work, it by no means stops there. The outstanding nonfiction writers crafts the work over and over. Ask some of them. I also argued that just because a detail is part of “what really happened,” that doesn’t mean that particular detail is worth telling. Good nonfiction writers decide to LEAVE out some of what “really happened” when they decide it will get in the way of the impression they want the piece to make and the feelings they want it to evoke.

      “We can disagree about what percentage of literary fiction is autobiographical—I think it’s very high…”

      Why do you think it’s high? That, too, strikes me as a rigid conclusion, one based on what you WANT to be true rather than on what actually IS. I was often careful to qualify my remarks by saying “in my experience…” It sounds like you don’t know many fiction writers, so why do you think it’s high? I know MANY talented fiction writers, and I can say with confidence that the vast majority of those I know–of US–were first drawn to fiction writing by the imaginative possibilities it offers. That doesn’t mean we NEVER include details from our own experiences, but we like making things up! Why should that surprise anyone?! As I said once before: It’s called FICTION for a reason.

      Anyway…

      * * * * *

      I don’t find Powers’ defense “kind,” though it obviously made you feel better; he pulled a cheap shot by questioning my motives (for which he had no basis), which is a very UN-philsophical response. Whether he likes it or not, this is the basis of the discipline: Analytic philosophy is about making and evaluating ARGUMENTS, and ad hominem attacks are not part of the game. A good philosopher evaluates THE WORDS ON THE PAGE (or screen) and doesn’t presume hidden motives on the part of those she counters.

      Where I also disagree with him: On this very post, you ARE inconsistent on this topic–and finding logical inconsistencies in a position also plays a considerable role in assessing philosophical arguments (or “meditations,” as you’ve called them): You attempt to substantiate your argument by quoting a painter who asserts that the orator and poet have nothing (in terms of their “sciences”) in common. And then, in response to me, you write the following: “Defining categories does not necessarily mean one is obsessed with ‘black and white.’” No, it doesn’t NECESSARILY, but how, in THIS case, could the claim that the sciences of the orator and poet have NOTHING IN COMMON be anything BUT black-and-white? It leaves no room for commonality. That is the very essence of black-and-white: two extremes, no possible in-betweens. And if you don’t believe it’s true that the orator and poet have no sciences in common, why did you quote da Vinci’s words on the topic?

      Which is it? I don’t see how you can have it both ways in this case.

      I see the distinctions among the arts as more fluid than you or da Vinci describe them here (and more fluid than you have described them in certain other posts as well). If, in reality, you see them that way as well, then it might be useful for you to quote a thinker who reflects that. Da Vinci’s quote does not. In fact, it does the opposite. Once again, da Vinci’s quote: “The poet does this when he borrows from other sciences, such as those of the orator, philosopher, cosmographer and suchlike, whose sciences are completely separate from that of the poet.” That’s a statement that leaves no room for shades of gray–in this case, I mean degrees of similarity. (Jeez, this isn’t rocket science. The structure of the sentence and its resultant meaning should be pretty clear!)

      In contrast, I believe that solid philosophical arguments are clear and systematic, thereby leaving little room for fuzziness in terminology or inconsistencies between or among statements.

      Harvard’s description of the discipline of philosophy includes the following–and I could care less whether Powers agrees with this (I’m happy remaining in sync with my former profs instead):

      “Towards that end, philosophy students are trained to read critically, analyze and assess arguments, discern hidden assumptions, construct logically tight arguments, and express themselves clearly and precisely in both speech and writing.”

      That’s the heart of it.

      [It’s ironic that they include Carly Fiorina as someone who studied philosophy (when she was an undergrad at Stanford?) and went on to “success” in other fields: She did great harm to Hewlett Packard. But I guess it was a success that she was paid $20 million for the damage she caused. She’d make a terrible philosopher; on “Meet the Press”–and I don’t understand why she’s ever even ON Meet the Press–she speaks in shallow talking points and has trouble making a cogent case for her political positions.]

      Well, speaking of novels, I’m about to start reading one, so I’ll be signing off for now. I know the author, by the way (John Dufresne), so I also happen to know how much he likes to play with mixing the somewhat-autobiographical with the purely invented. I can’t imagine his novels and short stories without the latter.

      • powersjq said,

        January 9, 2014 at 4:12 pm

        Laura,

        Tom’s personal experience and opinions are not at issue here. Poetry is. Art is. The rise of the MFA is. The fact that you’ve completed an MFA program lends your commentary on them greater authority, but it has no bearing on the truth of your criticisms. I’ve never been President of the US, or CEO of a major corporation–does that mean I can’t develop a worthwhile ensemble of criticisms concerning their performance? It is the substance of your defense and the substance of your own ensemble of criticisms that interest us here.

