Saturday, June 14, 2008

knots books savages you me

Pass this on

First things first this weekend. We have to congratulate North on that Mars landing. Excellent! A triumph for cosmonauts and psychonauts.

LI was rather proud, this week, of our application of the tunnel, Victor Turner’s symbol of the middle passage - the cunicula through which the acolyte passes – to reading. Alas, we seemed to awaken no responding echo! But never one to hesitate before the obscure connections of weird history, we’ve been thinking about books. There’s a great and obscure pattern connecting the adventure, the greater porousness of social hierarchies, and the quantitative increase in reading in the 17th century. These are the subsurface portents of the obscure pattern in which capitalism and the culture of happiness emerge in one another’s arms in the eighteenth century.

The question of the book was the question dividing the savage from the civilized. In Enrique Florescano’s National Narratives of Mexico, he shows how the histories of the Indian nations of Meso-America were interpreted by the Spanish, who alternated between claiming that the Indians lacked a writing system – and thus, a history – and describing Indian “books”. In the debate between las Casas and Juan Gines de Sepulveda in 1550 over the justice of the conquest, Sepulveda made a point of the fact that the Indians did not know how to read or write. On the other hand, one of the first conquerors, Bernal Diaz, who wrote the most famous history of Cortez’s expedition, wrote that “We found houses of idols and sacrifices.. and many books in their paper, gathered in folds, like lengths of duffel.” Florescano quotes a Franciscan friar of the time who wrote that the Indians [on the coast of Veracruz] had five kinds of books: “The first speaks of years and times. The second of the days and festivals they had throughout the year. The third of the dreams... and omens they believed in. The fourth for baptisms and the names they gave their children. The fifth for rituals and ceremonies.” [71]

Two hundred years later, more or less, in 1747, Francoise de Grafigny published a European wide bestseller, Letters of a Peruvian lady. Some of the letters in Grafigny’s fiction-based-on-fact were, she claimed, composed in quipu – Inca knots. In 1751, the claim that the quipu formed a writing system was defended by one of those esoteric Enlightenment Italians, Naples’ Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, Grand Master of the Masons, and, according to rumor, a man who did fearful things in the course of his scientific researches – such as cutting up the living. Sansevero may have known of quipus sent to Naples by Garcilaso Inca, who wrote in his Commentaries on the Kingdom of Peru that quipus only represented numbers. However, some suspected Garcilaso of lying intentionally about the matter. Being a Mason, of course, Sansevero was sensible to the power of signs and intersignes. In his Apologetic letter on the matter, he compared the form of writing of the quipu to the mark of Cain – which is perhaps, indeed, the first writing, and God’s writing, too. The mark of Cain implies the ability to read signs – something that, until that point, had not appeared in the history of the world. In Sabine Hyland‘s life of Blas Valera, a Jesuit who took an interest in the writing system of the Incas, she writes:

Among the more unusual passages in the book is the description of a secret writing system once used, Sansevero claimed, by the ancient Peruvian bards (amauta”) in the Inca Empire. According to the prince, this writing system was depicted in a seventeenth century manuscript that he had purchased from a Jesuit priest, Fatehr Pedro de Illanes. In fact, a record of this purchase, dated to 1744, still exists in the Naples city archives (Domenici and Domenici 1996, 54). Unlike the common Inca quipus, Sansevero’s “royal” quipus consisted of woven images representing the syllables of Quechua. Therefore, the “royal” quipus formed a writing system capable of denoting any utterance in spoken Quechua. According to the text, the entire system was based on a Quechua syllabary represented by forty symbols. The prince emphasized that the existence of these “royal” quipus had been a closely guarded secret of the amauta, the most learned historians of the Inca Empire.” [135]

This is a fascinating argument. Especially as the particular rite de passage of learning to read had become the dividing line between those societies with rites de passages and those societies with ‘education’. Now, of course, reading itself had changed in the period I am talking about, especially as it was taught, still, as primarily a read out loud en masse experience. One has to remember that silent reading was such a novelty in the classical times that it called for special comment from Augustine when he saw Ambrose doing it. It was as peculiar to him as it would be for us to see a man sit at a piano, put his hands on the keys, and proceed to read the score in front of him without playing it. But the book in particular reinforced one kind of reading, and brought about the dominance of the cunicular reading type. Of course, in the comparison between the civilized and the savage, this is passed over, annulled. The attack on this front, this firm belief in reading as opposed to societies without history, is always noteworthy. By the eighteenth century, certain parts of the first encounter – the numerousness of the Indians, for instance, and their cultivation of the earth – were already being overwritten, becoming dreamlike, changed – retrospectively they re-assembled in the European mind, becoming, at best, handfuls of hunters and gatherers. The Aztecs and the Incas evidently formed a stumbling block to the great forgetting.

