Thursday, September 26, 2013

Canon to the right of them, canon to the left of them

I picked the wrong time to complain, as I did not too long ago, that things had gotten dull at Crooked Timber.

All hell has broken loose there over questions of literature. Well, sort of. Actually relatively few people want to have the discussion about what makes a great novel great that George Scialabba (geo) wants to have. The majority prefer, well, I'm not sure what to call it. But mcmanus is quoting Hardt & Negri (their bearing on the questions at hand being less than blindingly and immediately obvious) and Hector St Clare is trumpeting on about "the basic and eternal truths of human nature," one of which is (supposedly) that women are Meek Souls in search of the Strong Manly etc Because Evolution etc, so some things in the threads are par for the course.

This might be a good time (actually probably not, but who cares) to let Jean-Jacques have another guest appearance:
Let us begin by distinguishing the moral from the physical in the sentiment of love. The physical is that general desire which leads one sex to unite with the other; the moral is what gives rise to this desire and fixes it exclusively upon a single object, or at least gives it a greater degree of energy for this preferred object. Now, it is easy to see that the moral aspect of love is an artificial sentiment, born of social custom and celebrated by women with much care and cleverness to establish their ascendancy and to make dominant the sex that should obey [sic]. This sentiment, being founded on certain notions of merit or beauty that a savage is not in a position to have, and upon comparisons that he is not in a position to make, must mean almost nothing to him, for, just as his mind cannot form abstract ideas of regularity and proportion, so his heart is not susceptible to the sentiments of admiration and love, which, even without being perceived, arise from the application of these ideas; he listens solely to the temperament he has received from nature and not to the taste he has not been able to acquire, and any woman is good for him.
(Rousseau, Discourse on Inequality, Norton ed., p. 30)

The point being, as he goes on to say, that because sex is purely physical in the state of nature it is not accompanied by those "ardors" that muck everything up once they appear.

Note that R. says women "should obey" -- of course he's writing in the mid-18th century. People writing in the mid-20th century have less of an excuse. (But if you want that argument in full, see B. Waring's CT posts.)

3 comments:

thusbloggedanderson said...

I think Rousseau is posting on one of those threads under a pseudonym.

... Man, do I love watching Belle go to work. She is an internet treasure.

LFC said...

She has a nice 'bloggy' style, and I mean that as a compliment. (Occasionally a bit too sweeping, maybe, but that's like a feature more than a bug. Or something.)

LFC said...

Interesting what one can sometimes learn from a comment thread. Although I've dipped into it once or twice in more recent years, the only time I read Middlemarch in its entirety was as a college freshman some 37 years ago (actually a bit more than that -- the spring of '76 to be exact was when I read it). So offhand I can't say I remember the two murders, assuming that comment is correct and they are in there. At least 'Straightwood' had the grace to acknowledge that Middlemarch is greater than anything Hemingway wrote. (I think the last time I read Hemingway might be even longer ago than '76.)

p.s. there has been at least one TV adaptation of Middlemarch, but I didn't see it.

p.p.s. for anyone wondering "what the **** are you talking about" this comment refers to one of the CT threads. Decided to put it here b.c it's so self-referential.