        The _fact_ that you like novels that Tom doesn’t is only the basis, I hope, for the discussion of _why_. We the audience learn from the discussing, not from either discussant being correct in her or his opinions. No one has to be “right” in her opinions in order to change people’s minds–she only has to offer interesting insights that other people find digestible.

      • powersjq said,

        January 9, 2014 at 5:01 pm

        Laura,

        Interpreting a piece of writing is inherently an exercise in questioning the motives of the author. Don’t all your criticisms of Tom boil down to a questioning of his motives?

        Overall, your contributions on this blog have, in my view, often pushed ideas forward, expanded horizons of reflection, added lively detail to generalizations, and undermined misconceptions. In your responses to this particular post, however, your frustration comes through loud and clear. In fact, it has been been becoming increasingly perceptible for several weeks now. Since your contributions on this particular post are not particularly illuminating, and since you’ve been basically hammering at the same points for a while now, it kind of seems to me that you’re sticking to your hammering points rather than addressing the particular issues raised in the post itself. I suppose that amounts to a kind of questioning of your motives, but not in the sense I think you mean.

        I don’t mind that Tom understands my defense as kind (I would have preferred an adjective more like “able”), though I don’t see myself as defending him per se, but rather the integrity of the conversation. And while suppleness might be a principle virtue of an interlocutor or a thinker, it is only a minor virtue of a conversation. I want my conversations to be engaging, provocative, and thoughtful. I aim most of my interventions at preserving or invigorating these qualities–though whether I hit the mark is open to debate.

      • powersjq said,

        January 9, 2014 at 6:28 pm

        Laura,

        You’ve several times expressed your opinion that Tom is rigid. His writing persona on this blog certainly has strong opinions. But I rather suspect that much of your frustration results from your own rigidities.

        You treat the essential meaning of an argument as the result of an internal analysis of its propositions. (“I believe that solid philosophical arguments are clear and systematic, thereby leaving little room for fuzziness in terminology or inconsistencies between or among statements.”) This is apparently what you learned in school. This is a narrow and highly prejudiced way to construe argumentation. This tendency is conveniently on display in this very thread, in which you treat the bare “words on the page” of a translation of a fragment of a historical writer whose biography and epoch you know poorly as only legitimate foundation for argumentation about the issues at stake in the discussion. Every method of analysis is limited, but the purview of Analytic philosophy’s method is so trammeled as to be almost autistic. You appear to be unaware of this, and so your analyses are doubly rigid.

        You can’t seem to resist reminding us–again and again–what good training you had in philosophy. How well you did in your courses. What aptitude you had. And yet you lean on authority when frustrated–the SEP, your brother’s degree, the homepage of the Harvard philosophy dept. (of all things)–in apparent ignorance that this shows up your positions as both unable to stand on their own account and as hidebound. Just so, your position on the arts–“I see them as fluid”–is pablum. Orthodox pablum. Art is practically defined by its conceptual fluidity these days. No one needs to argue for this; it’s “self-evident.” The value of such a position lies almost wholly in its rigidity. Some goes for your definition of a philosopher–a word whose original meaning in Greek does not translate as “analyzer of propositions.”

        know thyself. And stop condescending. It’s annoying.

  7. thomasbrady said,

    January 8, 2014 at 3:11 am

    Laura,

    You may know many novelists, but compared to the number of all novelists, that’s a very small sample. Sometimes you act like I don’t know what a novel is. No one has read everything. I really don’t like quantity pissing contests; some people just have a knack for getting the gist of something.

    I’m not sure why you are having so much trouble with orator and poet. Yes a poem can be oratorical. And an orator can be poetical. But oratory and poetry are different things in so much as they are what they are. Now someone could insist that poetry was nothing more than oratory, but here the two categories vanish into one. As long as the two categories exist—as long as someone can be oratorical without being poetical—Da Vinci is correct, and when the poet is being oratorical he is stealing from that science. To define the two as separate sciences is not to exclude them meeting in the mouth of a speaker—but note that we need the third (speaker) to effect a reaction in the other two (oratory and poetry) as in a chemistry experiment involving two elements and a catalyst. You assume that oratory and poetry passively blend as if by magic. Instead of an active three, you posit a passive two with vague definitions that end up as a nebulous ‘one.’

    Your approach is not dynamic enough. Dynamic leads to more clarity, whereas timid and cautious and passive leads to less.

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 8, 2014 at 4:43 am

      Tom, I’m responding to your own comments: that you don’t like novels; that you don’t like 20th century literature; that you don’t like contemporary poetry… I’m not going to waste my time looking up the exact quotes because you’ve said things to this effect so many times, and on so many posts.