LI should end this with a few notes about Sansevero, who disputed with various irascible French scientists for, among other things, the honor of having invented an improved encaustic. In one experiment, he burned human skulls, and discovered that they were so slow to burn that he believed they might provide everlasting light. What he had discovered, really, in the ‘vapour’ he had captured, was phosphorus.

And, to round this off on a nice Poe-esque note: in 1765, a French traveler, J.J. de la Lande, wrote a book about what there was to see in Italy. In Naples, he visited the Sansevero chapel, with the statues of the Sansevero ancestors. He was struck by the statue of the Prince’s mother:

“One of the most singular statues is that of “Modesty”, as an attribute placed on the mausoleum of the mother of the last prince; she is represented enveloped in a veil from the head to the feet – one sees the figure as though through the veil, which does well in expressing the full nude: the grave of the physiognomy and the softness of the traits appear there as if one saw them naked. This work is the more singular in neither the Greeks nor the Romans ever undertook to veil the entire visage of their statues, and that the sculptor’s talent has rendered the effects with a verisimilitude that it is hard to suppose without having seen it.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Human Limit: Notes from Far Off

In the Human World, a chapter of the Chuang Tzu, there's a story upon which I've often reflected:

Carpenter Shih went to Ch'i and, when he got to Crooked Shaft, he saw a serrate oak standing by the village shrine. It was broad enough to shelter several thousand oxen and measured a hundred spans around, towering above the hills. The lowest branches were eighty feet from the ground, and a dozen or so of them could have been made into boats. There were so many sightseers that the place looked like a fair, but the carpenter didn't even glance around and went on his way without stopping. His apprentice stood staring for a long time and then ran after Carpenter Shih and said, "Since I first took up my ax and followed you, Master, I have never seen timber as beautiful as this. But you don't even bother to look, and go right on without stopping. Why is that?"
"Forget it - say no more!" said the carpenter. "It's a worthless tree! Make boats out of it and they'd sink; make coffins and they'd rot in no time; make vessels and they'd break at once. Use it for doors and it would sweat sap like pine; use it for posts and the worms would eat them up. It's not a timber tree - there's nothing it can be used for. That's how it got to be that old!"

After Carpenter Shih had returned home, the oak tree appeared to him in a dream and said, "What are you comparing me with? Are you comparing me with those useful trees? The cherry apple, the pear, the orange, the citron, the rest of those fructiferous trees and shrubs - as soon as their fruit is ripe, they are torn apart and subjected to abuse. Their big limbs are broken off, their little limbs are yanked around. Their utility makes life miserable for them, and so they don't get to finish out the years Heaven gave them, but are cut off in mid-journey. They bring it on themselves - the pulling and tearing of the common mob. And it's the same way with all other things.
"As for me, I've been trying a long time to be of no use, and though I almost died, I've finally got it. This is of great use to me. If I had been of some use, would I ever have grown this large? Moreover you and I are both of us things. What's the point of this - things condemning things? You, a worthless man about to die-how do you know I'm a worthless tree?"

When Carpenter Shih woke up, he reported his dream. His apprentice said, "If it's so intent on being of no use, what's it doing there at the village shrine?" 15

"Shhh! Say no more! It's only resting there. If we carp and criticize, it will merely conclude that we don't understand it. Even if it weren't at the shrine, do you suppose it would be cut down? It protects itself in a different way from ordinary people. If you try to judge it by conventional standards, you'll be way off!"

My weird history of happiness seems a very book driven enterprise. I seem to be unearthing a mass of texts and bookish instances and finding a pattern among them, a confabulation, which may or may not exist outside of my own head. Yet the reality is quite different. My point is to find a way of saying something that seems like nonsense to the people I know, and sometimes even to myself, which is that making the world wholly human is a bad project. This idea has grown in me outside of the world of reading. It has grown in me from traffic jams and suburban developments, from ordering burgers at the drive through window and going to grocery stores, from watching over the years the number and types of birds that come in spring dwindle. It has grown in me out of asphalt and insulation. It has grown in me out of jobs in roofing and jobs as a secretary. It has grown in me as, year after year, I find I have less to say to the people I meet, less small talk. And I have less to say to people I love, less rapture. And less love. It has grown in me because it turned out, astonishingly enough, that experience is a burden – while for years to me it was an imperative: experience more.

