Tuesday, 29 June 2004

From "The Well-Beloved"

By Thomas Hardy.

Next morning, when dressing, he heard her through the rickety floor of the building engaged in conversation with the other servants. Having by this time regularly installed himself as the exponent of the Long-pursued -- as one who, by no initiative of his own, had been chosen by some superior Power as the vehicle of her next début, she attracted him by the cadences of her voice; she would suddenly drop it to a rich whisper of roguishness, when the slight rural monotony of its narrative speech disappeared, and soul and heart -- or what seemed soul and heart -- resounded. The charm lay in the intervals, using that word in its musical sense. She would say a few syllables in one note, and end her sentence in a soft modulation upwards, then downwards, then into her own note again. The curve of sound was as artistic as any line of beauty ever struck by his pencil -- as satisfying as the curves of her who was the World's Desire.

The subject of her discourse he cared nothing about -- it was no more his interest than his concern. He took special pains that in catching her voice he might not comprehend her words. To the tones he had a right, none to the articulations. By degrees he could not exist long without this sound.

From "Syntactic Structure"

By Noam Chomsky.

Second, the notion "grammatical" cannot be identified with "meaningful" or "significant" in any semantic sense. Sentences (1) and (2) are equally nonsensical, but any speaker of English will recognize that only the former is grammatical.

(1) Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
(2) Furiously sleep ideas green colorless.

Similarly, there is no semantic reason to prefer (3) to (5) or (4) to (6), but only (3) and (4) are grammatical sentences of English.

(3) have you a book on modern music?
(4) the book seems interesting.
(5) read you a book on modern music?
(6) the child seems sleeping.

Such examples suggest that any search for a semantically based definition of "grammaticalness" will be futile.

Sunday, 13 June 2004

From "Why Doesn't Batman Kill the Joker?"

By Mark D. White.

One way to state the difference between the utilitarian and the deontological approaches is to look at the types of rules they both prescribe. Utilitarianism results in agent-neutral rules, such as "Maximize well-being," and utilitarians couldn't care less who it is that will be following the rule. Everybody has to act so as to maximize well-being, and there is no reason or excuse for any one person to say "I don't want to." By contrast, deontology deals with agent-specific rules -- when deontologists say "Do not kill," they mean "You do not kill," even if there are other reasons that make it look like a good idea."

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

From "Paradise & Method"

By Bruce Andrews.

[...] I find it troublesome to hear "politics" being instrumentalized -- as for instance it is in neo-populist discussions; or to think that the whole notion of politics involved with writing is being narrowed down to specific struggles toward change, while the contexts that are actually directly implicated in the use of writing are ignored. Because this can corrupt our conception of what the public realm looks like by bringing with it, or even valorizing, manipulation or a kind of "means justify the ends" point of view about what to do, how to proceed, and what's at stake. I'm suggesting instead that politics can also bring to mind the older sense of community good or public good, not just specific struggles. The idea of politics as, for instance, a matter of arranging community matters needs to be reinstated.

Tuesday, 8 June 2004

Sunday, 6 June 2004

From "Paradise & Method"

By Bruce Andrews.

Conventionally, radical dissent & "politics" in writing would be measured in terms of communication & concrete effects on an audience. Which means either a direct effort at empowering or mobilizing -- aimed at existing identities -- or at the representation of outside conditions, usually in an issue-oriented way. So-called "progressive lit". The usual assumptions about unmediated communication, giving "voice" to "individual" "experience", the transparency of the medium (language), the instrumentalizing of language, pluralism, etc., bedevil this project. But more basically: such conventionally progressive literature fails to self-examine writing & its medium, language. Yet in an era where the reproduction of the social status quo is more & more dependent upon ideology & language (language in ideology & ideology in language), that means that it can't really make claims to comprehend and/or challenge the nature of the social whole; it can't be political in that crucial way.