      This isn’t a pissing contest for ME. If you don’t want me to think you seldom read novels or contemporary fiction, then try this: Stop posting comments in which you say you seldom read novels or contemporary fiction! And stop trashing so much 20th and 21-century fiction on the one hand and saying, on the other hand, how little of it you read. How is that supposed to persuade me that you read lots of novels?! I’m not a mind-reader (and neither is Powers, whether he realizes it or not). I can only take you at your word.

      The primary difference between you and me, I think, is that I cannot imagine forming such strong opinions about a subject or material to which I’ve publicly admitted I’ve had very limited exposure. I’m not imagining or inventing those comments of yours. Further, I don’t think ANYONE can get the “gist” of a large body of literature (e.g., 20th century fiction) unless they actually READ a good chunk of it, and your comments make it clear that you don’t really want to read much fiction post-Poe because he’s your “American Shakespeare” and contemporary fiction is crap. (I well remember our earlier exchanges on this topic.)

      Why not refrain from some of these conclusions and actually listen to what some actual writers have to say about their creative processes. It seems to me that they have much more to say about how inventive their work is than you do via your mere “[thinking]” that “the percentage of autobiographical fiction” is “very high.” You provide no data and no concise argument to support that astonishing claim. You just say you “think” it. And regardless of how small my sample of successful fiction writers is, it is, according to your own words in earlier posts, significantly larger than yours is. I’m basing my conclusion on your own reports. So who’s really making this a pissing contest? And on what are you basing your apparently groundless claim about autobiographical fiction? I like and respect science, so it’s anathema to me to make any statistical claim, even a broad one, without providing any support–not even anectdotal evidence–for it. Do you get your information about fiction writers from ESP??

      And since so many of the fiction writers I know a) have MFAs from very good programs and b) are published, I’ll say that this “small” sample is also a very representative one when it comes SUCCESSFUL AND WELL REGARDED fiction writers.

      You can read into da Vinci’s quote all you want, but the quote YOU PROVIDED in your post does not contain the following additions you make in your comment above:

      “To define the two as separate sciences is not to exclude them meeting in the mouth of a speaker—but note that we need the third (speaker) to effect a reaction in the other two (oratory and poetry) as in a chemistry experiment involving two elements and a catalyst. You assume that oratory and poetry passively blend as if by magic.”

      I assume no such thing, Tom. Please do not read into MY remarks unrelated statements I did not make. I’m going to have to conclude here that that’s what you’re doing because never once did a professor of mine have trouble understanding what I had written in a paper or interpret it significantly differently from the way I had intended it. The da Vinci quote you provided IS quite black-and-white, so if that’s not what you meant, then you chose an unfortunately unsuitable quote. (I don’t think the chemistry metaphor at all applies to the much more complex process of communication between human beings, though it might if it were part of a poem instead of a step in what appears to be a case you’re trying to seriously build.)

      By the way, I don’t even know what this sentence means: “Instead of an active three, you posit a passive two with vague definition that ends up as a nebulous ‘one.’” Your wording here is too fuzzy for me wade through. It’s also presumptuous. Nothing in my comments should make a careful reader think I said that the “sciences” of orator and poet are the SAME; it boggles my mind, how you could assert that my saying that the two OVERLAP is identical to my saying that they are the SAME. (I doubt Powers will call you out on that, though he erroneously called me out for saying something I never said: that distinction=opposition. I never said that, and I never WOULD say that, though I DID take issue with the da Vinci quote, which–at least out of context–still strikes me as extreme.

      My position was clearly in support of seeing the arts as overlapping and involving many more nuances regarding similarities and differences–more shades of gray, in other words–than the da Vinci quote that YOU chose allows for in the context of your post. (I don’t know what da Vinci said on this topic elsewhere, but here, you provided a quote that strongly counters my own experience with the arts, and that’s what I’m responding to.) Two writers to whom I’ve sent links to this exchange (both of whom I respect, one of whom also has philosophical training) had no trouble understanding my earlier comments on this post, but they both took issue numerous times with your and Powers’ responses to those comments. Now if you and Powers have some sort of agenda that causes you to persist in misreading me, please keep that to yourself. I hadn’t responded to this site for several weeks because I didn’t want to go around in circles again (though you and I haven’t always done that here). I felt strongly enough about this particular post, however, to finally say something again. Given my experiences as a student, and I mean long before I pursued an MFA, I think I can safely regard your and Powers’ reading of my remarks yesterday and today as a gross anomaly.

      Next topic please…

  8. Laura Runyan said,

    January 8, 2014 at 4:46 am

    Addendum (final thought on this): I should have written, Tom, that “you’ve said things to this effect so many times and IN SO MANY POSTS AND COMMENTS. It’s the comments I remember far more vividly because they were interactive, written in response to my and others’ comments.