Thus, I am no anti-humanist because of some philosopher. I am not an anti-humanist because I believe in deep ecology, or environmentalism. It is because I bear in myself the impress of living in a society in which there is no human limit. The only human limit recognized, in my childhood, was that presented by the atom bomb. Here, indeed, was a limit, the destruction of the human race materialized in actual instruments built by humans. But even that was a perverse source of human pride, another form of the equation that would make human beings equal to the planet. Of course, I’ve spent my whole life in an artificial paradise, a built and overbuilt environment, and I’ve witnessed a thing that I have a hard time coming to terms with: this artificial paradise has made people genuinely happy. Happy, at least, in the general sense: that is, the sense that a kind of broad access to happiness is the net affect of their lifestyles. And those lifestyles, in the human world, are slowly but surely driving other emotions into extinction. The time of the species crash is also the time of the culling of emotional ranges.

All of these are effects of the creation of a totally human world, one which was prefigured, in flashes of insight and dreams, by “pre-modern” societies. What is pre-modern about these societies is not the lack of technology, or the lack of progress on some scale in which systems of production are lined up from the simple to the more complex. They are pre-modern because they recognize a human limit. Carpenter Chih dreamed about that limit. The great, useless oak tree in his dream spoke from that limit. What I want to produce is a sort of time lapse series showing the gradual disappearance of that limit. That disappearance is the full meaning of the triumph of happiness.

congratulations, Margaret Jull Costa

LI is a little late with this news. But going through the book blogs today, we were happy to see that Margaret Jull Costa won an award for her translation of the Maias – and Natasha Randall, who we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing, was on the short list for her fantastic translation of Zamyatin’s We. We are no expert on 19th century novels in Spain and Portugal, but we have managed to read a few. Eca de Queiroz’s The Maias takes a deep pleasure in just going on – describing the static rituals of the Portugese upper class, that contrast between a frivolous public politics and a deeply strategized private politics of love affairs. Queiroz has affinities with Zola, but he doesn’t have Zola’s love for the tabloid and tawdry. One can’t imagine Queiroz making up a list of words used in the working quarters of Lisbon for fucking. Costa is supposedly going to translate the bulk of Queiroz’s work. And what could be more important than that? Of course, Daedelus is having trouble coming up with the funding to allow this to happen, since we live in a world where the shadowy funding powers can’t distinguish good from bad projects. It might be that this dirty decade, this filthy time that leaves a light glaze of shit over ever person living in it, will be known more for a few translations than for anything else.

So remember the translators. And speaking of which - I’ve just had Natasha Wimmer’s translation of Bolano’s last novel delivered to my door, for future review. Envy me! is all I can say.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

the point outside the painting

LI is like ‘poor Atabalipa’, the Inca emperor. When we open a book, we want to hear voices: hints, whispers, cries, the banjo opera, and every sigh, and every sudden silence. We want something to arise from the pages.

So, when we began this series of posts about 17th century figures, some of whom – Mothe de la Vayer, for instance – might not be today’s headliners, we went looking to one of our long time favorite books, Foucault’s Les Mots et les Choses, thinking that our theme – the failure of an ethos of volupté to move from the hypocognizable to the hypercognized – or, in plain English, the failure of a lifestyle oriented around volupté to accrue a fully ethical standing under capitalism – could settle, so to speak, within that text, find a niche there. Roberto Calasso, in The Ruins of Kasch, alludes to a marvelous word – intersigne – to refer to coincidences in the social world. Out of such coincidences, the paranoid weaves his dreams. Gravity’s Rainbow is, for instance, premised on the mad pursuit of intersigne. Well, LI originally thought that there was an intersigne between what we are doing and what Foucault did.

So far, however, this hasn’t proved to be the case.

