morning reading

May 14, 2011

In Uganda, police fire cannons with pink-colored water at the protesters.

Monte Hellman has a new film out, his first in 20 years.

Res Obscura – a pretty cool blog by a graduate student whose dissertation is on the early modern history of drug trade.

Louisianna floodgates will be opened to protect the cities.

An analysis of recent events in Ivory Coast in LRB, from Stephen W. Smith, formerly the Africa editor of Libération and Le Monde, now teaching at Duke University.

In the same issue of LRB, T. J. Clark, who recently abandoned Berkeley for LOndon, writes about the current Aesthetic movement exhibit at the Victoria and Albert museum. He gives us the word of the hour: etiolation – it is what happens to plants grown in partial or complete absence of light, resulting in long weak stems and pale yellowing of the poet’s, I mean, the plants, flesh. Clark wonders about the lack of self-irony in the period’s visual art, asking why the movement did not produce a worthy analogue of Yeats. (He almost grants that honor to Edward Burne-Jones, a friend of William Morris, whose famous painting of Merlin you may remember from the cover of A.S.Byatt’s Psssession.) Clark gives a cool quote from WIlliam Morris:

It would be a pity to waste many words on the prospect of such a school of art as this, which … has as its watchword a piece of slang that does not mean the harmless thing it seems to mean – art for art’s sake. Its fore-doomed end must be, that art at last will seem too delicate a thing for even the hands of the initiated to touch; and the initiated must at last sit still and do nothing – to the grief of no one.

Clark calls the 2008 book William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones: Interlacings by Caroline Arscot “astonishing”.

Browsing through Clark’s earlier contributions to LRB I stumble across his review of the 2005 book about Classical mythology in renaissance by Malcolm Bull. Bull is a frequent contributor to NLR (New Left Review), and has written responses to Zizek and Hardt-Negri. That’s a man after my own heart – Renaissance historian with a penchant for contemporary theory. He seems to have kept it very quiet the last few years, though.

Clark quotes a paragraph from Bull’s book:

during this period there were two main audiences for depictions of the loves of Jupiter: anonymous consumers of pornography, and the Holy Roman Emperor. Correggio’s Loves were given to Charles V by Federico Gonzaga; Perino’s tapestries were woven for his visit to Genoa, and the gallery of Francis I was hurriedly completed for Charles’s visit in 1539. To a remarkable degree the audience for all these visions of lust was one man.

According to an essay in The Invention of Pornography, a volume edited by Lynn Hunt, one of the original uses of pornography in early modern Europe was to lampoon the clergy. Character assassination through sexual scandal is still very much with us. Forget Clinton. Osama bin Laden’s compound is supposed to have contained a stash of porn. To have revealed something like this without killing him, now that would have been a coup. We are much more adept at smearing the dead than the living. After all, the living can defend themselves, and even prove innocent. Whereas to be dead is basically to be open to any suggestion.


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Milo and the Calf

An idiosyncratic mix of unmonetized content.


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Object-Oriented Philosophy

"The centaur of classical metaphysics shall be mated with the cheetah of actor-network theory."

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