    • noochinator said,

      January 8, 2014 at 2:30 pm

      Poetry’s Brady’s bailiwick:
      It’s where he is best,
      And not a bit slick.

      He’s championed Kulik,
      Reb Livingston too,
      And also Janet Bowdan!
      I swear it’s all true:

      https://scarriet.wordpress.com/2010/04/04/the-road-ends-here-billy-collins-v-william-kulik-reb-livingston-v-janet-bowdan/

      I love what he does when he’s at his level best—
      But since no one’s perfect, I just ignore the rest.

      • Laura Runyan said,

        January 8, 2014 at 8:05 pm

        These are not “simple” matters, Tom; you just don’t like my objections to what I regard as your OVER-simplification of them. In fact, based on your comments elsewhere on this site, it’s clear to me that you have convoluted them: Your comments in response to my own reply to this post lie in direct contradiction to numerous statements you’ve made on other pages on this site. I don’t know whether you’re simply mercurial in your views on literature, and the arts in general, or you’re modifying your previous comments because you mistook my original comment on this page or felt defensive (though, after many months of reading your comments on contemporary literature, it seems to me that you’re pretty entrenched in your views on 20th and 21st century fiction, non-rhymed/metered poetry, and contemporary poetry in general).

        You have repeatedly expressed disdain for contemporary literature. If were merely kidding or simply being provocative, then I suggest you pay more attention to TONE because those comments came across as intensely serious on your part–sometimes angry, even.

        I found Powers’ response was so pretentious and badly written (the first sentence alone would be off-putting to every academic phiosopher I know) that his opinion on this particular subject is, to me, irrelevant. (I still see no point in referring to Bayesian “opposition”–whatever the latter means–in this context except as–in lieu of presenting a clearly stated argument–an attempt by someone to try to add credibility to a differing position by implying the following: “See, I’m smart; I’ve heard of Bayesian statistics.” I don’t have any patience for that kind of nonsense, and neither do any of the faculty members under whom I studied philosophy. If his remarks were meant to intimidate me, they failed miserably; instead, they made me–and my two writer friends–laugh, and some of those sentences actually reminded me of the padding in many lower-level undergraduate papers. If he’s had any advanced training in philosophy, then HE “can do better that this.” I guess he assumed I was stupid enough to be bamboozled by his academese-filled prose.)

        Also, I trust my own reading comprehension skills, and so do others who’ve hired me to edit faculty members’ and doctoral students’ work, from a range of academic disciplines, over the years–and, as I’ve said, I respect academic prose that is clear and contains a minimum of jargon; even scientific papers tend to be less jargon-laden than those by many literary and sociology scholars–AND most Western (non-Continental) philosophers. Besides, scientists have especially good reasons to use very precise terminology; they don’t need to invent a special vocabulary in an attempt to add imaginary depth to their disciplines.

        I was able to read Kant critically with relative ease, and I was that unusual philsophy undergrad who was encouraged to pursue the discipline on a doctoral level–something philosophy professors are notoriously disinclined to recommend because academic positions in the field are so insanely competitive. I add this detail because Powers’ response to mine was so thoroughly condescending toward me. Sorry, but I’ll trust my professors instead. Anyway, you needn’t concern yourself with my “do[ing] better.”

        You’ve made some extremely strong statements and generalizations about literature, many of which, on the basis of my own experience, observation, and reading, I staunchly disagree with. At the same time, the inconsistencies and contradictions between your comments on this page and those you’ve made elsewhere on the site are, for me, dizzying, which is why I’d like to end this particular exchange now. I like this site, but I take serious issue with this particular post IF you meant what you actually wrote–which I’ll admit was, because of the wording, less clear than it could have been, a reaction I stand by regardless of Powers’ reading of the post or his agreement with your claims.

        And just so you know, here’s a practice that expands my “sample” of fiction writers considerably: I frequently read interviews and biographies of the writers I read–though I usually do so AFTER I read their work for the first time. That enlarges my sample by several hundred writers. And since I tend to keep reading the work of writers only after I liked the first work I read by them, the sample is representative of those writers in whose work I’m most interested: the GOOD ones. I’ve found wonderfully informative interviews of writers in the Paris Review, various other literary journals, and Poets & Writers. My only real objection to P&W is its inclusion of Seth A. “rankings” and his opinions on MFA programs, opinions I often see as both self-serving and extraordinarily simplistic. Both extremes–that the MFA is the greatest invention for American letters and that they’re have little or no value because nothing about writing can be taught–are gross oversimplifications. In fact, I regard most extreme statements as simplistic because, by definition, they leave little or no room for shades of gray. (Even so, I don’t doubt that Seth feels some genuine euphoria over his imagined “MFA generation,” though I see the glut of MFA programs as anything but beneficial to literature.)