In Les Mots et les Choses, one of Foucault’s games was to show how one could talk about “dominant ideas” within dominant forms of governance without using Marx’s notion of ideology. And, of course, Foucault’s notion of dominant ideas are ideas that explain, classify, describe – in a word, these ideas form an epistemological apparatus. In the famous preface, Foucault makes the tentative claim that the Classical era’s epistemological center is all in the play of representation. In the introduction, that long, lingering close up of Velasquez’s painting, Las Meninas, Foucault finds an objective correlate to make his point:

This center is symbolically sovereign in the anecdote, since it is occupied by King Philip IV and his wife. But principally, he is it by the triple function that he occupies in relation to the painting (tableau). In him there comes to be superposed exactly the gaze of the model in the moment in which he is painted, that of the spectator who contemplates the scene, and that of the painter at the moment he composes his tableau (not he who is represented, but he who is before us and of whom we speak). These three “looking” functions are confounded in a point exterior to the tableau – that is to say, ideal by relationship to what is represented, but perfectly real insofar as it is by way of it that representation becomes possible. And yet, this reality is projected into the interior of the tableau, projected and diffracted in three figures who correspond to the three functions of this ideal and real point. These are: to the left the painter with his palette in his hand (selfportrait of the author of the tableau); to the right the visitor, a foot on the step, ready to enter into the setting (la pièce); he takes in all the scene in reverse, but sees the front of the royal couple, which is the spectacle itself; at the center at last, the reflection of the king and the queen, decked out, immobile, in the attitude of patient models.”

Foucault has marvelously followed the arrow of sight, here, to diagram the intersection between power and knowledge – and the first stage of knowing is seeing, even though – the logic here is gone over and over again by Nagarjuna – one can’t see the seeing. But as we reduce the painting to relations between audience, painter, and the royal couple, we allow the ‘subject” here to become the total product of these gazes. Yet of course they aren’t. Foucault is evidently avoiding the attitudes implied by the Marxist formula that the dominant ideas of an epoque are the expression of the dominant class. Yet he has not emerged from the spell of that formula altogether. The paintings real structure, in terms of whose gaze counts, subtly excludes certain of the court retinue - namely, the dwarves, who take up as much facial space in this painting as anyone else. Of course, they are intruders on the royal scene – and yet they still exist within it, expressing another exteriority that isn’t counted by the gaze. The mechanism of hierarchy that is presumed here has, after all, to perform two functions, one of which is separation, and the other of which is connection - for the court could not exist for a second without its multitudinous contacts with the classes below it. These dwarves have wandered out of the enclosures that Foucault has so expertly described in Histoire de la Folie dans l’Age classique. Is it by accident that Foucault chose this painting to linger upon? Yet, the culminating point of the lesson of Las Meninas, for Foucault, brackets them. This makes me wonder if there is room in Les Mots et les Choses for the adventure and its social importance, as I am conceiving it. For, in other words, the traversing of social spaces. Surely those dwarves are intersignes: erudite and popular culture are separated by a gesture of erudite culture, and that gesture has generally been believed - but shouldn't one ask whether erudite culture can really judge itself that well? And whether its audience - which is erudite culture as well - is not just as prejudiced, or blind? In terms of emotional customs: is it true that mapping the epistemological machinery of a social space and time gives us the fundamental determinant of that space’s passional customs? Is it true that the epistemological machinery, during this era, successfully purges itself of rites de passage, substituting for it autonomous scientific methods, among which, Foucault claims, is pre-eminently, in the early modern period, the method of representation?

I think he noticed the gap between the life order of the passions and the epistemological machines himself, which is why, at the end of his life, he turned to the disciplines of the self.

But still – LI will not underestimate the possibilities that rise out of Foucault’s book.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

a cunicular affair

Hannah Hoech - Denkmal 1

I am the passenger...

And now, the act you have all been waiting for, ladies and gentlemen, I give you... Victor Turner!

(A friend of LI’s once described going to a whorehouse in Nueva Laredo when he was a teen and watching a magic act, which consisted of an indifferent magician piercing himself and his assistant with a big needle, then making objects disappear, while the M.C. kept up a deadly chorus of applauso, applauso, applauso in an effort to rouse up the drunk Texas fratboys sitting at the tables, mulling over their choices of fuck. Sometimes, that image comes over LI as we think of this blog.)

I want to pull out a few of Turner’s concepts to make clearer what I mean by the adventurous turn.

In some famous papers in the sixties and seventies, Turner (who worked with his wife, Edith) constructed an elaborate anthropological theory around Arnold van Gennep’s notion of rites de passage. This is from the paper, Dramas, Fields and Metaphors:

“He [Arnold van Gennep] showed us that all rites de passages (rites of transition) are marked by three phases: separation, limen or margin, and aggregation. The first phase comprises symbolic behavior signifying the detachment of the individual or group, either from an earlier fixed point in the social structure or from a relatively stable set of cultural conditions (a cultural “state”); during the intervening liminal phase, the state of the ritual subject ( the “passenger” or “liminar”) becomes ambiguous, he passes through a dimension that has few or none of the attributes of the past or coming state, he is betwixt and between all familiar lines of classification; in the third phase the passage is consummated, and the subject returns to classified secular or mundane social life. The ritual subject, individual or corporate (groups, age-sets, and social categories can also undergo transition), is again in a stable state, has rights and obligations of a clearly defined structural type.” – Victor and Edith Turner.

The passenger is an adventurer. As I’ve pointed out, there are various ways of sitting still. Newton’s is one way – it is a stillness filled with waiting. Some of the libertine writers sat in another way – they were attached to various of the great houses. And then there was the circle that formed around Theophile de Viau, and, in the 1650s – after his death – still kept the memory of the esprit fort alive. Among those esprits forts were Theophile’s lovers, Chapelle and des Barreaux – who were friends of Moliere. Cyrano de Bergerac was also part of this group. The figure of Don Juan was extracted by Moliere from this group. He, too, is a passenger, but his form of sitting still was to engage in an eternally obsessive hunt that took him over the same trajectory again and again. He moved, but his movement returns him to the beginning. This is the significance of continually being on the threshhold of marriage - not simply looking for the next fuck. Don Juan is a marrying man, as Sganarelle says, who wants to marry the whole world - except that he never wants to go through the entire ceremony. He wants to eternally return from the point at which he is pledged to marry to the point at which he hunts for another woman to marry. This space, in terms of age, is youth. It is youth as the artificial paradise. As Kierkegaard points out, his desire is infinite, but it is an infinity of made up of repetitions of the same trajectory.

The adventure, that space ‘betwixt and between all familiar lines of classification’, became the modality through which hierarchized social structures could be experienced – moved through. The libertine ethos and adventure have an elective affinity one with the other. Remember that it is in two things that the libertine stands out: his absolute modernity, and, through that, his perception of nature. By being modern, one understands nature beyond any schema that involves the marvelous. What one understands is that nature is the collective effect of constant motion. One’s own nature is, in this schema, definitely part of the whole. It is here that passion plays a signal role, for passion arises as a form of pure motion within the self. It comes from the bottom up, so to speak. The adventurer as a passenger not only passes through landscapes and social strata, but he passes through passions. The libertine notion of character is subtly different than the classical notion insofar as the classical notion searches for an organic principle – self love – which gives rise to various molds of character, whereas the libertine conceives of character as something hardening at the extreme of the self. The libertine character is hectic – it retains the mark of the inconsistency and contradictions of the struggle of passions one with the other.

There is another aspect of the adventurer that can be brought out in Turner’s terms. Turner wrote that it might be more accurate to think of the limen – the middle period – in terms of the tunnel – the cunicula. We’ve been trying to connect the world of reading – the rise of the third life – to adventure, using Don Quixote as the connecting and symbolic figure. The tunnel is a very precise symbol of the reading experience. To read does create a tunnel – a cunicular space – between the page and the reader. The reader is in two places in that tunnel – at the one end, as the physical agent doing the reading, but – in his or her imagination – in the middle. Don Quixote issued out of that tunnel at the beginning of the period in which he would normally be settling into the habits of old age.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


... que tu vois en Dom Juan, mon maître, le plus grand scélérat que la
terre ait jamais porté, un enragé, un chien, un diable, un Turc, un hérétique, qui ne croit ni Ciel, ni Enfer, ni loup−garou

According to his biographer, Alistair Hannay, Kierkegaard first attended a performance of Don Giovanni when he was 22. It was the same period in which, according to his journal, he was deeply interested in the Faust myth.

Hannay quotes a journal entry from Kierkegaard four years after having seen (and reseen – he went back repeatedly) – Mozart’s opera:

In some ways I can say of Don Giovanni what Elvira says to the hero: “You murderer of my happiness’ –
For to tell the truth, it is this piece which has affected me so diabolically that I can never forget it; it was this piece which drove me like Elvira out of the quiet night of the cloister.

Much latter, in Berlin, when Kierkegaard went to a performance of Don Giovanni, he compared the singer of Elvira to “a certain young woman” – Regina, that Beatrice among the jilted.

Kierkegaard found Moliere’s Don Juan ... unsatisfactory. He was not the medieval knight endowed with the erotic sensibility of Kierkegaard's imagination. Remember that Kierkegaard’s view of the Middle Ages comes directly from the Romantic writers. Spain in the sixteenth century was a Grimm's fairy tale place, or a place where the Grand Inquisitor roamed. Of course, really, Spain was the country most open to the rest of the world – Africa, Asia and America - in the sixteenth century. It was in Spain that the adventurer found his epoch making social embodiment – in the conquest of the New World.