        I only skimmed this, but it’s quite consistent with the methods of “doing philosophy” with which I’m familiar. You’re of course free to muse; it’s your site. But if you call some of that musing a “philosophical meditation,” you should be prepared to be challenged by someone who studied Western philosophy. And I think YOU “can do better than this (the post above)”. Yes, philosophers generally avoid making empirical claims, and for good reason. But since you have IMPLICITLY made an empirical claim about the source of a “very high” percentage of what literary fiction writers write about, that’s also worthy of being challenged.

        It’s true: I simply do not understand anyone “think[ing]” that fiction writers or painters or welders or waiters do ANYTHING in general unless he has some BASIS for thinking they do. You’ve never provided any basis for this conclusion, so I guess you must rely on ESP. (Not that there’s any scientific evidence to support the existence of ESP.)

        By the way, Poe and I do have something in common: When I named my oldest cat Caterina–who just had a veterinary chekup this morning–I was unaware that he’d also had a cat named Catarina (but with an “a” instead of an “e”). I later read about his cat, and then I encountered the name of the cat in other sources. If it’s true, then we chose similar names for our cats. And anyone who’s a “cat person” can’t be all bad, regardless of whether his fiction is or isn’t much to my liking!

        • powersjq said,

          January 9, 2014 at 7:09 pm

          “I don’t have any patience for that kind of nonsense, and neither do any of the faculty members under whom I studied philosophy. If his remarks were meant to intimidate me, they failed miserably.”

          Sorry you took it that way. I was just nerding it up. I was presuming precisely that you _wouldn’t_ be intimidated by this sort of thing. You’ll notice I’ve never done it in my responses to others.

          “[I]nstead, they made me–and my two writer friends–laugh, and some of those sentences actually reminded me of the padding in many lower-level undergraduate papers.”

          Again, I was just enjoying stretching my legs. If you wanted this to sting, it worked. I’m stung. But it makes you look like a first class douche, so perhaps it evens out.

          “[I]f he’s had any advanced training in philosophy, then HE “can do better that this.””

          You’re right, of course. I could do better. But the key question is, are you going to listen? Because if you’re not, why should I bother?

          “I guess he assumed I was stupid enough to be bamboozled by his academese-filled prose.””

          I obviously do not think that you are stupid. I leaned academic because I thought you wouldn’t be intimidated.

        • thomasbrady said,

          January 10, 2014 at 1:39 am

          Poe’s cat, Catarina, sat on his shoulder while he wrote.

          Can you top that?

  9. thomasbrady said,

    January 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    Laura,

    All you are doing here is misquoting me (I do not reject all literature after Poe and would never say anything that silly) and talking vaguely of greys and nuances. Maybe you were tired when you wrote this comment. You now say Da Vinci’s formula is “extreme.” That’s not very helpful. I agree with Powers—you are going to great lengths to disagree with me on simple matters. I really do admire you, Laura; I know you can do better than this.

  10. Laura Runyan said,

    January 8, 2014 at 9:18 pm

    Oh, I forgot the link in my last comment (which, as I said, is consistent with the approach I’m familiar with in this discipline–and I chose Harvard because the site often contains very good and useful information). Of course, philosophy is a good method of analysis for some areas of inquiry and not for others–just as science is good for uncovering aspects of the natural world but tells us nothing about ethics. (The social sciences, on the other hand, can tell us something about what people THINK about ethics [descriptive ethics] but not, obviously, what we SHOULD think about ethical matters [prescriptive].) Anyway, for anyone interested:

    http://www.fas.harvard.edu/~phildept/files/ShortGuidetoPhilosophicalWriting.pdf

  11. thomasbrady said,

    January 8, 2014 at 10:47 pm

    Laura,

    I’m sorry we got caught up in this whirl-wind of nominalist hair-splitting; I’d hoped the discussion might center on da Vinci’s ‘poet as broker’ speech—which I think is very significant: here is the essence of Modernism formulated by a 15th Century thinker.

    I highly recommend “Leonardo On Painting” Yale University Press.

    Here are da Vinci’s words from the book’s preface:

    “I know that many will say that this is a useless work, and these people will be those of whom Demetrius said that he took no more account of the wind from their mouths, which caused their words, than of the wind which issued from their lower regions. These men possess a desire only for material wealth and are entirely devoid of the desire for wisdom, which is the sustenance and truly dependable wealth of the mind.