But putting this aside - we’d like to linger a bit on the question of why Kierkegaard would say that Don Giovanni – the opera – had murdered his happiness, the way Don Giovanni – the character – had murdered Elvira’s.

A couple of notes before we look at the section on Don Giovanni in Either/Or. First, the identifications here. Kierkegaard is like Dona Elvira in his first notes about the opera. Then Regine Olson is like Dona Elvira when he sees the opera in Berlin. That would tacitly put Kierkegaard in Don Giovanni’s place, as the seducer. But Regine’s happiness was not, it seemed, murdered in that seduction – she remarried.

Is the murder of happiness the goal of the seducer or an accidental byproduct? Kierkegaard was sometimes unhappy that Regine’s remarriage showed that she wasn’t unhappy. At least on the level of sadism, there is a strong connection between Moliere’s and Mozart’s Don Juan. Don Juan is aroused by Dona Elvira’s tears. To want someone to be unhappy might, however, simply be the sign that one wants someone’s happiness – the seduced, the victim – to depend on oneself – as the seducer. In this way, the exchange of recognitions is different from that of the Master-Slave relationship, where recognition – but not happiness – is the dominant term in the dialectic. If happiness enters as an issue in the Master-Slave relationship, if fundamentally alters it. But there is another relationship that might explain the murder of happiness. It might be that the seducer reveals something to the victim that strikes at her fundamental ability to be happy.

Enough. I had no sleep last night, and must write a grandiose review tomorrow. I'm weepin on my own grave - or at least jerking off over it. More in another post.

(ps - I should say - in terms of stage performance, Moliere's Don Juan has long been under Kierkegaard's thumb. Since Louis Jouvet revived Dom Juan, a not often performed play, in 1947, the play has returned to the canon, but not as a comedy. Notice, in the tv version I linked to, the ... the un-harlequin-ness of Sganarelle. This is not the comic figure who Moliere played - there isn't a laugh in the speech with Gusman. The laughs in it - for instance, Sganarelle falling down a sand dune - are neo-realist laughs, laughs from the pain of real life. Hmm, I don't know what Moliere would have made of it all. But Moliere was, after all, an actor, and knew all about changing the directions in a play, the tendency of it, the pronunciation of it).

Addition Tuesday night:

Kierkegaard’s Don Juan is seduced, himself, by his desire. The rush of that desire is primarily musical. Don Juan is no slyboots, no fast talker, no layer in wait. Time, for him, breaks in two: before the moment of supreme sensuality and after the moment.

Of course, Kierkegaard knows there are other Don Juans – he quotes Achim von Arnim’s remark that the devil had to be careful taking Don Juan to hell, because his verbal skill with women was such that if he met the devil’s grandmother, he’d talk himself out of the place. But this is not Don Juan as Kierkegaard sees him in Mozart’s opera.

Yet if he is no talker, he is still a hunter – he is still after women as prey:

“Thus Don Juan desires the whole of the female sex in every woman; and herein lies the sensual idealizing power, with which he at the same time beautifies his prey, as he makes her submit. The reflection of this gigantic passion softens and transforms the object of his desire: she blushes in the intensified beauty of her mirror image, there. In so far as the fire of some desired object illuminates with its seductive glow even objects standing far off from it, if it only stands in some relationship to them, so does he transfigure in a far deeper sense every girl when his relation. Thus all differences vanish for him in comparison with the one thing that is the main thing: that he has a woman before him. He makes the aged younger, bringing them back to the very center of their feminity; near children he ripens in the bud; everything feminine counts as prey to him.“

This poses a construction problem for the Don Juan epic, for it has the potential to go on as long as there are women to seduce - it has no natural bound. For Kierkegaard, the solution to that problem – that aesthetic problem – is musical. Don Juan fallen into the mere particulars of speech is a man with a mania like other men – a mania for money for some, a mania for health for others – in fact, the manias that make up Moliere’s Theophrastian comedies. But Don Juan as a musical sensualist transcends the problem of the particular – in Kierkegaard’s opinion.

This is one of the motives Kierkegaard gives for dismissing Moliere’s play.

The synthetic progressive

I have been searching for a term to encompass one of the great features of capitalism – the non-necessary synthesis. I guess I will call it ...