    I know well that, not being a man of letters, it will appear to some presumptuous people that they can reasonably belabor me with the allegation that I am a man without learning. Foolish people! Do they not know that I might reply as Marius did to the Roman patricians by saying that they who adorn themselves with the labors of others do not wish to concede to me my own; they will say that since I do not have literary learning I cannot possibly express the things I wish to treat, but they do not grasp that my concerns are better handled through experience rather than bookishness. Though I may not know, like them, how to cite from the authors, I will cite something far more worthy, quoting from experience, mistress of their masters. These very people go about inflated and pompous, clothed and adorned not with their own labors but with those of others. If they disparage me as an inventor, how much more they, who never invented anything but are trumpeters and reciters of the works of others, are open to criticism. Moreover those men who are inventors are interpreters of nature, and when those men are compared to the reciters and trumpeters of others, they should be judged and appraised in relation to each other in no other way than the object in front of a mirror may be judged to surpass its reflection, for the former is actually something and the other nothing. People who are little reliant upon nature are dressed in borrowed clothes, without which I would rank them with the herds of beasts.

    Anyone who argues on the basis of authority does not exploit his insight but his memory. Good writing is born of a good natural understanding, and since the cause is to be praised rather than the effect, you should praise natural understanding without bookish learning rather than bookish learning without understanding.”

    I think I made a very important point re: the Third (the speaker) who reconciles oratory and poetry—separate items, which can ONLY be joined by the poet. Laura, by arguing that da Vinci was wrong to define and isolate oratory on one hand and poetry on the other, you accused him of being narrow-minded and wrong. But you are in the wrong, because, as I said, without defining oratory and poetry as separate items, you passively allow the two to blend together in an ill-defined ‘one.’ Without the third, the two lose their identity—and thus become one.

    To broker the various interests, the poet needs to know what the various interests are.

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 9, 2014 at 12:40 am

      Thanks, Tom, for your response.

      I don’t see this as a conflict based on nominalism: I reject neither abstractions nor universals (how could anyone who’s written literature or taken upper-level undergrad courses in mathematics dismiss the value of abstraction?); SOME universals are true–but not many, and that’s my complaint when I encounter most of them. It takes only ONE counterexample to make a universal claim false. That’s not a terribly demanding requirement.

      This issue is not (at least for me) whether da Vinci was a “man of learning.” He was an extraordinarily gifted person. But he makes a claim about poets and orators that, in this context, I can’t accept (I’d need to see da Vinci provide an actual argument for it before I would be able to accept it, and I’ve yet to see one).

      I apparently “did” philosophy the way philosophy professors hope their students will do it. It was a natural fit for me, for some reason–though, as I said, outside the realm of certain kinds of analyses and arguments, it has little to offer. I know of no better approach, however, for evaluating non-empirical and non-mathematical claims that can be evaluated through formal and informal logic (though it’s no great surprise that many philosophers have some background in mathematics).

      It doesn’t offer much of a counter my own position to say that my disagreeing with da Vinci means I accuse him of “being narrow-minded and wrong.” I’m doing no such thing–and if you say I am, you’re over-generalizing the scope of my own claims because I’m certainly not guilty of over-generalizing about HIM: I’ve made no general statements about da Vinci’s broad-mindedness of lack thereof; I’ve made no claims about whether or not da Vinci is TYPICALLY narrow-minded, and I have no reason for doing so.

      There’s not a major philosopher I’ve read who hasn’t misstepped in making a case. These people were geniuses who nonetheless wrote some incredibly stupid things. I mean, for god’s sake, the creator of the Cartesian coordinate system came up with something as boneheaded as the pineal gland as the primary place our thoughts and “soul” are located. Does this move on his part cause me to think Descartes was stupid? Of course not!

      In fact, for me to conclude that he IS stupid would be a glaring example of overgeneralization–which is why I’m leery of broad generalizations. I wish more people were. At their most potent, they can be dangerous.

      No, instead, what I am saying is simply this: that he–in THIS context, at least–provides no evidence that he is right about THIS particular point he makes, and I see no evidence from you that supports his position. This is hardly an extreme conclusion on my part.

      Two excellent points raised in the Harvard piece about making philosophical arguments (which is what one does in philosophy papers and, sometimes, in less formal, real-world contexts–so the discipline can and does have considerable applicability to people’s actual lives):

      “Good philosophy proceeds with modest, careful and
      clear steps.”

      (I’m sorry, but I’m a big believer in this when it comes to, for example, public policy. Think of how much more efficient and effective most city council meetings would be if more people would adhere to this principle.)

      Also:

      “There are a couple of types of ‘evidence’ that you should not use in philosophy papers: Do not argue that a claim is true, or is likely to be true, just because someone of great authority believed it. Authorities can be wrong, and philosophers want to see the arguments for a view.”

      “Make an argument to support your thesis. This is the main focus of your paper. To make the strongest possible argument, do not skip any steps,
      and try not to rest your argument on any premises that your reader might not be willing to accept. If you use a claim that your reader might find doubtful, then you must try to give the reader convincing reasons for
      accepting it. It will almost always be more effective to use a single argument and make it as compelling as you can than to use more than one argument supported less comprehensively, so avoid taking a “shotgun” approach by using multiple weaker arguments. In presenting your
      argument, be straightforward in your language, and say precisely what you mean. At times you will need to use examples or otherwise elaborate, yet you must still be as concise as possible – unnecessary words or information will distract and confuse your reader.”

      * * * * *

      Anticipating solid objections–not “straw men”–and responding to them is also a central feature of philosophical reasoning. As I mentioned, I’ve seen this reasoning applied to numerous real-world situations, so philosophical methods are far less rarefied than most of the cultural studies scholarship I’ve read (though, given my interest in civil rights, it pains me some to feel that way about the latter).

      And, as I said before, most philosophy professors–certainly all those I knew, with one exception (an odd bird)–value clarity.

      * * * * *

      Again, thanks for your reply. Please understand that I am in no way making any sweeping generalizations about da Vinci’s general intellect (why would I draw such a stupid conclusion based on a few comments he made on this one topic?). Nonetheless, I’m sure he was wrong sometimes. Everyone is. Einstein was wrong about certain features of quantum mechanics (though both of his Nobel Prizes were for work that influenced quantum theory, not relativity). Were I to learn that da Vinci was never once wrong about anything, I’d have to wonder whether he was some super-advanced alien life-form rather than a human being.

  12. thomasbrady said,

    January 9, 2014 at 12:52 pm

    Laura,

    People are wrong, but methods are not.

    Why are academic papers so dreary? Because of their method. They seek to “prove” a thesis with evidence; but where does the thesis come from? From the evidence. So a pile of evidence is amassed, called a “thesis,” which the professor has “approved” as a thesis topic—and absolutely no new knowledge of any kind has been generated. The student simply went looking for evidence to support a pre-approved thesis. It’s a shell game. It’s fake learning, which begins and ends in someone’s head. You call a smush of “evidence” a “thesis” and you think you’ve accomplished something of rigor. No, you haven’t.

    I think we have to listen to da Vinci.

    There is abstract, there is specific, and then there is a third way, based on experience and the senses. da Vinci blew my mind when he said mathematics is born of the senses. It’s not an abstract art, per se.

    • Laura Runyan said,

      January 9, 2014 at 3:06 pm

      People are wrong but methods are not?? That’s one of the most absurd assertions I’ve heard in a while, Tom. Who do you think CREATES those methods?

      Methods–which are created by PEOPLE–are wrong all the time. Based on what do you draw such absurd conclusions? You almost never provide any basis for them. It took centuries for the modern scientific method to develop; before then, it was alchemy. Alchemy was both the theory and the METHOD.

      You’re are equivocating by using THESIS in the wrong sense here. I, and the Harvard site, are referring to a THESIS STATEMENT in a paper (which is an argument in philosophy), not a “thesis” as in an entire work at the end of a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

      This is what frustrates me enormously about some of the views you put forward: they are unclear, include teerminology used in fuzzy or even inaccurate ways, and consist of a list of assertions but little or no step-by-step reasoning.

      Your comment above isn’t an argument; it’s just another set of claims, and I don’t have anymore time to devote to “debating” someone whose mind is already made up and who really has little or no interest in SERIOUSLY weighing what I have to say. I had no trouble communicating with some outstanding professional philsophers at a couple of philosophy conferences I attended, but I’m having enourmous trouble communicating with you on this matter, so I’m bowing out from THIS discussion. You’re more interested asserting that you are right than you are in providing a solid argument that will CONVINCE me you’re right. Sorry, but I’m not going to agree with you just because you feel I should.

      Why should I listen to da Vinci on this particular topic? Appeal to authority? You dimsiss professors (and your caricature above of professors and the teacher-student relationship is grossly simplistic and unfair). Yet I’m supposed to “listen” to d Vinci? Why? You’ve provided NO compelling argument for my doing so.

      Jesus, did you take NO hard science courses? The LAST thing science students do is draw a conclusion and then look for evidence to support it. In fact, that is the ANTITHESIS of the scientific method. And were a philosophy student to do the non-empirical version of that, the resulting paper would be so poor that there’d be no point in turning it in to a decent philosophy professor.

      Yes, my courses philosphy course were extremely rigorous. The last sentence of your comment above is anything BUT. Goodie for you that da Vinci’s views “blew you away,” but that does not an argument make, and I’m not interested in discussing unsupported opinions.

  13. thomasbrady said,

    January 9, 2014 at 9:54 pm

    More from da Vinci:

    “…with respect to representation, we may justly claim that the difference between the science of painting and poetry is equivalent to that between a body and its cast shadow. And yet the difference is even greater than this, because the shadow of the body at least enters the sensus communis through the eye, while the imagined form of the body does not enter through this sense, but is born in the darkness of the inner eye. Oh! what a difference there is between the imaginary quality of such light in the dark inner eye and actually seeing it outside this darkness!”

    This very same trope can be found, by the way, in Shakespeare’s sonnets.

    Sonnet 43, for instance

    When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
    For all the day they view things unrespected;
    But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
    And darkly bright are bright in dark directed;
    Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
    How would thy shadow’s form form happy show
    To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
    When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so?
    How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
    By looking on thee in the living day,
    When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
    Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay?
    All days are nights to see till I see thee,
    And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

    or 53

    What is your substance, whereof are you made,
    That millions of strange shadows on you tend?
    Since every one hath, every one, one shade,
    And you, but one, can every shadow lend.
    Describe Adonis, and the counterfeit
    Is poorly imitated after you;
    On Helen’s cheek all art of beauty set,
    And you in Grecian tires are painted new:
    Speak of the spring and foison of the year;
    The one doth shadow of your beauty show,
    The other as your bounty doth appear;
    And you in every blessed shape we know.
    In all external grace you have some part,
    But you like none, none you, for constant heart.

  14. thomasbrady said,

    January 13, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    This “metamodernism” thing is getting really weird.

    From Seth Abramson’s Facebook post of Jan 11:

    “Today has seen a crazy series of events involving me and, of all people, Shia LaBeouf. The background: Some time ago, a European named Luke Turner wrote the Metamodernist Manifesto on http://www.metamodernism[dot]org; I interpreted that manifesto in my own way to try to bring metamodernism to the States, along with some others; Luke Turner got annoyed with my/our interpretation (though it’s based on the text of his manifesto), and stopped following me on Twitter or corresponding with me, though we’d had no falling out other than a difference of interpretation; I pushed on, writing poems and articles (poems on Ink Node, articles on Indiewire and The Huffington Post and, albeit deleted after a month at the request of KenGo, the Volta) positing how metamodernism could play out in American verse; I published (yesterday) an article on metamodernism (see link below) that mentions and links to the Metamodernist Manifesto and calls Shia LeBeouf (based not on his initial plagiarisms, but his plagiarized statements of contrition, which have been all over U.S. news of late) a “metamodernist”; Shia immediately favorited my article on Twitter and linked to the Metamodernist Manifesto.

    Luke Turner then, hours ago, pulled a trick from the American metamodernist playbook (ironically) and edited metamodernism[dot]org to make it look like SHIA LABEOUF wrote the Manifesto. You can see why he would do that, of course.

    The result: Thousands of people around the country and the world are flocking to the Manifesto and beginning to wonder, “What is metamodernism?” That’s a good question–and Luke was smart to find a tactic to get it asked–because the read of metamodernism Shia is working off is American metamodernism, proposed and propelled by me and some others (I won’t name them only because they should have the right to choose for themselves whether they wish to be named), not Luke Turner’s incredibly abstract (yet equally interesting) read of the metamodern. I owe Luke a ton, but hopefully the light Shia is now shedding on metamodernism, which of course (true to form) the KenGo Conceptualists are now busy trying to steal, will be focused on metamodernism as it was introduced to Shia–on Indiewire, and in the Huffington Post article on Reggie Watts that I linked to in the article Shia favorited on Twitter–and not a series of European ideas which have not yet been translated to American culture (unlike the ideas I and others have proposed, which have already been so translated).

    I know–I do–that all this sounds like an argument over credit, and of course it can’t help but function as that, but it’s also a battle for American Metamodernism as a distinct series of “takes” on a European concept–takes advanced by Americans Bo Burnham, Reggie Watts, and then (in poetry) by myself and some others. KenGo is lucky enough that all ideas relating to Conceptualism are immediately attributed to him, even when they’re not his and never were; with much less institutional support than KenGo, the danger for me is that my ideas have no such protection and may well get attributed to others. That that threatens my own American Metamodern poems (all available on Ink Node) is obviously important to me; that it threatens the ideas themselves is even more intolerable. I was in the room when metamodernism was brought to America–literally. I would hate for that to be lost in Luke’s smart and actually American-metamodern (but obviously also opportunistic) appropriation of Shia’s newfound interest in the American metamodern. It will be interesting to see how all this plays out, and how many times media outlets interview KenGo about my ideas (and Luke’s ideas) and call them “Conceptualism” when there’s little to no relation between the two concepts, and/or how many times even my own Facebook friends re-tweet KenGo or Facebook him for his opinion on all this, when it’s like asking a patron of the Sizzler how to cook wild boar.”


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